Andrew Cotlov is just finishing up with his English degree at New York University. He review books for the international culture blog "The Culturazzi Cognescente Club" and is currently pursuing a career in writing and journalism.

During Tough Times, Charity For New York City's Homeless Suffers Too
By Andrew Cotlov

After the last several months, it is difficult to find anyone who hasn't been affected by the downturn in our economy. Seemingly, everyone is reeling from one economic disaster or another whether it is because of the credit crunch, banks failing, the auto industry collapsing, or the sub-prime mortgage fiasco. In times like these, you can't help but worry about your own wellbeing, however; it is important not to forget about the thousands of New Yorkers living on the streets who depend on the charity of strangers to survive each day.

The Bowery Residents Committee, a local organization located at 324 Lafayette Street, (BRC as it is popularly known), is one of the most successful homeless outreach programs in the city. Its goal is to empower its clients so that they can eventually overcome homelessness, addiction, and mental or physical illness. If you live in New York, you may have even seen BRC vans driving around the city looking for homeless people in need.

When asked about how the ailing economy was impacting his organization, Muzzy Rosenblatt, the BRC CEO said "There is definitely less funding to go around, but, in a good way, I think philanthropy is being prioritized. People are being more careful who they are giving to". When asked whether they were expecting cutbacks he replied, "We are actually growing, and we are being asked to do more. Other charities have certainly been struggling, but we are looking to stretch our resources as effectively as we can, and are in good shape even in such a difficult climate". In fact, Mr. Rosenblatt pointed out that his organization, which already serves roughly eight thousand people a year, has recently added another five hundred beds for people in transition from the street to legitimate housing.

While larger NPOs like the BRC have been able to bear the economic crisis due to the shrewd management of their larger resources, other grassroots efforts to help the needy have not been as lucky. I spoke to Mrs. Tamara Sandy who, along with her husband, organizes a food-line every Saturday through November and April outside of Most Holy Redeemer Church on East 3rd Street. Her food-line serves hot meals to roughly five hundred people each year, and when asked whether the economy had affected her efforts, she replied, "It definitely has been harder this year. Up until now we have been funded by a grant from the Order of Priests that run Most Holy Redeemer Church, but because the economy has been so bad they can't renew our grant for next year. We are going to have to tap into other resources to keep the food-line going". Since the economy started to dip, they have also definitely seen an increase in the number of people showing up for meals.

The BRC, on the other hand, hasn't seen that trickle-down effect since the onset of the recession yet. Mr. Rosenblatt explained, "We haven't seen the effects of it yet, because the age demographic that is coming in to us is relatively older and coming to us after years, and years in crisis. Hopefully there will be some interventions in the city before we see that increase".

Asked what the average person walking down the street could do to ease the burden of the homeless men and women that they come across during their day, he further advised, "One thing that's really important is to acknowledge that person's humanity. Say 'hello' or 'good morning' if you're comfortable interacting with them. Give people the sense that if they want to make a change in their life, they can make that change. Most of all, just show them respect". He believes that, especially in such financially troubled times, this small gesture can be the start of a big change in someone's life.