The Coalition for the Homeless’ statistics show that the homeless population in New York City reached over 60, 000 in January 2015, the highest it has been since the Great Depression. Each night, thousands of people sleep on the streets, in subway stations and other public spaces. Nearly 60 percent of New York City’s homeless population are in Manhattan.
In an effort to help this community and improve the issue, the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development’s Applied Psychology Undergraduate Club and the Department of Applied Psychology hosted their biannual Midnight Run on March 26 to distribute food and clothing to the homeless members of New York City.
Twelve volunteers met in the lobby of Kimball Hall on the night of the event to prepare 90 bagged meals for the homeless. The packages contained sandwiches, fruit, applesauce, water, candies, snacks and napkins.
A small van from Midnight Run, a volunteer organization in New York City dedicated to finding common ground between the housed and the homeless, arrived at 9 p.m. to pick up the volunteers to deliver the bagged meals to the homeless community. The usual stops include Union Square, Madison Square and Port Authority because these locations contain the highest numbers of homeless people in New York City.
Homeless persons were able to go to the van, where volunteers handed out food and clothing. Steinhardt senior Adam Cortez, the community service chair of APUG, led the event. He said he finds working with homeless people rewarding.
“Sometimes, they would like to stay for a while to have a conversation; sometimes, they may just leave,” Cortez said. “But if you talk to them, you will find that at the core, they are the same as us. They are just a group of human beings who are going through the rough time.”
This late-night relief effort is aimed to bring more trust, understanding and affection to this underprivileged group. CAS senior Karen Kharel, a member of Alternative Break Trip for Homeless, said she felt greatly impacted by the event.
“I never understood or experienced just how prevalent homelessness was until I moved to New York,” Kharel said. “Now, I don’t go one day without seeing someone who is homeless. I find myself feeling discomforted when I walk by a homeless person, not because of the person himself, but rather because I feel powerless.”
Through this event, however, volunteers had the power to positively aid the often ignored homeless population. Cortez believes the late-night event is representative of APUG’s commitment to the community.
“Part of the goal of APUG is to bring the applied psychology undergraduate students together to give back to our community and create cohesion,” Cortez said.
APUG stressed that human exchange, rather than the exchange of goods, is the essence of the Midnight Run mission. Steinhardt freshman Carmen Marazzi learned first-hand the power of dialogue through the event.
“One person started talking to me about how interesting Pavlov’s dogs and the Stanford prison experiments were,” Marazzi said. “They’re humans just like any other one of us, many very intelligent with great personalities and all, they just have their own struggles, and are sadly looked as outsiders of society.”
Email Lingyi Hou at [email protected]