The Silver Center for Arts and Science stands strong as thousands of students walk through its doors each day. However, many students with rushed schedules, overwhelming amounts of work or other circumstances seem to ignore the less privileged group of people who spend hours outside those same doors. Homeless people outside the building should be a reality check for all students. They are a daily reminder that life extends beyond the academia and that there is no time to help like the present.
Since my first day of class, I was struck by the contrast between these people and those inside the prestigious CAS Silver building with the NYU flag hanging above. One day, I stopped and gave a man some fruit and orange juice, and he asked me if I was a college student. When I gave him the affirmative, I was rewarded with a blown kiss and a smile. This man experiencing homelessness is just one among more than 60,000 others in New York City. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, “homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.” Contrary to what many might think, homelessness is not a byproduct of addiction, but a lack of affordable housing. The groups more vulnerable to homelessness come from low-resource backgrounds and are more likely to be African-American or Latino.
The total number of staff and students at NYU exceeds 50,000. Representing the honorable violet of their institution, they can contribute to mend this problem that directly or indirectly affects everyone. NYU student-run clubs like Two Birds One Stone address this issue by providing food to shelters and breaking the stigma surrounding homelessness. However, there are many ways students can contribute. Students may feel that they are not ready to help — that it’s a task better left to their future selves. However, if they were brave and strong enough to come to New York City to learn and grow, I believe that they are ready to help transform the city for the better.
There are so many things a student can do to give a little light to someone’s life; offering a warm meal, a kind “good morning,” a “what do you need?,” partnering with an NYU club, signing a petition, volunteering, protesting or organizing a coalition are just some of the many actions you can take. Students have tough, stressed and rushed lives. However, it only takes a moment to recognize the life and humanity that surrounds us.
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A version of this appeared in the Monday, February 12 print edition. Email at Ignangeli Salinas-Muñiz [email protected].