THE BLOG
07/31/2015 03:29 pm ET Updated Aug 13, 2016

The Real Faces of Homelessness

Being homeless, is more than just not having shelter or somewhere to sleep. It's about not having a home -- a center of connection, a foundation of community and a source of support. It is our responsibility, as New Yorkers, as a community, to be compassionate, understanding and helpful to those facing these obstacles and challenges.

Over the last year, working for the City of New York and alongside many others, I find myself surprised at the general media narrative that creates a misunderstanding of homelessness and poverty. When mainstream media feeds us negative stories about homeless New Yorkers, it's easy to buy into the stereotype, especially when it comes to those living on the street or in shelter. But, despite their appearance or inability to live under a roof they can call "home," it's important to understand many of these individuals don't choose this life or wish to remain this way. You see, not everyone who is homeless is on the street and not everyone who is on the street is homeless .

Homelessness is a consequence of many factors that plague our society and our communities -- from gentrification, to low wages, to issues of mental illness and family crisis. Yes, these myriad issues manifest themselves in our shelter system and the solutions are never easy. Homelessness is just one example of the vast inequalities that exist that are part of a rippling problem created by the choices we've made as a city, as a country.

Despite these inequities, what I can say, is that I am proud and heartened by this administration's commitment to utilizing every tool and resource it has to stem the tide of this very challenging issue. And in spite of the clouded, and negative, media narrative surrounding homelessness, we are always heartened by the little-told success stories of people who have overcome seemingly insurmountable adversity and are now on the road to getting back on their feet. Here are a couple of stories of people who have overcome the struggle. This is the real face of homelessness.

Ian: Ian, an Air Force veteran, served his country proudly and bravely. Unfortunately, upon returning from service, he found himself living on the street. But these obstacles didn't stop Ian from finding his way home. After some time, he found stable ground and now has a place to call his own.

Josh: Josh is a 19-year-old, college freshman. Just two years ago, Josh, a native New Yorker, found himself living in a shelter with his family. Despite these hardships, Josh found a way to remain hopeful, despite being homeless, and found his way into college by working hard and never giving up.

And while Ian and Josh are just some of the real faces of homelessness who, despite their struggles have risen above, it takes a genuine commitment from all of us to allow stories like this to become more frequent.

I understand there is no clear cut answer. But what I do know, is that homelessness, and all the complexities that accompany it, is this Administration's top priority. Finding effective, long term solutions to helping solve this crisis is our goal. But it will require work. It will require the full commitment and involvement of not only the multiple city agencies, the City administration and our community partners, but yours as well -- neighbors, friends, colleagues, the entire New York City community. As we strive for this, let us remember that while these individuals face many challenges, many of them also want change. Real change. Change that will help them get back on their feet, get the help they need to move forward, off the streets and out of shelters, and that can't happen without a real effort from us all.