Shelter

The New York Times | March 21, 1981

When Ellen Baxter and Kim Hopper asked a bag lady at Grand Central to talk about her life, she answered: ”What difference does it make?” Her fatalism is understandable. Yet it could make a difference that Mr. Hopper and Miss Baxter, Ph.D. candidates at Columbia, spent a year studying the people most visibly down and out in New York City – those without homes or even regular shelter. The results of their poignant study ought to impel the city to action.

It’s widely assumed that many of the poor, sick and sometimes bizarre characters who roam the streets at all hours do so by choice, as if they could easily apply for welfare or find lodging. Not true.  According to ”Private Lives / Public Spaces,” most homeless people badly want relief. But they may be too confused to seek it properly.  Sometimes, they lack merely that key to bureaucratic recognition, an address. What many of the city’s estimated 36,000 homeless want most is just that.

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