Homelessness For Physical and Emotional Well-Being

Dasani and the failures of NYC homeless shelters Over a 15 months period, Andrea Elliott, an investigative reporter with The New York Times, documented Dasani and her family’s life at the Auburn Family Residence on a five-part series. Like thousands of families in NYC, Dasani and her family are homeless and life at the Fort Green shelter, whose manual promises “full complement of professional and support personnel” and “the right to live in a secure, safe facility”, is much worse than what meets the eye.

My paper will analyze the many influences shaping Dasani’s life and discuss NYC’s shelters’ role in maintaining poverty. Twelve years old Dasani, the first born of a blended family eight children, takes care of her younger siblings to the best of her ability. Based on the series, her family is close-knit and everyone looks out for each other. Both of her parents, Chanel and Supreme, are unable to maintain full-time employment while battling substance abuse.

Despite her parents’ shortcoming, I feel like she has a good family systems [micro] with a strong bond between her siblings, especially with her sister Avianna. When Avianna was grappling with an asthma attack and the guard refused to let her take the elevator, Dasani carried her up four flights of stairs. Also, when Dasani was being bullied by Sunita on her way home from school, Avianna stepped in and defended her sister. Being raised by her grandmother Joanie at the beginning stages of Dasani’s life may have alsofoster a sense of attachment, of belonging, of being loved and taken care of.

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Dasani definitely feels connected to her family for she said, “Whey they’re happy, I’m happy. When they’re sad, I’m sad. It’s like I have a connection, like I’m stuck to them like glue”. I am happy that she feels connected to her family as that is very important in childhood development but at the same time I hope that she is able to branch out to a better life for herself and not repeat the cycle. Because of their living situations, substance abuse and upbringing, it feels wrong to assign Chanel and Supreme a parenting style since they themselves didn’t really have a parenting model from their own parents growing up.

Also, I do not personally know them and reading about their behavior from an investigative reporter who chose what to publish and may or may not be bias. It’s important to remember that both, Chanel and Supreme, were neglected growing up (which they both have done to their children) and didn’t have a solid parenting foundation but if I had to choose from the four types of parenting styles, I would say that Supreme is authoritarian/ neglectful and Chanel is permissive/neglectful. Supreme is said to “rule by fear. If the children laughed too loud, he only had to yell “Shut up!” and they froze, a silent dread passing among them. He had an old-fashioned approach to child rearing. Break the rules and you get the belt.” He’s neglectful in the way that he disappears after a big fight with Chanel and failing to report to many job placement program appointments, therefore, jeopardizing the family’s temporary shelter. Chanel is permissive in the fact that I did notread anything about her setting rules or disciplining her children.

In fact, she promotes violent behavior by encouraging Dasani to fight her peers and in her interactions with the corner store’s employees. It is possible that her behavior originated from her own upbringing and being part of a street gang. She negatively influences her children by telling Dasani that “Auburn is just a pit stop. But you will live in the projects forever, as will your kids’ kids, and your kids’ kids’ kids.” I found it alarming because she should want better for her children but it seems like she has given up. Like her husband Supreme, she would sometimes leave her children unattended and disappeared for a few days, in which one of those disappearances ended with a drug charge. I also feel like both of them should use their children as motivation to kick off the drug habit. I would say that she is proud of being a mother and supportive because she successfully complied with a drug treatment program when she temporarily lost custody of her children, and attended her children’s events.

She does not physically abuse her children which some parents may have done in her situation. She also steals in order to feed them and did what she could for Dasani to be able to attend the school trip. Even though Dasani was not expecting anything for her twelfth birthday, Chanel made sure to give her a birthday party. Though her methods of obtaining the birthday cake are debatable, I thought it was still a nice gesture for her daughter.Dasani’s school, Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of Arts, has a positive influence on her by providing guidance, security, discipline, meals, and a link to the wider world [mezzo]. Her relationship with the school’s Principal Ms. Holmes and her teacher Ms. Hester are important because they not only provide guidance and a supporting environment for Dasani and her classmates, they also serve as role models and Dasani appreciates them [Protective Factors]. Having been raised in similar socioeconomic background, they show the children that they can get out of their current situation through education and determination. Unfortunately, McKinney’s positive influence on its students is in jeopardy due to dwindling funds from the state, which continuously cut the school’s budget and much needed staffs such as teachers and psychologists [macro].

Dasani missed a few days of school since the family was moved to Harlem due to longer commute and the denial for a bus pickup, creating a risk factor. The Risk and Resilience in Homeless Children article, describes a risk factor as “a characteristic of an individual or group that is consistently linked with children failing to achieve normal development”. According to the CCC report, “homelessness creates risks to the physical and emotional well-being and educational success of children. During the 2015-2016 school year, 53% of NYC students living in shelters were absent on 20 or more school days—missing the equivalent of one month of school”. I hope Chanel is able to have all the children attend school in Harlem andhopefully at a better school or the risk of developing learning disabilities and repeating a grade due to excessive absences will be greater. Other risk factors affecting Dasani are poverty, hunger, traumatic experiences (witnessing and participating in violent behaviors), and school mobility. Another risk factor is Auburn’s deplorable state and countless violations. Auburn has been cited with over 400 violations from city and state inspectors over the last decade.

Many of the violations were repeated such as “inadequate child care, faulty fire protection, insufficient heat, spoiled food, broken elevators, nonfunctioning bathrooms and the presence of mice roaches, mold, bedbugs, lead and asbestos”. Such deplorable circumstances negatively impact the mental and physical health of Auburn’s residents. Dasani got violently ill from food poisoning; Chanel is unable to continue her methadone appointments and properly search for employment [Structural Oppression]. Chanel and her mother were exposed to tuberculosis at a shelter in Queens due to possible similar deplorable conditions. In later years, an extended stay at a hospital to treat the recurrence of TB, developed into an addiction for painkillers. Within Dasani’s documented year, Auburn received over 350 calls to 911, including reported assaults, child and sexual abuse. Women, including domestic violence and sexual assaults survivors, are being re-traumatized by the staff with no access to a supporting counselor/therapist/psychologist.

Despite the shelter’s promise of “fullcomplement of professional and support personnel”, it’s most vulnerable residents – women and children – are constantly violated and/or living in constant fear of being assaulted. The shelter is also “ill-equipped to handle the needs of its numerous disabled residents”, affecting Dasani’s legally blind sister, Nijai. Other policies that catalyzed homelessness is the era of “New Deal reforms that gave rise to white flight and urban decay. Fort Greene, like other black areas, was redlined, allowing bank to disinvest and property value to plummet”. This is still happening to this day, and as a Brooklyn resident, I see it all the time. I remember a time when neighborhoods like Bedsty and East New York were considered dangerous with high crime rates but now you wouldn’t even know that. They are gentrified and rezoned, skyrocketing the properly value.

But the most detrimental of all is the denouncement of the city’s inequality by elected officials causing affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage to decline in order for the city to cater to the wealthy. Also, newly created systems made it harder for families to be found eligible for shelter. Chanel was a victim of a rent subsidy program called Advantage that allowed her to lease a duplex on Staten Island, but that did not last for too long as the family had to return to the shelter once the rent subsidy program expired. Public stigma negativelyaffects the homeless population’s self-stigma due to societal views that they are a burden, and it’s their fault they’re in such situations. Belcher and DeForge state that they are “oftentimes ascribed negative characteristics such as dispossessed and disaffiliated individuals who are rootless and isolated with no sense of responsibility, no ties to work, family, and community; derelicts to be eliminated or contained; deviant subculture of outsiders; disease that pollutes; or that of a social signifier that symbolizes all that is negative and disordered in society”.

Little do the majority of society realizes is that multiple factors such as, race, gender, mental health, substance abuse, lack of access to proper resources/education, housing/income discrimination, etc.; all lead to homelessness. Chanel has internalized this self-stigma when she reasoned that wealth belongs to white people because “they save their money and don’t spend it on drinking and smoking”. I am very saddened by her perception but looking at the contrast between her neighborhood and the affluence in the surrounding neighborhoods, I can understand why she feels that way. What worries me is that this mindset will stay with her children who will in turn repeat the cycle. It’s a detrimental perception that also fosters their living situation because with that mindset, Chanel may even feel a sense of attachment and belonging in her current situation because her mother and grandmother grew up in poverty. Stigma is also used as an oppressive weapon to psychologically, socially, economically, and politically control and maintain the homeless population in poverty.

That is why many of these services offered, do not help these homeless individuals out of poverty, they merely sustain them because it creates an illusion that society is “helping” them when they are truly not. Though Dasani’s living situation negatively impacts her self-esteem when she began calling herself “ghetto” and showing more disruptive behaviors, she does show signs of resilience by challenging the boys the arm wrestles and pull-ups, earning herself the title of “muscle girl”. It’s a positive coping mechanism because it deviates other people’s attention from her living situation and appearance, she’s not hurting herself nor anyone else in the process and it’s fostering a sense of pride and self-esteem [signs of resilience]. She also loves school, dancing, and pull-ups competition, the latter of which she is in close proximity. Hopefully, that new community will foster her self-esteem and shows her that she is more than her circumstances.Had the question regarding biases or pre-conceived ideas about homelessness been asked a few years ago, I would have repeated all the stigma/stereotypes regarding the homeless population.

My perception changed about 5 years ago, when I volunteered with a group distributing water bottles to and chatting with homeless individuals around Union Square. I am embarrassed to say that prior to that experience, I really never thought of them being anything else but “homeless people”. Conversing with them definitely shattered my ignorant attitude, especially when I spoke with women who were telling me how they preferred to sleep on the street because they did not feel safe in the shelter, or their trouble getting feminine products during their monthly cycle. One man showed me how he lost two fingers because he didn’t access to take the insulin to treat his diabetes. I remembered the heaviness of that day but also grateful for the experience. Working with a family like Dasani’s, I will have to keep in mind the multiple factors leading homelessness now that I am aware of the many challenges they’re facing.

In supporting Dasani’s strengths and signs of resilience, I will first make sure that she is transferred to a school in Harlem that is closer to her new shelter location to lessen the amount of missed school days. Then, I will look for mentorship programs for the children designed to foster self-regulatory skills, because recent evidence has shown “that homeless children’s self-regulation skills predict higher levels of academic achievement and peer acceptance as well as lower levels of ADHD and externalizing symptoms.” Since, the parents are receiving food stamps, I will find after-school and child care programs, allowing them to continue their drug treatment program and look for employment. It’s truly a shame how the homeless population is marginalized in our society.

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Homelessness For Physical and Emotional Well-Being. (2022, Nov 15). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/homelessness-for-physical-and-emotional-well-being/

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