Homeless in a world of affluence

The New York Times on Sunday published an article entitled “Amid Affluence, the Hidden Homeless“. Although the article is about hidden homeless on Long Island it could have easily been written about New Jersey. With a weakening economy and the sub-prime mortgage crisis the number of hidden homeless is likely to increase. It is also a reminder of why we all need to work to end homelessness.

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Housing Amid Affluence, the Hidden Homeless

ON the border of Garden City and Hempstead, where handsome homes with manicured lawns give way to a crumbling housing project, sits a large, empty house with an unusual guardian.

A homeless man named Charles Tegeler, 47, has slept in the boarded-up, burned-out house on the corner of Hilton Avenue and Jackson Street since August, when the family that owned the house was forced out by an electrical fire. He wards off intruders by night and does repair work for the owner, Dennis Bassett, by day.

Mr. Bassett said that he had hired Mr. Tegeler to do odd jobs over the past two years and that he lets him sleep on his properties because he wants to keep at least one man off the streets.

“No one is looking at the fact that people are living in alleys downtown,” said Mr. Bassett, a real estate agent now living in Garden City. “No one wants to look at that because life is too good on Long Island, because they can go home and lock their doors.”

Although homelessness is more visible in towns like Hempstead, where people huddle in alleys and places like the loading dock outside National Wholesale Liquidators, there are homeless people hidden throughout Long Island. And the problem is growing, say those who work with the homeless.

“I’ve seen an upward trend and I am concerned about it,’ said Joan Noguera, executive director of the nonprofit Nassau-Suffolk Coalition for the Homeless.

Any trend is hard to quantify because the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development applied new guidelines this year for counting the homeless. Only those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, abandoned buildings or on the street and who identified themselves as homeless could be counted.

At the beginning of this year, the coalition’s census of unsheltered homeless people reported 781 homeless people in Nassau County and 1,728 in Suffolk County.

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