My group focused on the health issues in Queens. After much research, we found that Queens used to have a huge HIV problem. The amount of people in Queens with HIV was greater than all of New York City combined. Although today this is no longer true, my group wanted to open an HIV clinic in Rockaway, a region that used to have an extremely high amount of HIV diagnoses per year. My group chose to open this clinic because we believed that although the amount of diagnoses per year has decreased significantly in Rockaway and people have a much easier time accessing clinics, the amount of people in Rockaway still living with HIV is pretty high. The goal of our clinic wasn’t just to provide testings, but it is to educate people on HIV and to help people live with HIV. Our Clinic would not only teach people ages 14-60+ on how to reduce risky sexual behavior, but we would also provide easily accessible HIV tests and ensure high-quality treatment of all HIV-infected people in order to prevent new HIV infections and AIDS.
It was much harder to find a health issue in a concentrated region that most people experienced or were effected by. At first, my group searched to find a health issue that all of Queens was effected by or at least a particular region. Initially, we could not find anything, because there was no region in which most people all had the same exact health problem. My group found that there were so many health issues in the neighborhood and we could not open a clinic that could address all of them. We therefore decided to chose one issue to focus on; HIV in Rockaway, where the highest rates of death from HIV are. It was frustrating at first because our clinic only addresses a small group of people – those living with HIV, but then we decided to open up a clinic that could help people not just with HIV. That is why we chose to have classes that would be open to anyone and everyone regardless of the area they lived in or their relation to HIV.
After examining numerous New York City Health Surveys and health reports, I got a much better insight into the most common health issues in New York City and the areas in which they are most prevalent. I often don’t think of health issues in terms of neighborhood, borough, or city, but doing so really helped me understand the general trends of sickness/access to health care/curing illness. The poorer neighborhoods in the city tend to have much higher rates of illness and lower access to health care. Seeing this really motivated me to take action and help change the way the health care system in New York City functions and to make it much more accessible, affordable, and available.
For service day, the 10th grade went to staten island. I enjoyed the ferry ride there and the bonding that I did with my grade. The time spent on the bus ride was a nice way to get to know my classmates that I might not otherwise spend time with. When we arrived, however, we were given a powerpoint presentation, which I was hoping would inform me about Staten island, but instead it gave us little information on staten island, the park, and the what/who we would be helping. I found it hard to give back to a community that I did not know much about or understand how my work was helping them. I wish I could have gotten more out of this experience.
The social issue my group researched was homelessness, addiction, and mental illness in New York City. We found that 30-40% of the street homeless population suffered from a mental illness and 64% of homeless people in New York City suffer from substance abuse. These numbers surprised us since those percentages are close to or over 50%. We see homeless people every day suffering on the streets for numerous reasons, and my group thought it would be most effective if we tried to help. After researching, we found a non-profit organization called The Bowery Residence Committee, or BRC.
BRC helps homeless people suffering with addiction and/or mental illness with numerous shelters around the city. ⅔ of BRC clients have mental illnesses or addictions. BRC’s goal is to get clients to gain self-concern and eventually be able to support themselves and have a number of programs, groups, and 1146 staff members to help them. The Bowery Residence Committee’s motto is to “give the homeless a hand up, not a hand out”. This means that the staff workers offer their services in the hope that the clients will become sober, learn to deal with their mental illness, and be able to support themselves. BRC’s staff provides support and guidance, but will not tell the clients what to do in order to achieve their goals. BRC is currently housing 1,442 people and has helped over 3,000 people successfully complete their programs.
Throughout the process of making our presentations, visiting BRC, and presenting, my attitude towards homeless people suffering from addiction and mental illness in New York City has changed over the course of the project. At first, I just thought of BRC as part of a history project that I was obligated to do. However, following our site visit, my idea of BRC was reshaped drastically. After seeing all of the clients and how happy they were in BRC’s facilities, it really showed how much BRC helped them. We also saw some classes going on including an art class which helped the clients express their feelings through art. One man, named Audrey, who was struggling with a mental illness, talked to us about his picture expressing his struggles with homelessness. It suddenly became so real to me as Audrey rambled on about being homeless. Homelessness is actually this lifestyle that people live for years. They suffer during the cold winters in New York City and constantly beg for money. In order to survive the pain, they usually abuse alcohol and drugs. It is a constant cycle that BRC helps break, so those people can finally have a chance at living a normal life.