New York Magazine

New York Spends $1.2 Billion a Year on Homelessness And yet the problem is only getting worse

SEVEN NEW YORKERS EXPLAIN WHY IT’S SO HARD TO STOP BEING HOMELESS.
Donice Ford-Benson near a high-rise luxury building where she works as a plumber.

AT 7 A.M., Donice Ford-Benson is working in the rain on the unfinished 17th floor of 550 Vanderbilt. She’s checking a drain system but pauses for a moment because, even in the downpour, she can’t resist taking in the panorama of Downtown Brooklyn. The spot where she stands will soon be a balcony and belong to whoever buys the condo and the views. According to the developer’s website, the building will be “Setting the Standard for Brooklyn Living.” Construction is almost complete, and when it is, Ford-Benson will then be out of work. She’s been a union plumber for 17 years; it’s a familiar cycle of episodic work, one that has driven her family in and out of homelessness. Currently, her daily commute is between the new standard of living on Vanderbilt Avenue and the Help 1 shelter in East New York.

Over the last several months, I met

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