Homeless by choice in the Big Apple

RT tells the story of Yusef Ramelize – a graphic designer who goes homeless in the Big Apple for one week every year to bring attention to the growing numbers of homeless people in America.

­New York is one of the richest cities in the world. During rush hour, streets are abuzz with folk – this is business as usual. But behind the crowds the truth can be frightening.

“Homelessness has increased in New York and the United States. Managers, people who have had their jobs for years. Because of the economy, people lose their job, and then they can’t find another job. What happens there?” 

These are worries expressed by New Yorker Yuzef Ramelize. He knows that what happens there often leads to no place to call home. What many people and politicians who managed to avoid an economic knock-out don’t realize, is that homelessness is not just a word, concept, or sin. It’s a social disease that has now spread far and wide and is not going anywhere unless cured, like many of the other consequences of a plummeted economy.

39,000 homeless pack New york city shelters every night. Many more are left without a bed. Yusef is living at Grand Central station.

“I know so many people that live paycheck to paycheck. The majority of stories that I’ve heard are not stories that are far-fetched from you and me, and that’s what makes it even more scary,” he said.

The 34 year old has no money, no cell phone and no change of clothes. What separates him from all the other lost souls is that he is homeless by choice. Every year, the graphic designer leaves his office job that’s just around the corner and goes homeless for an entire week – usually during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This leaves him not just homeless but hungry during the fast.

Yusef’s goal is raising awareness and $5,000 for those who have nowhere to go.

“The faces of homelessness have changed dramatically. You can be on a train or a bus, and chances are you are sitting next to someone who is homeless,” the man said.

This is a hard truth – in the Big Apple alone, over 9.5 thousand families don’t have a home. That means tens of thousands of children, too.

“I don’t get angry over a lot of stuff, but this definitely makes me angry. It’s sad. It’s sad when you hear politicians say that they travel in the subway and don’t remember the last time they saw a homeless person. Remarks like that make me really upset, because that’s not the reality,” the activist sighed.

While politicians and most others turn a blind eye to the less fortunate, Yusef – briefly – puts himself right in their spot. In the hope that his empathy may awaken that of others.