Joe sits on newspapers spread on the sidewalk by the entrance to midtown's Grand Central Station. His head rests in his hands, only looking up when coins from passersby clink into his paper cup.
When Michael Bloomberg was elected mayor of this city only weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, few imagined that by the time he left office a new building would have risen in the shadow of the Twin Towers.
For homeless youth, life on the streets is brutal. They experience sky-high rates of mental health problems, substance abuse and sexual assault. But despite the fact that it costs just under 6,000 U.S. dollars to permanently end homelessness for one youth, too little is being done to help them.
"That's where I sleep," says Fernando, indicating a puddled area under a bridge. A 62-year-old Portuguese citizen, he has lived in Spain for 15 years, and he is part of the growing number of homeless people in this country wracked by a merciless economic and financial crisis.
Even as thousands of families in the United States remain homeless due to a lack of affordable housing, millions of units are sitting empty across the country, including foreclosed single-family homes, foreclosed or vacant condominium units or entire condo buildings, and vacant high-priced apartments.