Friday, October 26, 2018

Under the Boardwalk: Homelessness in Atlantic City

Under the Boardwalk: Homelessness in Atlantic City
By: Shayonne Ray
View from Atlantic City boardwalk. Photo credit: Shayonne Ray

When you think of Atlantic City, the first thing that comes to mind may be the Jersey
Shore, filled with beaches boardwalks, and of course the popular casinos. Beyond the
many attractions lies a large population of homelessness in Atlantic City. You may see them roaming the streets or holding doors open to multiple businesses such as the local Dunkin Donuts awaiting your spare change and leftovers.
Have you ever wondered where the chairs, old clothes, and garbage accumulating under the boardwalk come from? We have the answer. It's the growing number of homeless people living, sleeping, and eating down below from where many of us enjoy our summers with family and friends. Many of them are from out of town who came to visit Atlantic City and somehow stayed. They were either down on their luck, escaping a life they previously had, or dealing with addiction of drugs,
alcohol, or gambling. Many of the residents here in Atlantic City have grown accustomed to
calling the police to get rid of them but what can the police really do?
Atlantic City has some resources to help the homeless, AC rescue mission located at 2009
Bacharach Blvd is opened to anyone in need of help. It houses men,
women, and children and provides food, shelter, and assistance to those who need help
obtaining jobs and medical care. Jewish family services also offer programs aimed
towards helping people with addiction and substance abuse. Because Atlantic City is a
popular tourist location, the city wants to keep these people off the streets. Although the
city does offer additional resources, it still lacks the ability to rid the streets of the
multitude of people who refuse to get help or stay in shelters.
The city struggles to manage the increasing amount of homeless people as the addiction and crime rates rapidly increase. ACPD are flooded with calls of complaints that come
through 911 database of homeless people using drugs in public parks, urinating in public
areas and also burglarizing store fronts and sometimes even residents. On October 19th, Stockton University students were assigned to walk the streets of Atlantic City to get more of in insight on what’s really happening in the lives
of street walkers.
One student found Jim Hernandez who spent the night sleeping in the Atlantic City bus terminal.
Hernandez explained, "I like this area the most to sleep, but the workers call the cops on
me to have me removed all the time. I like spending my nights here because its busy and
people always seem to help me out with food and money." When asked how he became homeless, Hernandez responded, " I was married and I had a daughter but I lost my job. I began using drugs and I would drive to Atlantic City from South Philly just to make money to get high again. One day my wife told me not to come back."
There are many stories similar to Hernandez's. Gaining stability after homelessness can be difficult, but as we found out here in Atlantic City there is help available, they just have to want it for themselves.

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