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New York City Winter Turns Homeless Invisible

Image: Homelessness in winter, New York
A homeless man folds newspapers neatly in squares so that he can use it inside his clothes as a means to warm his body against the bitter New York City cold. Ruddy Roye / for NBC News

Using the popular social network Instagram, Ruddy Roye (@ruddyroye) has earned a large group of followers from photographing issues of poverty around New York City. He is a self-described “Instagram activist.” Given this focus, NBC News asked Roye to explore the concept of how the poor can be ignored by society to the point of becoming "invisible." To do this assignment, he photographed the homeless in Penn Station and other public transit stations in wintertime.

Image: A homeless person is nearly hidden from view in Penn Station
According to Moe, a homeless man from New Jersey, Penn Station was "homeless central." "It is one of the places that the homeless feel safe at," he said. Ruddy Roye / for NBC News

Penn Station is "homeless central," said Moe (not shown), a homeless man from New Jersey. "It is one of the places that the homeless feel safe at," he said. While it is difficult to estimate the total number of homeless in New York City, 53,270 homeless people slept in the New York City municipal shelter system in Nov. 2013, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.

Image: A traveler in Penn Station
A traveler is preoccupied with finding the schedule of his train while a homeless person catches a quick nap behind a column away from the eyes of the patrolling officers. Ruddy Roye / for NBC News

A traveler is preoccupied with finding the schedule of his train while a homeless person catches a quick nap behind a column away from the eyes of the patrolling officers. According to the city of New York, the number of homeless individuals living in public places like streets, in parks and in subways is down nearly 30%. The Coalition says the city's surveys underestimate the population

Image: Homeless take shelter in Penn Station, New York
Gladys Castro carried two large shopping bags on her way to the warmth of Penn Station. About Penn Station, she said, "Inside you will see people walking around like zombies or the walking dead. Homeless people do not appear to be living to the rest of the society. Money is nothing when it makes you look down on another human being." The fifty-year-old woman from Puerto Rico said that sometimes people look at her with scorn and avoid her on the subway. Ruddy Roye / for NBC News

Gladys Castro carried two large shopping bags on her way to the warmth of Penn Station. "Inside you will see people walking around like zombies or the walking dead. Homeless people do not appear to be living to the rest of the society. Money is nothing when it makes you look down on another human being," Castro said. The fifty-year-old woman from Puerto Rico said that sometimes people look at her with scorn and avoid her on the subway.

Image: Homeless take shelter in Penn Station, New York
"We live in a sad reality but I understand why all these people are here, including me. You see people have their own lives and things to do. They have no time for us. Furthermore how much they can do? Most people are thinking that we in here had the same responsibility as they did and we screwed up," said Dwayne who is from New York. He recalled his time as a student who dropped out at Harry S Truman high school. "I dropped out and went right into Rikers for 22 years," he said with a sarcastic grin. Dwayne was convicted of armed robbery, drug possession and assault. Ever since leaving Rikers Dwayne has been homeless. "Our lives are stagnant. We stay homeless until we disappear. If we do not take our lives seriously, there is no reason why other people will." Ruddy Roye / for NBC News

"We live in a sad reality but I understand why all these people are here, including me. You see people have their own lives and things to do. They have no time for us. Furthermore how much they can do? Most people are thinking that we in here had the same responsibility as they did and we screwed up," said Dwayne who is from New York. He recalled his time as a student who dropped out at Harry S Truman high school. "I dropped out and went right into Rikers for 22 years," he said with a sarcastic grin. Dwayne was convicted of armed robbery, drug possession and assault. Ever since leaving prison, Dwayne has been homeless."Our lives are stagnant. We stay homeless until we disappear. If we do not take our lives seriously, there is no reason why other people will."

Image: Homeless take shelter in Penn Station, New York
A homeless man prays near his belongings in a subway station in New York. Ruddy Roye / for NBC News