As the homeless population continues to grow, shelters are finding themselves without the necessary resources needed to support the influx of people. A recent study has shown that as of September 14th, 2016,” 59,548 people were staying in shelters overseen by New York City’s Department of Homeless Services” (The New York Times). Dealing with disabilities can be one of the most challenging aspects of life, but dealing with a disability when you don’t have a home is near impossible. Many people are facing this exact challenge, and the shelters in which they are staying are doing very little to accommodate their needs.
Alison Phillips (pictured above) claims that when she is using her motorized scooter she cannot see the stove burners. Alison suffers from multiple sclerosis, and the fact that she cannot even cook for herself represents the shelter’s lack of care for those who suffer with disabilities. When some people look at homeless individuals, they often ask themselves why they don’t just stay at a shelter instead of the streets? The answer to this question is far from simple. The process of applying to stay at a shelter can be long and difficult. Many homeless people must fill out arduous applications and even then may not even be granted access to the shelter itself. Those who suffer from disabilities face an even harder application process.
Shelter funding is low, and this lack of funding is starting to show. Homeless people, disability or not, are suffering on a day to day basis. Advocates for funding are trying their best to raise money and awareness within the city, even writing letters to city justice officials to supply the shelters with appropriate equipment. The movement to accommodate these people is going at a snails pace, but people like Letitia James (a city public advocate), are continuing to fight.
What does this story have to do with virtue? Quite a lot actually. Aristotle once believed that happiness involved functioning excellently as a human being. In order to “function excellently” a human being requires virtue. The shelters of New York represent both moral and intellectual virtue, but to what extent? By providing homeless people (people who are in desperate need) a place to stay, the shelters are demonstrating compassion. This compassion though, is tainted by the fact that the shelters are not giving these people proper care. This lack of virtuous quality stains the shelter’s virtuous reputation.
People like Letitia James display true virtue. She is taking action while also displaying virtues of the mind by being truly compassionate. She is fighting and advocating for those who do not have a voice. She is taking responsibility.
Is there a difference between being a virtuous person and just performing a virtuous act? Does the shelter’s lack of accommodation prove they are only trying to perform said virtuous act? What do you think?