If You’re Not Going Solar, Ask Yourself Why

This post was originally featured on ScoreNYC

If you told every business owner in the largest market in the country that they could reduce long-term expenses, improve their company’s image, and take advantage of cutting-edge technology to improve the environment with one simple conversion, you’d probably be hard-pressed to hear the word “no.”

Which is why it’s a little surprising that New York’s skyscrapers aren’t dotted with solar arrays by now. Sure, solar power has been more widely adopted than ever before, but too many business owners are hesitating, despite the fact that solar energy represents the ultimate win-win-win scenario, benefitting not only businesses but also customers and the world at large.

Looking at the wider picture, the solar industry is amid a nationwide surge. The installation of solar panels nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016, making it the United States’ number-one new energy source in the latter year.

Cities were at the forefront of that growth — the top 20 metropolitan areas for solar power churn out as much as the entire country did in 2010 — and New York was indeed a strong participant in that group. It ranked seventh for total installed panels in the nation, according to a report by Environment New York, a statewide advocacy organization, ahead of such places as San Antonio, Las Vegas, and San Francisco.

New York, which had five solar installers in 2005, had 55 by 2015, according to the city’s Economic Development Corporation. More impressively, the number of residential solar projects went from 186 in 2011 to more than 5,300 in 2016.

New York’s solar renaissance has been fueled in part by the initiatives of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Cuomo mandated two years ago that half of the state’s power come from solar, wind, hydroelectric or other renewable sources by 2030, while de Blasio is aiming to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

According to a 2014 report in the New York Times, de Blasio’s goal is in line with the United Nations’ target for developed countries, in an attempt to curtail the effects of climate change. He went so far as to tell the Times that there is “a moral imperative” to act, while making reference to Hurricane Sandy, a 2012 storm that led to 44 deaths and $19 billion in damage to the city.

He has since unveiled a 3,152-panel rooftop solar installation in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and hopes to generate 100 megawatts of renewable energy on public buildings by 2023. That will not come without cost — it is estimated that it could run as much as $1 billion for all public buildings to be retrofitted with solar panels — but it bears repeating that the technology ultimately pays for itself.

As great as the city’s progress is in the solar realm, far more could be done. One study showed that 66% of New York’s rooftops could be used to harness the power of the sun, and that those panels could provide half of the city’s electricity needs at peak periods. The potential savings are mind-boggling.

There are many other places where far more could be done. While San Diego is №1 on the list of solar cities, just 14% of its small-building solar capacity is being realized. And California legislators have mandated that half of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2030; currently it’s about one-fourth, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

Nationwide, the solar market nearly doubled its annual record in 2016, and for the first time since 2011, non-residential installation growth outpaced residential installations. Such businesses as Walmart, Costco, IKEA and FedExare at the forefront of the solar business trend, and that pattern is likely to become more widespread.

That, coupled with a boom that could see as many as 3.8 million homesequipped with solar panels in 2020 (up from 30,000 in 2006), figures to make the U.S. a major player on the world’s solar stage. A federal study revealed that if solar panels were installed on every roof in America, they would supply 39% of the total power used in the U.S.

Unfortunately, startup costs are the major factor preventing more residences and businesses from going solar. It is estimated that it can run between $20,000 and $50,000 to install a residential system, and while there is the specter of a rollback of federal alternative-energy incentives under the current presidential administration, city and state programs can foot a sizable portion of the bill.

New York, for instance, offers loan financing for residential, small-commercial and commercial projects through NY-Sun. Residential and small-commercial customers can finance up to $25,000 with a repayment period as long as 15 years. Commercial borrowers may finance up to 100% of any-sized solar projects; the interest rate ranges from 4% to 6.5%. NY-Sun also extends reduced installation costs to borrowers across any of these three categories.

And once more, there are savings on the back end. Solar-powered homes reportedly have cut monthly bills by as much as 85%, and it is estimated that solar energy’s ROI beats the stock market in more than 25 states, including New York.

There is, at least, far less red tape to cut through than there once was. The permit-approval process for a solar system, once as long as two years, has now been reduced to a few days. With the other steps — planning, inspection, etc. — the entire installation can take roughly a month, depending on the financing process.

And at that point, the utility company changes your electrical meter over, and it starts rolling backwards — a magical (not to mention profitable) thing.

This isn’t just pure speculation — in fact, I’ve enjoyed the benefits firsthand. We first installed solar panels in my building, Midtown’s Atelier, in 2011, making it the tallest residential solar installation in the United States. At that point the system generated roughly 10% of the building’s energy and cut utility costs by about $120,000 a year.

We earned back the initial investment in the solar panels in a matter of months, then added additional panels over the next five years, slicing utility costs even more. We were, as a result, able to reinvest those savings back into the building, adding an ice skating rink among other amenities.

Then there are the environmental benefits. Solar panels are virtually noiseless. The only pollution they produce is during the construction process, and that pales in comparison to that which is generated by other forms of energy. After installation, they produce no greenhouse gases.

Looking long-term, there’s no reason for business owners not to throw considerable heft into solar conversion. It’s not only a better deal for the environment, it’s a boon for the bottom line.


Homeless Youth — The Invisible Problem

The years between age 18 and 25 are often thought of as the defining times of our lives. These are the years when young people begin to find their place in the world, whether in education, meaningful employment, or starting their own families.

Sadly, there’s an overlooked cohort of this age group who are simply struggling to survive. Among the stories of exciting new opportunities for young people, recently released studies by the University of Chicago have found that one in ten young peoplenationwide experienced some degree of homelessness in 2016.

It’s a damning statement about the state of the fight against homelessness when the most vulnerable, our young people, are subjected to such unfavorable life conditions. As we’ve seen previously, a disconcerting number of grade school children here in New York City suffer under the same unfortunate circumstances.

These findings, as one University of Chicago researcher points out, challenge the popular image of homelessness. As tempting as it may be for some to think that it’s the result of poor choices or upbringing, the hard facts show that this severe poverty can strike even the most innocent, in varying degrees.

So, what are we to do? Surely, these numbers should be shocking enough to spur major action to fight this problem. Unfortunately, that help has traditionally been slow to enact. It would seem that action from the top needs to happen, and soon. I know I’m not alone in hoping these recent shocking numbers will have that effect.

For those city, state and federal leaders whose policies can make a real impact, the fact that ten percent of our youth have lived in such conditions should serve as a wakeup call. Let us not forget, whether rich or poor, this younger generation comprises our nation’s future. If we can make this future a brighter one for our youngest and most vulnerable, we make it a brighter one for all.

This article was originally published on DanNeiditch.org

4 Business Ideas Anyone Can Try

This post was originally featured on ScoreNYC

A lot of folks have the entrepreneurial spirit. Yet many never see it through.

According to a Gallup survey, potential entrepreneurs don’t take the plunge for a variety of reasons. They worry about a steady income, lack personal savings, or fear failure. A staggering 49% say they don’t start a companybecause they don’t know where to start.

What can address these concerns is a way to start small and generate reliable income. Here’s a list of low-barrier to entry business ideas that can prove fruitful with the right plan.

1. Online retailer

By starting on third-party platforms, you can bring in revenue immediately — without having to exhaust time and resources on building a website, marketing products, managing logistics, etc. Start with a product you know well and grow in a manner that’s profitable and sustainable.

There are lots of retailer websites out there, from platforms for creative merchants like Etsy to mammoth marketplaces selling everything under the sun like Amazon and Alibaba. Choose one that aligns with your product category and fits your budget (some sites have expensive fees).

For instance, if you want to start selling niche items or refurbished goods, eBay is a great choice. It’s also inexpensive to launch a store, as long as you can find the funds to buy the products you hope to sell. Just pay attention to costs. As Aron Hsiao, a long-time eBay seller and former eBay employee, notes, “use the eBay Fee Illustrator calculator to determine which store level is best for your business” and stay updated on fees and expenses (they change).

2. Tutoring service

Starting a tutoring service comes with basically no initial expenses if you do it entirely online. Marketing in the local community is inexpensive as well, especially if you make use of free classifieds, bulletin board locations, and your personal network.

You can make good money, too. According to a Care.com report, professional tutors typically earn between $20-$85 per hour, with rates varying due to location, subject/field, frequency of sessions, etc. Don’t set your asking rate too low, and you should be able to negotiate a fee that brings you in solid hourly pay.

So, where should you start? Finding students in your area is a great idea. You can expand your potential client base by using sites like Wyzant (good for academic subjects) and TakeLessons.com (good for music, hobbies, and art).

3. Handyman business

Why not monetize your ability to build and fix things? The only upfront expenses are your tools, which you may already have, and marketing costs.

Before you start a handyman service, be sure to get proper licensing, as it will give you credibility and legal protection. As HomeAdvisor advises, if you’re going to be doing HVAC, electrical, remodeling, or plumbing work, having a license is absolutely advised. For work like lawn-care, window cleaning, and trash removal, licensing isn’t necessary.

To get the word out in an affordable way, utilize the power of word-of-mouth among your friends and family, advertise for free on CraigsList, and post signs and business cards around your community. Signing up for membership on a site like Angie’s List may cost a little, but it gives you access to more potential customers and the backing of a reputable company, making it easier to build your brand and expand your business.

4. Driving service

If you like cruising around town in an automobile, why not make a living out of it? If you already have your own vehicle, you can get started right away.

With companies like Uber and Lyft, you can work as an independent contractor and not have to worry about finding clientele. Considering the average Uber driver makes around $30 per hour, you can do alright out there on the road. If you learn some tricks of the game, you can even do much better than alright. The blog, Six Figure Drivers, teaches drivers how to maximize earning by taking advantage of sign up bonuses and referrals and driving during busy nights and holidays, which is when incentives are offered. Also, the guides even show how to use data and analytics to find out where demand for drivers is highest in your town and what routes yield the most profits.

Once you start making good income, you could consider officially starting your own driving business as well. For example, running a party bus service can be lucrative (and fun). Just make sure you have proper licensing and insurance.

Consider all your options

If you think about it, lots of businesses don’t really cost that much to start and you can make money right away. For instance, any of the following services just require a computer and internet connection:

  • Copywriting
  • SEO consulting
  • Social media marketing
  • Web design and development
  • Technical support
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Tax preparation
  • Blogging
  • Photography (need a camera!)
  • Artist

In conclusion, the point is this: Think about your talents, passions, and interests, as well as what can reliably generate income. Be willing to compromise a little at the start — and you’ll be able to get your first business up and running. Then, you’ll be on your way to becoming a full-fledged entrepreneur.


The 2 Proven Strategies to Grow Your Business

This post was originally featured on HuffingtonPost.com

As an entrepreneur, I’m always looking for ways to keep my business moving forward. You’ll hear all kinds of advice from those who came before you, some might have a bit of wisdom to them, some might not. For your business to be a true success, your personal attitude is paramount. The approach you take will determine whether you thrive or fail. To that point, there are two vital things you need to remember, the proven ways to help grow your business: be aggressive, and be proactive. If you follow these two guidelines, there’s no limit to where you’ll take yourself and your company.

Be Aggressive

Being aggressive means more than just throwing your weight around and being assertive. It’s about taking on every task before you with the passion and nerve you had when you first started. You’ve heard the old adage about genius being one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration? Business genius functions the same way. Hard work alone isn’t going to guarantee you success, but it’s the baseline that every successful entrepreneur has to start with.

Part of being aggressive is seeking out and adapting to every new development. Whatever your line of business is, there are going to be changes in the industry and if you’re able to adapt to them, you’ll be rewarded. In the real estate business, I’ve been a proponent of integrating solar technology in building projects and the growth in that sector makes me glad that I did. Staying aware of potential new progressions means you’ll always be ahead of the competition.

A great reason to be aggressive is that there’s so much information out there, you’re missing out if you’re not diving headfirst into it. Knowing what’s relevant is the key task, and once you’ve got a hold on that, you’re ready. Never forget that learning is a lifelong process. As Henry Ford, not a stranger to success in business, once said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Staying young means always growing, and learning is a key component of keeping that process moving.

My use of the word “aggressive” might be a little off-putting to some, but hear me out. Naturally, you may be concerned about stepping on toes, especially if your business relies on your public perception. But this might not necessarily be the case if you make aggression a key aspect of your strategy. In their book Aggression and Adaptive Functioning: the Bright Side to Bad Behavior, Professors Patricia Hawley and Brian Vaughn write about their research into the study of aggression. What they found was, contrary to popular belief, aggressive behavior is often seen as positive by peers, and improves rather than damages your image. If you’re worried about your image, aggression is an asset, not a liability.

Be Proactive

My second proven strategy is the counterpart to aggression. Harnessing that aggressive energy in a productive way means taking control of your destiny. Being proactive, in a business context, means keeping in control of what’s happening to you and your company. Aggression will drive you forward, but proactivity will keep you focused. Wrangling these two complementary strategies has proven reliable in growing my business, and will work for yours, too.

A proactive company is one that prioritizes strategic planning. This will include setting objectives for yourself and your team, making long-term decisions, and honestly evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. To keep this a regular part of your schedule ensures your business is poised to attack the upcoming year. It’ll also keep everyone on the same page, so you can solve problems collectively. As Warren Buffet said: “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” You’ll reduce risk by having a clear plan of what you and the rest of your company need to accomplish.

Your strategic planning will need to accommodate future obstacles. While they’re unpredictable by nature, part of being proactive is doing your best to anticipate what’s yet to come. Look to the past, and learn from your own experiences and those of others in your industry. Of course there can be completely unforeseeable issues that you can’t plan for, but when you account for the ones you can, you’ll be able to balance your efforts and use everyone’s time efficiently.

The other side of that coin is the ability to take advantage of new opportunities. As the markets are always shifting, they can shift towards your direction if you’re tuned into new movement. As the world around you changes, don’t be afraid to stray slightly from your plan if a new stream of business looks more promising. Stay aware of things to come and you can get a head start on the competition. A proactive leader is ready to start new initiatives if they show promise.

These two strategies, when taken in tandem, will form the basis of any successful venture. There are a great deal of variables in running every kind of company, and how you react to them will determine whether your organization makes it or not. The analyses you make of your industry and your place in it are the key to continuing success. Just keep your priorities in mind, stay focused and don’t be afraid to be bold. A forward thinking approach, taken with a combination of vigor and logic, is the proven way to get ahead in any area of business and life.


NYC’s Newest Homeless Numbers and What They Mean

This post was originally featured on HuffingtonPost.com

It might not come as a surprise, but it’s deeply troubling nonetheless. Our city’s recent push towards a more comprehensive assessment of the homeless population has provided the latest set of results and they are far from positive. The survey from the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) has the number of homeless New Yorkers at 3,892, an increase of over 1,000 from the same time in 2016.

At a time when there seems to be more money in the city than ever, these statistics are a painful reminder that not all citizens are fortunate enough to meet our basic needs. Living on the streets, for some of us a terrifying idea, is a daily reality for a growing number of people in nearly every corner of New York City.

Though these numbers are concerning, and rightfully so, the fact that we are aware of them at all is a promising sign for the city’s future. The HOPE count is part of the city’s relatively recent HOME-STAT homeless outreach program, the latest program designed to assist and house our city’s dispossessed residents.

Implemented in March 2016, HOME-STAT is the deBlasio administration’s attempt to use analytics combined with a street-level approach to evaluating the city’s homeless problem and finding practical solutions. The idea emulates the NYPD’s CompStat program, credited with helping in the massive, unprecedented reduction in crime the city saw in the 1990s and 2000s.

Informed by data collected by HOME-STAT employees, targeted efforts are made to assist and help shelter people living on the street. These “Swarm Teams” follow recommendations from HOME-STAT software to pinpoint areas with large concentrations of homeless people and engage with them personally, in the hopes that they will accept a transition to shelters with the long-term goal of getting them into housing.

While it’s not the cure that many hope for, HOME-STAT has made some headway in taking on the homelessness problem. They made headlines at the end of last year by announcing their programs had led to the temporary housing of nearly 700 of the city’s homeless. Even though they were not all placed in permanent homes, it can be considered a minor victory that some were convinced to come off of the streets. Eventually, it is hoped, more face-to-face interventions will result in a real reduction in the homeless numbers.

The mayor has urged patience in the matter, even at the announcement of the program in December 2015saying that it may take years before concrete results are visible. The kind of one-on-one work being done is indeed something that will take time. The trade-off of spending more effort on each individual means that fewer people will be directly affected, though this more holistic approach is a step in the right direction away from draconian policies that often left citizens dehumanized and disrespected.

One promising aspect of the new program is the level of transparency. On HOME-STAT’s website, detailed maps of 311 requests for homeless assistanceare available across daily, weekly and yearly timeframes. What this means is that citizens are now able to observe, in nearly real-time, where their fellow New Yorkers are calling the city to provide assistance. All of us will be able to keep tabs on the efforts to fight homelessness on a case-by-case basis.

Even though this program will hopefully result in drastically fewer homeless people, we are still seeing some evidence of the old short-term solutions like sheltering. Just recently, the administration announced plans to open 90 new homeless shelters across the five boroughs. Presumably, Swarm Teams will be shuttling the homeless towards these temporary residences, though ideally there would be housing in place.

Sheltering, of course, is a band-aid solution, if it is even considered a solution at all. Many homeless people choose to stay on the streets because they actually feel safer there than in the shelter system, where unclean and unsafe conditions are rampant. HOME-STAT’s true effectiveness will be seen when our homeless are housed safely and permanently, and that still appears to be a far away state of affairs.


It’s Not Micromanaging If You Do It Without Killing Morale

Hands-on leadership isn’t easy. But you can see your vision all the way through without discouraging your team.

This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

When we use the phrase “micromanaging” we’re usually visualizing a leader who should have their eyes on the big picture, but is fussing over small details. The term carries a highly negative connotation of ineffective leadership, more concerned with obsessing restlessly over details than what’s going on in the big picture.

While this may be true in some cases, some of the most effective leaders are ones who have their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in their work organization. That means really knowing their people and getting into the operations of the company at their essence.

Make sure you are aware of what’s happening.

While of course you have trust in your employees, as the person in charge it’s better to be plugged into what’s happening beneath you than not. This is especially the case for those at the very top, who have a lot staked in the success of the business.

If you’re not completely invested in how things work out by paying attention to what’s happening at all levels, you’re neglecting your job and putting yourself at risk, plain and simple.

Employees need to know you trust them.

Micromanaging, when done correctly, is not a matter of wielding control. Managers who lose the trust of their employees by paying close attention do so because they are communicating that they do not think the employee is capable of doing their job without someone to look over their shoulder. Worse, these employees could even interpret the attention as a feeble need to wield authority.

You are not there to nitpick.

This is why communication and demonstration of your intentions is key. If your employees understand that you’re not there to nitpick what they’re doing, but simply ensuring that things are going smoothly, you’ll be keeping tabs on things without killing morale.

Being open about your intentions for them and for the company at large will leave no doubt that what you’re after is growth, not a nitpicking of their behavior.

Benefits of micromanaging.

The benefits of a smart micromanaging approach are many. Keeping your hand on the pulse of your business means that you can count on the necessary work getting done while your workers won’t feel you breathing down their necks. When the time comes to try new ventures, you’ll have a picture of where things will fit into your employees’ existing workload.

Your face around the office will be a constant reminder that no matter how high up the ladder you might be, you’re keenly aware of the company’s comings and goings. This means knowing the work to be done and how it’s happening, not whether every employee is using the right amount of paper clips.

Time management.

Task-management software is a great asset to this end. By assigning and completing work using these tools, you can be kept aware that things are progressing smoothly without having to check in on each employee several times a day.

This less-intrusive method has quickly become an essential tool for managing a team, and is something you should be checking multiple times a day as the person in charge.

Every organization needs to communicate to their employees the importance of a common goal. It’s the only way that all personnel can maximize their time and efforts towards making the company a well-run machine. When someone in a position of authority can point to every person on the team and identify exactly what they’re doing and their importance to those goals, it’s clear to all that the company is in good hands.

Only by getting into the daily nitty-gritty can you develop the operational knowledge to keep your team pointed in the right direction. If you’re the one in charge, you shouldn’t have to ask an assistant what’s going on.

Fix problems before they becomes too big.

Another way that conscientious micromanaging benefits you and your team is that with your knowledge of daily operations and results, potential problems can be taken care of before they grow into something unmanageable.

Yes, your closest advisors and lieutenants should be able to do the same thing, but your own set of eyes is most valuable since you’re the one who’s trusting their instincts, with a vision to guide the entire group. The last thing you want as a business owner is to be caught off guard. The possibility of unforeseen problems can be greatly diminished when you’re plugged into the details.

As a boss who gets into the minutiae, you’ll be better appraised of what your personnel are like than most other leaders. An understanding of every worker’s methods, habits and tendencies can be valuable knowledge for the person in charge.

For one thing, you’ll be able to assign tasks and duties to the person you feel is best suited for them. Not only that, but when you develop these relationships the team members who are on an upward tangent will make their presence clearer to you.

When openings arise, internal promotion can be a great motivating tool and will save you time and money with onboarding procedures. When you know all your employees’ strengths and weaknesses well, it’ll be an easier task to identify those best suited for a rise in the ranks and promote them accordingly.

Leave out petty business concerns.

As with every method of operating your business, there are potential pitfalls to be avoided. Besides the obvious need to not overcrowd your employees with petty concerns, there are a few other ways you can avoid being one of those leaders who gives micromanaging a bad name.

The ability to step in when a project or endeavor is going poorly is one of the great advantages of this approach. However, constantly putting yourself in front of employees when something goes bad can foster poor mental associations.

When an intervention or disciplinary action is necessary, it can sometimes best to delegate those delicate tasks. This is a matter of avoiding negative attitudes about the company as a whole, which is a quick morale killer. As the face of the company, you don’t want your workforce fearing you or thinking of you as a source of negativity.

Employees need ownership of their own work.

Another possible danger of micromanagement is a failure to give employees ownership of their work. While you are certainly the person behind the whole business, they’ll need to feel pride in their work. Being closely keyed into the company means that you’re keeping things on the right track, not that you’re giving every employee their inviolable marching orders.

The quickest way to kill motivation is to make your employees feel that they have no control in their work. Micromanage to keep tabs on the company, but don’t use it as an excuse to strip your employees of the ability to think for themselves.

You can’t delegate all tasks.

The modern entrepreneur simply cannot afford to sit in their c-suite office and delegate all tasks. In a dynamic market, a leader who fails to assess their company at every possible opportunity is one who will be rapidly left behind.

Micromanagement, far from being the scourge that it’s imagined to be, can be the difference between an aimless workforce and a focused one if done properly.


How the Homeless Get By When Disaster Strikes

Catastrophic natural disasters like the ones we’ve seen over the past few weeks frequently leave millions of Americans without their homes. This level of destruction and displacement often serves as a great shock to the country at large and millions of charity and governmental dollars go toward helping rebuild what was lost for so many families.

While this is, of course, a noble pursuit and an appropriately empathetic response, it’s easy to forget that many of the citizens of these stricken regions had already tenuous living arrangements or no place to call home at all. For those disadvantaged residents, the dangers of extreme weather events are not lessened in any way by the fact that they might not have as much to lose as their property-owning neighbors. In fact, the ever-present danger is only increased for this growing cohort of city dwellers.

The needs of the homeless as disastrous hurricanes or other weather disasters approach are multiplied when considering their already disadvantaged existences. Many of the dispossessed experience a compounding of the issues that contributed to their homelessness in the first place, including mental health issues and past traumatic experiences. These needs are often unaddressed in the emergency response and can result in worsened conditions after the storm passes and new traumas have been endured.

It’s sadly not a surprise at this point, but the odds piled up against the homeless are only increased by dire weather emergencies. Though the opportunity to put them into new housing should be most relevant when these kinds of disasters strike, unfortunately, Federal housing assistance offered to storm victims is doled out with higher priority given to those who already have homes. While it’s good that our government can help those who have suffered losses, it leaves behind those whose need for reliable housing is greatest.

In Houston and Miami, the two largest metropolitan areas to be hit this hurricane season, local authorities employed their existing homeless outreach teams to convince people living in the streets to come into specially designated storm shelters as the winds worsened. The usual job of homeless outreach took on a greater urgency as drastic weather bore down on these cities and their perpetually displaced residents. Many homeless Houstonians chose to weather the storm, having been so inured to their tenuous existence that the prospect of a catastrophic hurricane sounded more like “just rain.”

When simple coaxing didn’t work in Miami, the city utilized an unprecedented reinterpretation of the laws regarding detainment to forcibly take homeless people who hadn’t willingly left the streets into storm shelters as Hurricane Irma approached in September of this year. This strategy of taking citizens into custody “for their own good” illustrates the lack of agency that our homeless neighbors suffer from in their everyday lives. Whether the ends justify the means in this extraordinary case can be debated, but the entire episode shows how little power the homeless can have when it comes to their own safety and protection.

The issue of homelessness may be easy to forget when viewing footage of people forced to leave flooded or destroyed homes. It’s a bitter irony of these situations that we forget about the people who had no homes to lose in the first place. In an emergency, the homeless issue can often take a back seat at the very time when our focus on helping these citizens is more pertinent than ever. Absent drastic changes in our cities’ policies, this will be an issue that pops up with every new weather emergency.

To answer the question of how the homeless get by when disaster strikes: they don’t. “Getting by” for the homeless in storm areas and in all locations across the country sadly amounts, on a daily basis, to avoiding catastrophic injury, sickness, or death. As hurricane recovery efforts are underway, it’s unknown at the moment how many homeless people lost their lives but suffice it to say that they had much greater hurdles to escaping the storm than the average city resident. The news might feature heart-rending stories of those who lost everything in the disaster, but for many people in the hurricane’s path, much was lost long before any storm arrived.

This article was originally published on DanNeiditch.org