Inside Bellevue: What It’s Really Like to Be Homeless in New York [VIDEO]

I checked myself into the city’s largest men’s shelter and co-produced this video with a tenant.

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The 30th Street Men’s Shelter, otherwise known as “Bellevue,” is New York City’s largest homeless shelter. But the building itself was once better known as Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, and traces of its asylum past remain. Built in 1931 by Charles B. Meyers, the nine-story red brick structure remains enclosed by a tall, spiked, wrought-iron fence. Dead vines grow up the walls; square windows remain in the doors. Not all the signs were replaced.

It’s hard to ignore the irony of housing homeless people in what used to be a psychiatric hospital. Among those who found themselves inside the building recently were parolees, substance abusers, the mentally ill, people simply down on their luckā€”and me. Since I wasn’t given permission by New York City’s Department of Homeless Services to do a multimedia project there, I checked myself in and stayed a few nights. Once I got to know some of the tenants, I was able to visit on a regular basis and record what I found.

Narrated by tenant Carl Foye, the resulting video (below) takes you behind Bellevue’s closed doors.

Bellevue from Eric Johnson on Vimeo.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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