“Invisible Child” is a five part series that was published by the New York Times in 2013. This story follows Dasani, a young girl of eleven as she tries to make her way through the world. Dasani is homeless and shares a single room in a homeless shelter with her six other sibling and parents. This exposé exposes the problem of homelessness which is rampant in New York City and how it affects children, like Dasani.
As I first began to read this article, I was unsure of how this piece of work fit into the theme of utopias and dystopias. It didn't take me long to realize that this is a real life dystopia. This is different than all of the real life dystopias that we talked about though. In regards to Scientology and The Children of God, we were able to easily see how they are dystopias. They promise the best for their members— chiefly, a heaven on Earth— but an outsider can clearly see all the faults of the organization. A life of homelessness doesn't promise anybody anything. No one would choose to spend their days and nights in a shelter with mice and rodents crawling around, a mop bucket that doubles as a bathroom and predators at every corner. The difference between the Dasani’s dystopia and every other dystopia- in literature, film and real life is that there is no distorted utopia where the dystopia comes from. It is plain and simply a horrible, scary life.
When I fist began to read this story I was horrified. The horror turned to sadness and the sadness turned to anger. It is so hard to pinpoint where to even begin. There are so many problems that can be faulted for causing Dasani’s family’s homelessness. There is a problem with gentrification which continuously raises the prices of homes in New York City. People are slowly moving into ethnic neighborhoods and taking their homes from them. They construct Whole Foods and Starbucks and force the long time residents from their homes into 300 square foot studio apartments.
Another problem is that of ASC. Dasani lives in a small room in a homeless shelter with 8 other people. Two of these people are her parents who are on and off drugs. I understand that ASC does not want to break up families, but Dasani’s home life just seems unsafe! I understand that there are too few case workers and too many problem families, but this is hindering Dasani. There is an overburden of families with problems and not enough case workers. This causes the case workers to neglect some families. One of the families falling through the cracks is Dasani’s.
This leads me to another problem: her parents! They encourage Dasani to fight which leads to her getting suspended from school— her only safe spot. They are on methadone all the time as well. I understand that they are trying to get clean but methadone is just the same drug with a different name. It is a drug that is supposed to help an addict stay clean, but the addict in turn just becomes addicted to the methadone. It is still an opioid.
Finally, there is a huge problem with NYC itself. Auburn is not a safe shelter. It’s falling apart, the staff treat residents with no respect, they are understaffed, and on top of all of this: its so completely unhygienic. The city keeps funneling money into this shelter to no avail. They are trying to remedy each problem as it pops up instead of facing the whole problem head on.
I think that the most important part of this expose is the story itself. We all know homelessness is a problem in New York City. We’ve all sat on the subway and had at least three people ask you for money or for food or for literally anything we can spare. But to zoom into these people’s lives is much more intimate. For this to have been set only mere miles from where we sit now is eye opening. We knew it was bad, but maybe we did not know it was this bad.