New York, NY – The assumption that problems only exist in certain areas of the country is far from true. Whether the challenges we face stem from the inner city, suburbs, East Coast or West — life is tough all over. Gas prices are up, inflation is up — the working class is being hammered on all sides.

It appears remote workers are not exactly rushing back to the office. Covid infection rates may be down, but employers are still having a hard time filling some positions at the wages they’re offering. The pandemic — although you might not know it since all the media attention is focused on the war in Ukraine — is still very much with us. The pandemic is responsible for a whole raft of mental health issues we must face as a community.

Ben Kimmel.

For example, we’re seeing a tragic increase in deaths amongst the homeless population. Overdoses are responsible for a large portion of these fatalities. But other healthcare problems including chronic disease, Hepatitis C, Tuberculosis and HIV are major concerns, too. 

Last year, was an especially deadly one for New York City’s homeless population. According to Homeless Services and the Department of Mental Health and Mental Hygiene, deaths rose nearly five-percent between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021

This past week, my role as an advocate for recovery and mental health services brought me to the other side of the country in an effort to learn more about available mental health and wellness programs. A few days in LA, however, was enough to reinforce my view that things are definitely rough all over. Mental illness, depression, anxiety, suicide, substance abuse and homelessness are not endemic to NYC. In fact, Los Angeles City and County account for the largest population of unsheltered people in the nation. 

I saw people living in cars and on the streets. I watched one Hollywood celebrity blithely pass a homeless man singing for his supper on the boardwalk near Venice Beach. The dichotomy of this was profound; the wealthy and the poor in the same space. This celebrity walked on wearing a smile suggesting they were pleased at being noticed, while the homeless guy sang and banged on his guitar just hoping for a passersby to throw him some change. One was silent and couldn’t help being noticed — the other screamed for attention and got none. 

By the way, I noted gas prices that ranged above $6 per gallon. Inflation is very real on the West Coast and equally painful to the lower and middle-classes there. 

My trip was both educational and eye-opening. But, as a person with a blue collar background, the one thing I was proud to see was the work being done at Los Angeles International Airport. Highly-trained, unionized workers were running cable in a manner that exemplified both professionalism and pride. In my eyes, this means — yes, things may be rough all over — but union labor and the organized trades are still strong and still provide a decent living for our country’s working class.

I say thanks to the brothers and sisters who worked from the baggage claims to food and hotel services, and also to the skilled trades contractors who kept their people working. You were a heartwarming sight to see.

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an Author, Writer on, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Wellbeing and DEI Content Provider, Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate.  Ben can be reached at



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