Thursday, December 15, 2005


Before I moved to NYC, I never knew that there would be homeless people who lived in my neighborhood. The whole idea is somewhat of an oxymoron - if they are homeless, do they call my neighborhood home? And yet, there are several people I see regularly, who I recognize as having been here for years.

For example, the crazy woman who sits on stoops and curbs with her many layers of clothing and her shopping bags, and croaks, "Gotta quarter?" every time you walk by. If you don't stop or give her money, she mumbles something nasty-sounding at you in her deep raspy voice. She has been here for at least 7 years that I can recall, but what exactly does tha tmean? Where does she sleep? She seems to be in the same situation now that she was 7 years ago - is there no hope for her circumstances to change? That's a long time to be living on the streets. On the other hand, maybe I'm wrong to assume she is homeless. Maybe she is mentally ill and lives in a subsidized apartment in the neighborhood. Or in a group home with very lax supervision. Or maybe she's an eccentric billionaress with a big empty brownstone in Brooklyn Heights that she retreats to at night with her cup of quarters.

Then there is the man who stands in front of the deli. He doesn't even ask for money, just stands there offering a friendly "hello" when you walk past. The deli owners don't seem to mind his being there and sometimes I even see them outside chatting with him. On cold nights, like last night, he will hold open the door for customers, always with a smile, whether you give him some of your change or not. And last night I wondered, where does he sleep? He's another one that's been around for years - are there shelters that you can keep returning for that long? Or does he have his own secret spot in an alley or abandoned building or something?


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