Imagine you’re on your way to work this morning and walk past a homeless panhandler. What is the first thought that comes to mind?
Why don’t they just get a job? If I can work, so can they.
I wish I could stand out here all day and ask people for money. Dude, no you don’t.
Instead, your first thought should be, “that could be me.” There’s a pretty good chance it’s true. There’s a pretty damn good chance that you’re only a paycheck away from that being you.
For me, I always think, “where the hell are their families?” This is especially true for the “babies”, barely legal, the ones they move to the fifth floor, away from the pedophiles. The ones they can’t legally keep mixed up with registered sex offenders. I’m on the fifth floor also, by the way, because I got that baby-face. We’ve got men and women in here who corner you in the elevator with their hands in their pants and hardly ever keep them to themselves.
Imagine being eighteen and starting your whole life in here. Just imagine.
Seeing the elderly, whom will probably die in here. That really fucks me up. Where is their family?
Myself, and 129,803 others reside in the New York City shelter system. The homeless are indeed the new working poor. The shelters are more or less the projects with metal detectors and a lot more police presence. We blend it.
According to the Coalition for the Homeless, “the number of homeless New Yorker’s sleeping each night in municipal shelters is now 74 percent higher than it was ten years ago….homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.” So, I guess not, I’m not shitting you. You really are only one paycheck, one injury away from joining the club.
Do I have
enough any authority to speak up about this? Sure, I’m homeless, but I am not a politician. I know that I don’t have all of the answers. However, sometimes I wonder if the Department of Homeless Services has a single one for me either. Will you give me a chance? Hearing the story straight from the source might make way for real solutions. Making choices about an issue as complex as homelessness is already difficult. Yet, let’s consider that those who vote on our city’s legislation regarding our staggering homeless epidemic hardly spend enough time in the hearts, minds, and living spaces of the homeless. Can you make decisions about something you don’t know really know anything about?
Although I can’t speak for city council, I highly doubt there is a true understanding of what is means to lose years, decades, or even your entire life, to homelessness.
In no way are politicians our enemy, just that, as our ally, you must pass the mic.
Listen among those who probably aren’t in any position of power. Isn’t that individual, the powerless one, also one you have sworn to represent? A homeless New Yorker is still a New Yorker.
All of them – all 129,803, I am now standing up for.
For the last ten months, we have been navigating the New York City shelter system. From Manhattan to Queens, back to Manhattan, and finally, to Brooklyn. We’ve been all over this beautiful city.
Eight months prior, we stepped foot in a courtroom. We spent most of 2017 fighting tooth and nail – a rent overcharge and neglected repairs. It’s unbelievable how much a landlord, a single person, can cause this much pain in a person’s life. It’s scary how quickly our lives can fall apart at the hand’s of another.
I have collected nearly 100,000 words documenting our journey. In Scar Tissue, I will share with you pieces of my collection.
© 2018 Jocelyn Figueroa All Rights Reserved “Scar Tissue”