Escape from New York

There are a lot of homeless persons living in New York City, and each one of them has a story. I've talked to some of them because I want to know how people get to this place, the place Cynthia called "Homeless Lane."

One guy in midtown said simply: "I made mistakes." Another guy sitting outside Bryant Park holds a sign that reads: "Why lie? I need a beer." A young woman, possibly a teenager, sitting on subway stairs says, almost in a whisper: "My father threw me out."

Cynthia, an attractive and youthful African-American from Atlanta came to New York to fulfill her lifelong dream of a singing career. She came here backed by the full support and blessing of her husband and grown children. But after a week in a Manhattan homeless shelter, she'd had enough and she returned home to come up with a better way to follow her dream. Not everybody has that choice.

Dawn, a twenty something woman from San Francisco first drew my attention because of the brown and white Boxer named Tabitha sitting beside her on the sidewalk. Her cardboard sign explained that she couldn't go into a shelter because they wouldn't accept her dog. The dog Tabitha is gentle and well behaved. She sits quietly by Dawn's side. It's easy to understand how Dawn could love this dog.

She rises to stretch her legs and I notice Dawn is wearing only one shoe. She got hurt the other day when someone walked by and kicked her in the foot. She thinks it might be sprained. Her boyfriend chased the guy down the street and got in a couple of punches. She says people walking by do things like this all the time. Yeah, there's nothing like kicking someone when they're down.

What kind of person attacks a homeless woman? That I can't answer, but I do know this: Mean people still suck!

Like Cynthia, Dawn has had enough. She and her boyfriend are ready to leave, go to the West Coast. Dawn has an aunt in Seattle. She has to either fly or share a ride with someone. Tabitha can't travel by bus or by Amtrak.

Dawn's sign has been updated. It's still printed on a brown cardboard square, but now the letters are blue and pink. It states, in part:

"Having a hard time. I don't have any family and I can't stay in any of the shelters because none of them allow dogs. Trying to save up enough to get back to the West Coast." And the last words: "Show Some Compassion!" This new sign is decorated with small drawings. It's obvious she is a talented, creative person. There are a lot of people like this in New York. People who just need a break. Not a kick, a break.

Dawn and Tabitha are based in Union Square.

No comments: