AMERICA TODAY: Young And Homeless In New York City

Discussion in 'Economy' started by hvactec, Nov 2, 2011.

  1. hvactec

    hvactec VIP Member

    Jan 17, 2010
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    New Jersey
    Nov. 2, 2011, 10:00 AM


    Scott and Whitney G. don't like to sleep in. During the week they're up by 9:00 a.m. when the West 71st Street Lutheran Church super pounds on the building's red front door beside where they sleep.

    Scott, 23, lifts his head first. He shakes Whitney, 25, and they climb their feet.

    I know this because one morning last week I was sitting by the curb in a Coleman camp chair waiting for them to get up.

    Just go to the photos >

    For months I've wanted to tell their story. After chasing them around the Upper West Side for two weeks — following a series of missed meetings, notes left on their gear and my apartment entrance — I finally enter into stalker territory. Interviewing homeless people is no easy feat.

    "I brought breakfast," I holler to them when they're finally standing and running their hands through their hair. They smile, and Scott excuses himself to hit the bathroom. I decide to tag along with him. I fold up my chair, stash it in the entry to my building, leave the bag of food with Whitney.

    Scott and Whitney met on the campus of Bard College in Red Hook, NY two years ago this January.

    "I was visiting a friend who went to school there and I met Whit' at a party," Scott says. "She thought I was a student." He looks over at me, and quickly away, as we cross Broadway heading into Starbucks.

    In fact, Scott had been homeless for five years when they met, ever since getting his high-school GED and leaving his mother's home in Staten Island.

    Whitney had just lost her job at a local supermarket when they met. For the first time since she was old enough to work, she was unemployed. Finding a job proved more difficult than she'd imagined. Before long, she had depleted her savings, and she and Scott began living on the streets full time.

    Back at the church door, Whitney is up and stashing their gear. The doors are open now, and when we walk up she points to the ground. Their Starbucks cup filled with water and cigarette butts has spilled and gotten nicotine brown water on the slate in front of the church steps. "Sorry," she says to Scott.

    He looks at me and explains. "One of the reasons the church is cool with us sleeping here is we don't make a mess."

    They're folding their blankets when another local homeless man, Jacob, walks up and says good morning. They've already mentioned Jacob to me. He's an alcoholic, and he can't go long without alcohol or he has seizures. He's mad because someone woke him up asking for vodka.

    "Of course, I have five bottles," he says pulling out a pint of Popov vodka. "But I don't want to be handing them out while I'm asleep."

    The four of us head to 'Needle Park,' a wedge of bricks and benches between Broadway and Amsterdam made famous in the 1971 Al Pacino film The Panic In Needle Park.

    "Cheerio" is someone else I've heard about. He's already there wearing rainbow socks and skinny jeans rolled up to the knees. He's homeless, but recently came into a $65,000 inheritance that's allowed him to provide for others in the group. He bought Scott, Jacob, and Whitney new boots for winter, took them to see Steve Miller at the Beacon, and slips panhandlers hundred-dollar bills when the mood strikes him.

    It's rumored that he's down to 40-grand. Scott figures it's much less.

    Scott and Whitney have both tried staying in city shelters, although they're forced to split up. Whitney got beaten up and robbed. Scott was robbed once and picked up lice the second time. Now, they alternate sleeping between the church and a spot in the park beneath a pine tree.

    Read more: AMERICA TODAY: Young And Homeless In New York City

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