This is Becky
It was a glorious day in New York City. It seemed as if everyone had come out of their apartments to catch the lingering warmth of summer. I had been sitting in Verdi Park at the South entrance at 72nd street. After two hours and six refusals, I was getting ready to head home. Then I noticed a woman sitting on the sidewalk with the usual cardboard sign asking for help. There was a young man in black with a black hat and payos (side curls.) It was Sukkot and he was dressed in the tradition of an Orthodox Jewish man. He was holding a long green Palm plant, wanting to say a blessing for anyone willing to admit they are Jewish. They were talking with each other. After the man left, I went up to her, put a dollar in her cup and she said "May God bless you." I told her I have 2 blogs about people living in NYC - one about the homeless, and one about the elderly. People in both groups tend to get ignored. I am interested in knowing what it is like for her. Becky said she qualifies for both groups. She is 65 years old and very shortly will turn 66 and homeless.
Becky was born and raised in North Carolina. I said that I assume that you weren't always homeless and asked what happened.
Back in the 1980s she and her husband were able to buy a home in North Carolina because the banks and mortgage companies were granting mortgages (large mortgages) to people who really didn't qualify. She was a stay-at-home mom and she and her husband were just barely able to keep up with the payments. They often struggled paycheck to paycheck, many times having large credit card debt. But somehow, they got by. But then her husband left her, wanted a divorce and he and his girlfriend left Becky with a mortgage that she couldn't pay. The house was foreclosed. That was ten years ago. She has been homeless since, up and down the East Coast from Orlando, Florida to New York City and everywhere in-between.
I asked Becky about family. Her parents have passed away. She has four adult children all of whom live in North Carolina. They don't know she is homeless. She doesn't want them to know and she doesn't want to be a burden to them. She speaks to all of them frequently. They believe she has an apartment in the City and is doing well.
Becky arrived in New York only three days ago. She came because of the shelter system. When she presents herself at a shelter, they are mandated to find her a place to stay. She had been to New York before and knows that homeless people are taken care of better here than any other state in which she has been. It is a disturbing thought that the awful condition of the homeless in NYC is better than anywhere else on the Eastern seaboard. In North Carolina, a shelter is only available for 30 days. During that time, you are expected to find a job, save money and find an apartment. You have to leave no matter what your situation.
I asked Becky if she felt safe living on the streets or staying at a homeless shelter. She said that New York has always felt safe for her. She commented on how many of the people that are homeless form networks of friends and take care and look out for each other. Becky doesn't know what her future looks like. She said that she has been able to eat most days and people frequently leave food for her.
Becky is remarkably upbeat for someone who has lost her home. She is happy to have a New York City concrete pillow.