This is Cecil
Cecil is 67 years old and has been homeless, living on the streets of Manhattan-70thStreet and Broadway for the past three years. He had had a good job working as a counselor at Rikers Island and an apartment in Manhattan living with his girlfriend. She introduced him to drugs. He does not blame her for his drug addiction-he is a grown man and should have known better. His drug use affected his job performance. He was frequently late or just didn't show up and he lost his job. He was using cocaine at the time, but had to quit using because he could not afford it. Once he lost his job, he could no longer pay the rent and in short order, he was homeless and on the streets.
Cecil, never married, has two grown children. His son lives in Harlem and Cecil sees him and his grandson often. He does not want to live with his son-he has his own life and family and Cecil does not want to be a burden.
Cecil can leave the few possessions he owns with his friends who will take care of them. He said that he would never sleep in a shelter. It is crowded, unsafe from COVID, and possessions are frequently stolen. I asked him about hygiene. He used to use the bathrooms in Penn Station, but they have been closed since the start of the pandemic. He now uses the men's rooms in Riverside and Central Park.
Cecil is a survivor and makes a life for himself on the streets of the city. He is sustained by the goodness of the neighborhood merchants and his friends. His concrete pillow is softened by the grass in the park.
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His daughter has been living in China for the past six years and Cecil has no contact with her.
She has three college degrees and does something with Quantum Physics, which he laughingly said he has no idea what that means.
I asked Cecil what it is like for him to be living on the streets during this pandemic. He said that although he wears a mask all the time and received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, people tend to steer clear of him. He considers his spot on Broadway and 70th his "regular" spot. The merchants know him and are kind to him, offering him food or drink. However, far fewer people are dropping money in his cup. The winter has been difficult, but now that it is warmer and spring is arriving, he feels he made it through and will be okay. He usually goes to a park in Brooklyn to sleep where other homeless people watch out for each other.