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This is Darryn


For three years, Darryn was a successful businessman.  He married and had a son.  However, his wife left him and took his son with her.  He does not have any contact with either one.  Despite his success, Darryn got into financial difficulties with the business.  He was investigated by the IRS and spent six months in a federal penitentiary.  At a parole hearing, he was given the opportunity to join the Army as an alternative to prison, which he gladly chose.

Darryn's time in the Army was not a good one for him.  He was involved in an incident in which his left leg and back were badly damaged.  He produced an X-ray of his leg, showing that, at one point, there was no bone.  He needs to wear a brace to walk.  When he was discharged, he had no family and no home.  For the past 2 1/2 years, he has been living in an alley between two apartment buildings where the super of one of those buildings constructed a ply-wood shelter for him despite the complaints of some of the tenants.  He applied for and is waiting for the Veteran's Administration to rule on his disability benefits.

Darryn was sitting on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 73rd Street on the Upper West Side of New York City.  He was leaning on a cane, sitting behind a suitcase.  He had two signs indicating that he is a U.S. Army Veteran, plus a cup for donations, topped off with an American flag.  Darryn is 60 years old, born to a mother who is half Cherokee and half Black, and a father who is Polish.  He grew up in the South Bronx, and by the age of 6, he belonged to a South Bronx street gang, The Black Spades.

Through his association with The Black Spades, Darryn managed to stay out of trouble with law enforcement or drug use.  However, he did not manage to stay in high school.  He knew that he wanted to earn money to support himself.  At 16, he began working for a concrete company, learning construction skills and the concrete business.  He told me he would be the first person to work in the morning and the last person to leave.  He became the owner's favorite, and upon returning to Italy, the owner left the business to Darryn.


I asked Darryn about his experience living on the streets of New York.  He said that, for the most part, he has had no trouble.  Occasionally, a merchant will call the police to have him removed from the front of their business.  As one might expect, he doesn't eat regularly.  On this day, his only food was a cup of coffee and a donut that a passerby brought him.  He said that occasionally someone would buy him chicken and rice from a food truck.  However, he must be careful about carbs because he has diabetes.  I asked him if I could get him something to eat, and he pointed to the New York pizzeria and asked if I could get him a slice.  I bought him two with a bottle of water.

Darryn has made peace with his situation, although he is incredibly angry with Mayor Adams and the U.S. government.  He sees migrants from other countries being helped, but he, as a U.S. Veteran, is left to live in the streets.

Darryn is waiting to be helped.  He very much wants sleep in a bed in his own apartment and feels he has given to his country, but no one is helping him.  So, for now, he has to make do with a concrete pillow in the alley between two luxury buildings.

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