In New York City
This is Kelmen
The first time I saw Kelmen, he was sitting quietly wearing a face mask, in front of Trader Joe's supermarket with his sign and a cup. There was a long line in front of him. People were waiting their turn to go into the supermarket. No one was paying any attention to him. I approached and asked if he had eaten today. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and he said no. There is a food truck around the corner at 72nd street and I asked what would he like. Rice and chicken. For less than $10.00, I bought him a meal and a drink. I placed the bag next to him, said enjoy, and left. That was a Sunday. I returned a few days later and Kelmen was sitting in the same spot with a similar line of people in front of Trader Joe's. I sat down on the sidewalk about 10 feet away, observing social distance, even though he was wearing a face mask (as was I.) We both had had the Moderna vaccine several months ago.
Kelmen is 42 years old, born in New York City, and raised in the South Bronx. He had an abusive father who beat him and his mother frequently but treated his two sisters well. As a child, he frequently ran away from home.
Kelmen never married but does have a 21-year-old son who lives in New Jersey. He has a good relationship with him and visits often. His relationship with his son's mother is casual and rather cold, but she continues to encourage him to visit his son.
Kelmen likes the people of New York. Even though it appears he was being ignored by the people on line for Trader Joe's, he said it is the generosity of the people that puts money in his cup. He has been working with social workers at Goddard Riverside that he believes keeps him alive.
Kelmen has been homeless for the past year and a half. He has hopes of getting a permanent room with the assistance of Goddard Riverside. Until then, he will continue to use a concrete pillow and survive through the generosity of the people of New York City, a city he loves.
At the age of ten, Kelmen was placed in foster care because his father had broken his arm. Foster care wasn't much better. Although he was no longer physically abused, he never liked being in foster care, not feeling loved or included. He continued to run away frequently. He lived in many different foster homes until he aged out and started living on the streets.
Kelmen's health is not good. He has epilepsy that has not been treated. Recently, he had a tumor in his head removed that required putting a plate in his skull. He took out his cell phone that revealed a selfie that showed his head before a plate was inserted to replace that part of his skull that was removed.
Kelmen never finished high school and drifted about from city to city until he found a job as a painter in Philadelphia. He maintained that job for many years was able to afford an apartment and meet his daily needs. However, he is very much a loner and does not make friends easily. Life was "okay," until the pandemic. He lost his job and, not being able to pay the rent, was evicted. He returned to New York, preferring the city over Philadelphia.