This is Ramini
It was a cold and windy day as I walked down Broadway towards 72nd street and Verdi Park. As I crossed 70th street, I saw Ramini just arriving at a spot on the sidewalk. As he sat down, he placed a cup in front of him with a dollar in it that indicated to the general public that he is homeless and asking for donations. I put a dollar in his cup and asked how he was doing.
Ramini is 53 years old and grew up poor in Guatemala as the only child of a single mother. He did not like it in Guatemala, and although he did not face any gang violence, he said he did not feel safe. When he was 16 years old, he left Guatemala for the United States on his own. He knew two friends that had come here a few years earlier, and he made his way to Suffolk County. He roomed with them for a year during which he worked as a laborer working for a lawn care service. While working, he paid taxes which was important for him. He loves this country, feels safe here, and did not want to do anything illegal. During his employment, he was able to save enough money to enroll in school to learn how to drive and operate a forklift truck. He then took a job at a construction company driving a forklift.
Life began to take a downturn at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was laid off, lost an apartment he had been renting, and became homeless. He came to Manhattan at that point, and he stayed in homeless shelters. However, although it was warm, he (as all residents of the homeless shelters must do) had to leave the shelter each day, and return at night.
Since Ramini can no longer afford to purchase his own clothes, he is dependent on donations. He had a pair of shoes that were too small for him, and developed a blister on his heel that became infected. He also fell and broke his leg. He went to the emergency room at New York University Hospital. He has to return on April 25th to have surgery to repair, as he described it, "the long bone" in his leg. Ramini also showed me some open sores on his hand that have become infected and are not healing as he has diabetes. He does not get regular medical care and living on the streets and in the shelters makes it challenging to keep them clean.
Although Ramini has been in the United States for many years, his English is not particularly good. However, we did well with his broken English and my less-than-adequate high-school Spanish.
Ramini does not feel safe in the men's shelter,but does feels safe in New York City. People are kind to him and he likes New York more than Guatemala. He never wants to return there.
It was three o'clock in the afternoon, and he had not eaten anything all day. I asked if he would like some chicken and rice (pollo y arroz.) He looked at me a little funny and slowly said, "Big Mac?" He knew McDonald's was just a block and a half away. I laughingly said, don't go anywhere and went into McDonalds for the first time in perhaps over 30 years, and got him a big mac, large fries, and a large coke.
I asked what he thought the future looked. He said he didn't really know. He wants to get the surgery done and hopes the hole in his heel and the sores in his hand heal. He would like to eventually find work as a forklift driver. He wants to be able to work and contribute to the economy and live in a rented room. He also is realistic about his medical and social condition. He knows it will be an uphill battle, but he needs to be productive to regain his self-esteem. For now, his pillow is at the men's shelter. He is hopeful that he will become a contributing member of society, pay his taxes, and feel proud of his accomplisments.