In New York City
This is Saul
It was a bright sunny day in March and it seemed like the whole city was out enjoying the sunshine. Saul (not his real name, he was very reluctant to be identified) was standing on Broadway near Fairway supermarket with a cup in hand and a sign saying he is homeless. I put a dollar in his cup and asked if I could talk with him for a while. He smiled and was happy to speak with me. I told him that I assumed he wasn't always homeless and wanted to know a little bit about him-what life was like before he became homeless and how did this come to be. He has been homeless since 2014. Before losing his apartment, he was working as a geological engineer, living in Forest Hills, Queens. He lost his job due to automation. With no income, he could not pay his rent and was evicted.
Saul, 70, has a Master's degree in geological engineering. He declined to tell me where he received his degree as he did not want to give me too much information about himself. He worked for about 25 years before losing his job.
Saul likes to travel. He has been homeless in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He hitchhiked to these cities. I asked how is it possible to hitchhike to Paris? He explained that he hitched from New York to Los Angles. He then approached the Captain of a freighter ship and offered to work on the ship for free passage to London. He proved himself worthy as a crew worker while the ship was docked in LA and after three days of volunteering, got the job. He lived on the streets of London for several months, hitched to Paris where he lived for several more months until he returned to New York the same way he arrived in Europe.
The part of New York City that he doesn't like is the government's ability to track a person but this is true of most cities now. He loves the vibrance of New York, has many friends all of whom are homeless. Saul is comfortable being homeless, is not looking for anything different, and knows this is his future. For now, his wanderlust is tamed and he is happy to have his concrete pillow in New York City.
Saul has no family. He never married and has no children. He did have a brother who passed away. He has a niece who lives in upstate New York, but he has no contact with her. He considers New York City his home. He sometimes stays in a homeless shelter, but most of the time he lives on the streets. He has friends who are also homeless, many of whom are well educated. He would like to work but believes his age, homeless status with no permanent address and length of time being unemployed makes that an impossibility. That makes him sad as he believes he still has much to offer.
Although Saul spoke with me, he was quite distrustful of me. He refused to let me photograph him because he believes there are drug cartels that would come after him if they know where he is. He said that something happened many years ago and they would like to get him. There are so many ways the government can track a person by their phone, credit cards, and public cameras and he is very careful about showing his face.