This is Shane
Shane was sitting on the sidewalk near Trader Joe's. I asked him if he had a place to sleep tonight and he pointed down the street and said: "the same place I slept last night." When I asked how and when he became homeless, he said that he was placed in many group homes starting at the age of 4 and he had gone from home to home until he was 16. His mother lives in Florida and his father somewhere in Upstate New York. He told me neither one wanted to raise him and there was no other family. More recently, he lived in Farmingdale, Long Island with a woman for four and a half years until four months ago. They were fighting all the time "and someone had to leave, and since she was the breadwinner, I left." He described himself as a stay at home dad and although they are not legally married, he refers to her as his wife. They have a two-and-a-half-year daughter. He does visit once in a while. When he does visit, his wife lets him stay for a night or two. But she won't let him stay longer because she is afraid that they will begin arguing again. If it were not for his daughter, he would leave New York City for someplace warmer.
Shane has been in jail several times for breaking and entering, justifying what he did by only breaking into places of business. He would never break into a private home or steal from an individual. Businesses have insurance and they can get their money back. He went on to say that the businesses would claim that he took much more money than he really stole, so they could get more back from the insurance company.
Shane had several placards on the sidewalk asking for contributions and they all had reference to either the bible or Jesus Christ. He also has a ring on his thumb that he referred to as his "Jesus ring" which he believes is protecting him. While we were talking, one of his friends joined us. Shane introduced him as his brother- not a biological brother, but a brother. His friend was carrying a local newspaper. Shane showed me a photo in the paper and pointed to the picture of himself sitting in a wheelchair. He was proud of having gotten some notoriety.
I asked Shane what he disliked about New York City and he thought for a while and said nothing, that except for the cold winters, he loves the city. When asked about plans for the future, he couldn't come up with a response. He wasn't sure what his future looked like. He has been living on the streets for most of his life, and he has survival skills. Neither he or I know if he will ever be able to get off the streets and into permanent housing. In the meantime, Shane enjoys the support and companionship of his friends who clearly look after one another.
I asked Shane, now age 46, if he had worked in the past and if so, what kind of work did he do. He had a bit of trouble answering, and never really gave a concrete response. He said he would do some construction work every now and then, but he hasn't worked in a long time and wasn't planning to do so.
Shane does not like staying in the shelters as he feels uncomfortable and fears for his safety. Nothing ever happened to him on the few nights that he has been there, but he is more comfortable on the streets where he has friends. I asked if he has ever considered applying for public assistance, and he said the whole idea of applying is overwhelming, and he thinks not having a permanent address would make him ineligible.