Never aspire to be homeless, no matter how tough your living situation may be at the moment or how tough you think you are or how you imagine roughing it to be some sort of grand adventure. It’s a lousy way to exist. That’s right, I said exist, because when you have no place to live and cannot feed yourself what you want to eat when you want to it, or wash when you feel dirty, you’re not living, you’re existing.
Having said that, should you ever find yourself societally displaced — with no income or shelter — there are a few cities in The States where being homeless is preferable. New York is one of those places.
If you’re willing to put in the legwork and travel throughout the Big Apple, you won’t go hungry. There are several soup kitchens scattered throughout the city that offer either breakfast, lunch or dinner, and most places offer seconds, containers to take food away, and a bag meal that usually consists of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a juice box and a piece of fruit. Not fine dining by any stretch of the imgaination, but it’s food.
What you won’t get enough of is sleep. Sure, during the summer you can stretch out in the park during the day, but at night when there’s a chill in the air, a chill that settles in your bones, or when it rains or snows? That’s when you find out what being homeless is all about.
Sleeping in parks is a thing of the past. Most parks close between 10pm to 1am. Church steps because it’s sanctuary? Not in this town, brother. You might have heard stories in the news or seen in the movies the homeless people who build cardboard shelters on street gratings or up against the sides of buildings and while that does happen, depending on your location, cops will roust you.
Since New York truly is a city that doesn’t sleep, public transportation runs 24 hours and most homeless men and women find their preferred subway line and ride it end to end throughout the night. This is usually good for a couple of hours at a pop, but trains tend to go out of service after a couple of trips and cops are present at the last stops to push folks along. Plus, you need money for the fare for this sleeping option. $2.50 may not seem like much to you, but when you’re flat broke, the fare might as well be $25.00. Sure, you can hop the turnstile, but if you get caught, there’s a hefty fine to pay, or if you run up against the wrong cop, you could be looking at an arrest.
But what about a homeless shelter? You may have heard how dangerous they can be and some are filled with ex-convicts and the mentally challenged who may or may not be off their meds, but for the ones that aren’t, there are either waiting lists or lottery systems that you have to compete for on a daily basis, and many of these are only accessible through a referral from public assistance, battered women’s organizations, rescue centers, etc.
Speaking from personal experience, there are nights when the weather won’t allow me to sleep and I become a street shark, always on the move to keep warm, in hopes of finding some unoccupied nook to hunker down in and rest my eyes and my mind, if only for a few moments. It rarely happens and spend most nights winding my way through city streets until the sun comes up. That can wear on your soul quick fast and in a hurry, trust me on this.
So, hold on to your homes, if you’re at all able to. Living on the streets is no kind of life for any reasonably sane person.
Until next time, hope I don’t see you on the breadline.