There are more empty homes than there are homeless people. So why don’t we just give them somewhere to stay?
Not too long ago, actually, about four years ago, I used to work by the world trade center. And every morning, I would make my way to the Chambers Street stop on the E Train. It was during this commute that I made friends with a homeless man. But in hindsight, I’m not a hundred percent sure I can call him a friend. We never learned each other’s names, he had never been to my house, and I know for sure I had never been to his, we never exchanged, gifts or imparted advice. Instead, we were just friendly. Two humans acknowledging each other’s humanity. For the sake of this story, we’ll call him Irving. Irving was a man headed towards his golden years. That moment in life where you’re supposed to reap the benefits of late nights, and long hours during your youth, in order to coast to the finish line we call the end of life.
I like to believe he was in his late 50’s or early 60’s. He was 5’8 with a slender build, and brown skin. He had bushy black hair, with an ever growing spattering of grey it. His face wore the look of someone whose life has been a constant struggle. There was no way to look at him and not wonder what lead him to the bottom of this dirty staircase, a newspaper or two by his feet, beat up crutches, stained with soot, mold, and the wear and tear of a man with no other options.
How did someone born into the world with an empty slate, and endless possibilities grow up to be a man without a home, with no known story, or at least not one that enough people cared for.
I spoke to Irving every single day, honestly, how could I not? I had to walk past his station to get to work. The thing that stood out to me more than anything was our conversations, they weren’t especially interesting, and I didn’t really learn anything. if we’re being honest, they almost never lasted more than 45 seconds, and the same topics were covered. I would pass by, More often than not, I carried a few coins, so that I could always have something to give, but even when I didn’t, he was kind. if I had change, I would drop some onto his papers, say hello, and ask him how he was doing. If I gave him money, he would thank me, smile and say, “Pretty good, I can’t complain.” If it was a day…