Walk With Frank Inc.
This past year, living in NYC for eight consecutive months was an eye opener. Much like the children’s story of The City Mouse and the Country Mouse, I felt thrown into a strange but wonderful world. There were the best restaurants, world renown museums, Central Park, Washington Square Park, shops along both Fifth Avenue and Fashion Avenue, Rockefeller Center, too many discoveries to list them all.
Treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering was a difficult but necessary part of my time in NYC. I spent some of my time as an inpatient, but many of the months as an out patient, allowing me some freedom to roam the streets of upper and lower Manhattan.
Along with all the magical places to visit ( I can’t forget about the Plaza ) I also witnessed the unfortunate side of a big city. In my past, I have visited many cities along the east coast. Inevitably, there were always homeless sitting on street corners in Washington, DC., Boston, Cambridge, PA., waiting for a nickel or dime to be dropped in their cup by passerbys. I rarely gave them much thought. I do recall giving my leftovers from a dinner I had in a Cuban restaurant to a homeless woman living on a park bench in Rittenhouse Square, while visiting my son in Philly.
Walking the streets of NYC this last year made me more aware of the unacceptable numbers of people living on the sidewalks of New York. Back in DC the homeless had tent villages under bridges providing some shelter. But in NYC, people had no cover at all. They slept on cardboard, huddled up against a random building. Perhaps it was not random. There must be a reason for the areas they chose to put their cardboards down. Perhaps a public church bathroom, a public transportation site ( such as Penn Station ), an overhang to keep them dry from the snow and rain.
While staying at Hope Lodge near Penn Station, I passed many homeless on a daily basis. The Lodge had an alcove with a overhang at it’s entrance. It was a popular spot for the homeless during late night hours. The doorman would always complain in the mornings how he had to make them move, before cancer patients would start to board the shuttle to the hospital at 6:30 in the morning. The maintenance man occasionally had to take the hose out to wash the sidewalk entrance which was splattered with vomit and other excrements. I remember one comment that the doorman made that bothered me terribly. He told us as we sat waiting for the shuttle, that night he had to have a homeless woman removed from the entrance sidewalk. She told him she was homeless but had cancer. I could not imagine what a double burden it must have been to not only be homeless but also have cancer.
The Lodge was a two minute walk from Penn Station. Every morning as we got on the shuttle and later as we got back, there were a group of homeless men who lived on the street where the shuttle stop was located. During mid day, they went off on their own but would be back by dusk. It was mid winter and still they slept on the streets.
I did some research on shelters. Many homeless would rather sleep on the streets rather than follow the rules of the shelter. Plus there is lots of crime going on in some shelters, so people feel safer on the streets. I even witnessed a family living in a run down car parked in a spot near one of the restaurants we frequented.
One evening we walked my daughter back to her B&B in the evening when she came to visit. On the way, we passed a very young couple ( probably in their 20s) huddled together on a piece of cardboard covered with many blankets. The girl was on her iPhone and the guy was smoking a cigarette. I guess I made a comment out loud saying how shocked I was to see two people so young homeless at that age. My daughter responded that many homeless are mentally ill and have no place to go.
On a positive note, I did find a place that provides lodging for homeless veterans who are ill. It is called Fisher House Foundation. It is similar to Hope Lodge for cancer patience in that it provides free lodging while vets are being treated.
Wishing Frank and our team all the success in making life more bearable for homeless veterans with PTSD. According to statistics, many of the homeless are vets.