This is Alex

It was about 1:00 PM in the afternoon of March 22, 2020, and because COVID-19 was on everyone's mind, there were very few people on the streets.  I was standing on the corner of Broadway and 70th street when Alex came up to me (keeping a good distance between the two of us) and asked if I could spare a dollar.  I was wearing gloves and handed him a dollar. I told him I was interested in people who are homeless and wanted to know about their lives, how they became homeless and what they saw for their future.  Alex was willing to talk.

Alex is 41 years old, born in Norfolk, Virginia.  He has two sisters and two brothers who still live in Virginia with his mother and his stepfather who raised him   He does not know who his birth father is, and is bitter about it.  He is angry that he was abandoned by his father.  He wants to know if he looks like him and whether there are any medical issues that he should know about.  He repeated several times that it upsets him not to know these answers and more.

Family relations in Virginia were stormy and Alex did not get along with his mother and stepfather.  His mother uses drugs and has been doing so most of her life which is why, in 2012, he moved to New York City.  He said he always wanted to live here.  He finds the city exciting, easy to navigate, but added that it could be difficult and dangerous.

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When Alex moved to New York, he lived with his grandmother who had an apartment in Harlem.  He worked as a gravedigger for 7 years in a cemetery and was doing well, supporting himself and contributing to the rent and living expenses.  In May 2019, his grandmother died.  He could no longer afford to pay the rent on the apartment on his own and was evicted.  He moved back to Norfolk to try to live with his mother and sisters, but problems were so severe that he left again and returned to New York. He knew he would be homeless.

I asked Alex what he saw for his future.  He said that he wants to work and he is hoping to get back on his feet soon.  Of course, he needs a permanent address so he can apply for a job.  He said he also likes construction.  He is not afraid of hard work.  For the immediate future, he wants to get an address, apply for welfare and find a computer to use so he can research job possibilities.

For someone who has had such a difficult life, it is amazing that Alex is as optimistic as he is.  He still loves New York and sees success in his future, with or without a concrete pillow.

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