Snow fell from a gray sky that covered a sleepless city—New York. I felt a bit nervous as the cabby parked his cab right in front of the New York City Rescue mission, an organization that has been running since 1872, more than 130 years.
I had no clue what was coming, but as I entered the building with my brother, Manny, a wave of calm came over me. I saw extraordinary human beings working hard to make the world a better place for the unfortunate.
Bennie Caswell, the evening supervisor, greeted me. He directed me to a private room where I would conduct three interviews with homeless individuals: Richard, Fosco, and Ronny. The conversations that I had with these gentlemen are unforgettable.
Richard - Hard
worker bounces back and lands on his feet
Richard's favorite rock band is Slayer. He enjoys going to Yankee games. He went to about 60 games last year. Richard loves to play basketball. His court skills earned him a scholarship at Boston College, where he earned his bachelors degree in economics. He explained to me that the Boston College basketball team "is good, number three in the nation this year."
Richard’s heroes are his father and the famous baseball player, Don Mattingly. Growing up in Brooklyn, Richard enjoyed his childhood. He explained that he had a great family when he was growing up. He told me about his mother, stepfather, brothers and sisters. "I think I’ve got another sister from my father's side, but I never met her. I don't know if she's alive or not. I don't even know her name. I was raised by my stepfather. He married my mom when I was very little, so I never met my real father."
I began asking the tough questions. He spoke about his first encounter with homelessness. "I remember about ten months ago I was using a lot of drugs and I got kicked out of my place," Richard said. He then told me how he felt for those unbearable months. "It's really bad when you walk around and you have no place to go. You don't date anybody. You really feel miserable, man. You feel like you want to jump in front of a train."
Luck was not on Richard’s side until he stumbled upon the Mission. "This place helped me out a lot," he said. "They're really good. If it weren't for them, I'd be messed up right now." He continued by explaining his daily routine, "I wake up in the morning to go to work. I come back at night, take a shower, and go to bed. It's good, man."
The Mission helped Richard get back on his feet. He happily told me, "I've been clean for like five months, now. I go to NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings, and in two weeks I'm moving to my apartment, a studio. Matter of fact, I paid for it today."
Richard was excited about his new move and he left me with these words of wisdom: "This was an experience I'll never forget. It made me stronger. You know it's a blessing when you can just go and open your apartment door with your key and have somewhere to go. I know that now." I thanked him and congratulated him on his achievement. He walked away with a smile.
Kevin Marquez, Hearts & Minds Volunteer