Sunday, February 17, 2008

Nini (Supposed to go with photo below—goofed again)

The homeless, a few years ago a common sight in much of Manhattan, seem to have been shunted to the edges of the city. Recently, though, a classic homeless woman has appeared in my moderately upscale East Side neighborhood. As one would expect, she is small, frail, and white-haired. I noticed her shortly before Christmas, crouched on the curb in front of a Rite-Aid drugstore on Second Avenue. A few days later, I saw her again, this time in front of a nearby Walgreen's. After passing her that time, I felt guilty and regretted not giving her something. Christmas Eve was a few nights later, and I was meeting friends for dinner at a fairly posh restaurant not far from my apartment. Well aware of my own comfortable situation, I decided that if I saw the woman I would give her money; I even had some at the ready to hand her. But she wasn't there. A few weeks passed. Then about a week ago, on a very cold evening, I was coming home from the ballet, comfortable in a warm coat. There she was once again, in front of the Rite-Aid.
I started to take out some bills, as did a young woman nearby. We both gave the homeless woman money and discussed calling some city service about her since it was going to be a very cold night for anyone to spend on the street. I agreed to make the call as soon as I got home, just a couple of blocks away. I telephoned 311, the number for services other than 911 emergencies, and fairly soon reached someone from homeless services. A sympathetic-sounding woman asked me the person's location, saying that it was probably Nini, someone with whom she was quite familiar. She said that she would call me back to tell me what happened. The service has a few vans that patrol the city in order to deal with such situations as this. Not too much later, she called back. Yes, it was Nini, who, as was often the case, did not want to go with them. (They often receive calls about her.) The caseworker said that they were quite familiar with Nini's ways and that "if it gets too much for her, she'll go to Peter's place."   She assumed that I knew what Peter's place was. I thanked her and said, "We tried."
I thought that "Peter's place" might be just some friend's apartment. But I googled it and found that it was a drop-in shelter in the basement of a church in Chelsea, all the way across town. I never found out if Nini made it over there. She wasn't even wearing a coat but was wrapped in a thin blanket on that frigid evening. Well, we tried.

1 comment:

willowmanor said...

Thanks for that touching story. It puts things in perspective and truly makes me appreciate my coat(s) this winter. Nice to know you tried.

I love your blogs and am eagerly waiting for a new one. :)