We first met Robert near City College on Broadway and Park. He smiled at us from his seat atop three wooden crates adjacent to a neatly-packed grocery cart of his belongings. The cart also contained a collection of neighborhood rubble he regularly collects and then recycles. The garbage bag, he comments, probably shouldn’t be on top of his clothes but that’s where they fit at the moment.
Sometimes, he explained, I get enough laundry detergent bottles that the remainder of each adds up to enough to run my own load. At first glance, he does a good job of staying well-kept given the circumstances. Today, he wears black shorts with red roses on them and what once was an equally black tee-shirt that has lost its luster and its sleeves. You kind of know he’s a smart guy before you know anything about him. He doesn’t mind making eye contact with you, he just doesn’t want to ask for help. Instead, hence the recycling, he wants to help.
The College he hopes to attend is City College at which he says:
“I hope to study auto-mechanics, underwater welding, and medical assistance.”
He’s eager to build something with his hands and also connect with people.
Robert returned with us to our start and stop location at Smart and Final. We’d hoped to give him a tent but had too few. Come back next week. We promised (even though we make a habit not to make promises) and we’ll have one for you.
Another homeless neighbor, Aura, committed to bringing him a tent next week. On the streets since April, Aura and her son are survivors of domestic violence. Streets of Hope is providing school supplies to her 15-year-old son, and she is paying it forward in the form of a tent to our friend Robert.
To cap the night, Streets of Hope ran into Smart and Final for a full bottle of laundry detergent as well as a box of cereal (frosted flakes) and bottle of milk for Robert. Seeing as he would also benefit from Tupperware, we grabbed him two green plastic bowls and the only spoon we could find. A yellow ice-cream scoop. We knew it would make him laugh and if he chooses to hold onto that spoon I hope it reminds him that he is loved. He is seen. He is important.
Robert has been on the streets for five years, after struggling to reintegrate into society after a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.
“In-house rehabilitation programs are like safety bubbles. There’s a real need for better post-integration and continued support as recovered addicts work to build new lives for themselves.”
Without this support, Robert is doing things the hard way. Staying sober. Living on the streets. And making plans to better himself through a college degree. We’re rooting for you Robert!
To meet Robert and others like him, join us Monday Night at 6PM. No need to bring anything but yourself. If you do wish to bring material items, tents, sleeping bags, socks, and bottled water are most appreciated.