New York City. Jennifer & Louis. 7.28.17
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When we came upon Jennifer there was a family of three speaking with her. While the son was, admittedly, being a teenager with his face in his phone, the parents were engaged. After handing Jennifer a bag of food it was clear that they began to pray for/with her - two acts that clearly restored some of our faith in humanity. It is rare that we see other individuals stop to converse with the homeless, so witnessing it first hand was refreshing.
Once the family walked away, we introduced ourselves to Jennifer and sat down next to her. Immediately the intense heat of the asphalt shocked our legs. At that point it was not lost on us - or Jennifer - that we were seated directly in the sunshine's rays. "It's where the money is" Jennifer noted, a statement that we have heard previously. How she was sitting in the heat with a jean jacket and sweatpants was beyond us, but our focus wasn't on her wardrobe and the appearance of her husband re-focused our attention.
Jennifer and Louis had been responsible for taking care of Louis' mom who was (and still is) battling lung cancer and the majority of their funds were being spent on ensuring that she received the best care possible. In addition to money, Louis was spending the majority of his time with his mother, which unfortunately ensured that he lose his job. Ultimately they had no other choice but to live on the street, which they have been doing for the past 3 years.
3 years of choosing pavement over a bed, because shelters are unsafe.
3 years of passerbys screaming at them to "just get a job" (as if it were that simple.)
3 years of being told by the police that they have "too much stuff" and need to get rid of some of their belongings.
3 years of hoping their family can find them on the streets to let them know how Louis' mother is doing.
3 years of having to stay up all night only to be told it is illegal to sleep during the day.
3 years of being told that they aren't able to be in the streets in the winter; however those that sell comedy tickets and bus passes can continue working.
3 years of case worker changes and little to no progress on getting a place to live.
(And most discouraging) 1 year of not having custody of their son.
But like with everything else, there is a positive to their story - they aren't alone. "He makes it easier" Jennifer professed, and the smile on Louis' face was a sure sign of concurrence.