Dawn & Shane. New York City. 1.27.18
"If I ever die, you get my hut" quipped Shane (23). A jubilant Dawn (37) laughing in acknowledgment.
As we interacted with the engaged couple (of 2 years -YAY!), I found myself questioning whether their frivolity was a positive or a negative. On one hand, their zeal provided a sense of comfort. "Ok. They have one another, they are smiling, and they are letting their misfortune get them down" I thought to myself. "But...it is so unfair that these two, with their smiles and unforced kindness, are living on the streets" my brain responded.
...And the more I learned about these two, the stronger my brain shouted the latter.
You see, Dawn is a survivor of unfortunate circumstances (I can't put enough focus on the word survivor). In 2005, her husband was arrested. His arrest was the catalyst for her homelessness and the reason she has yet to be able to successfully file for divorce. Additionally, Dawn has suffered 4 miscarriages, and was - within the last year - raped by a man who continues to taunt her daily. (The cops, by the way, offer no amount of support)
Shane, the (obviously) quieter of the two, was given two options by his father. He was either to return to Job Corps or leave his parents' house. With no interest in returning to Job Corps for a short term job assignment, he made the decision to see himself out. It is my understanding that the fact that his family did not approve of Dawn, also pushed him in this direction.
While Dawn's family has no issue with Shane, they unfortunately do not have the room for him. Dawn, although able to return home, refuses to do so as long as Shane is on the street. At this point in the story, it is clear that the two of them are in love with and rely on one another; but don't let that fool you, just like the rest of us - they have their fights (one of which separated them for an undesirable amount of time.)
It was no surprise to us that Dawn and Shane were both unimpressed with the effort of Breaking Ground ; noting the same as many we have spoken with before - the organization's efforts are lazy and uninspired.
As for shelters? That topic is a touchy one for Dawn, as she had previously been kicked out of a woman's shelter due to her need to frequent the hospital due to a pre-existing condition.
The next few months are (hopefully) gearing up to provide these two with steps to their new lives. In March, Dawn hopes to have enough money to file for divorce, ultimately allowing her to marry Shane. Their legal marriage will make it easier for them to receive housing help. And by the summer, it is their hope that they will be off the streets & busting one another's chops in a place of their own.