The elevator doors open, and the second part of my trip into the city begins. As I enter the central corridor of the Long Island RailRoad, I turn right, and my cane hits the first person sitting on the floor. I apologize because I hit a person with my cane and not a thing. The homeless person grumbles or says, “It's okay," or uses some obscenity. It is at this time that a discussion starts in my head: Why are they in my way when they can see better than I! At that moment, lost in thought, I walk past my left turn, and a homeless person who knows my route says, “You missed your turn." I mumble a thank you, and the discussion in my mind becomes a fair and balanced argument. Are the homeless friend or foe?
I’m well aware of the housing situation in NEW York City because I have been looking for an apartment for years. There are people who can’t afford the outrageous rents haunting this great city, so they are forced to shelter in such homie places as Penn Station. And If I was homeless, I would be there, too. Think about it. It is warm in the winter and air-conditioned in the summer. There is access to at least three public bathrooms. There is an abundant source of income. Almost three million people travel through Penn Station every day. If every fourth person gives you a quarter, you would have at least $750,000. There are at least fifty restaurants in Penn Station. The Village Voice rated some of the cheapest and best restaurants there in the article, “Penn Station Eats” on Feb. 25, 2011. The article focused on handheld foods, the primary food of the indigent. So, to be clear, I understand why they chose this location for their home.
As a cane user, any obstacle is an issue, be it a person or a garbage can. The day-to-day struggle to get from one place to another is frustrating. When dealing with the homeless, one must always be on guard. They can be in a drugged state or drunk or just angry - or downright pleasant. Many individuals without shelter have provided me with assistance time after time. One person even pulled me out of the street after a wrong turn and lack of concentration on my part. I was extremely grateful. These people of the street are watching our backs. An angel of the street helped me to use one of those inaccessible MTA machines when there was no one in the booth. One gentleman says hello, and "I got you, my brother," every day. He also keeps me abreast of the ever-changing construction on my line. I look forward to the fife player who guides me to the Hilton passageway that leads me to my train in the evening.
How do I feel about the homeless people in Penn Station? I don’t know. I have one opinion when the elevator doors open in the central corridor and another when I reach my destination. I do know one thing for sure: Tomorrow the discussion in my head will start again.