NYC Shelter Life

I have not ever had to live in a shelter. Though I have been damn near close. I do know a few people who have. I wanna tell you their stories to tell you about another function of this city that needs help.


A boy born in the South, brought to the big city because of family.

A child of misfortune he became a young man when he should’ve been a child. After graduating high school, he was pushed out by his family. Which was the first time dealing with the shelter system. While there, most of his time was spent protecting himself and his belongings. One evening protecting himself led to a incident in the shelter. 

He was arrested.

He was thrown into the Rikers Island. For three months he sat in prison. Never seeing a judge, then when he finally did all charges against him were dropped and he was set to be released.  

This came after three months of abuse – sexually, mentally, physically and ignored by officers who were supposed to protect him. When he shut down, he was sent to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a mental disorder and started on medication. Upon being released in the the January cold he had on the prison sneakers and swear suit and a perscription for thirty days worth of medication for his new found mental disability. 

No resources. No help. No rehabilitation.  

He went back to the home of the family who kicked him out. They didn’t understand what was going on with him. They didn’t try to understand him. They picked at him. The thirty day perscription ran out. The job he had got, he loss. The sleepless nights started again because nightmares returned. He didn’t trust anyone and thought that everyone judged him. All the dreams of signing up for school was gone. He walked out to never return. 

It has been two years. In these two years he has only been homeless. He has stayed with friends here and there but never wanting to be a bother he would remove himself. He has been looking for work. Trying to get himself back together. But he has also been in and out of the hospital. Each time he is released, still no help. No one to listen.

Now he is just a 22 year old trying to get his life back on track on his own. Trying to figure out how to get this system to work in his favor. His “family” won’t help. His “friends” no longer are his friends. I have known him since he was five. To see him where he is now it saddens me. 

He doesn’t choose to go to a shelter again because the mens shelters remind him of prison. It’s an emotional and mental torment.


A mother who was supposed to be receiving child support from the father of her daughter – was only receiving $25.  This only “support” came when the City took it out of his check.  He didn’t oblige himself to provide more assistance than that.  The mother took it upon herself to work two jobs to make up for the things that was not being supplied to her child. After living like that for 15 years, it tookk its financial toll and she lost the apartment that she was living in. The mother and child seemed to had gone missing.  When in reality they were living in a shelter in a different borough.  

While in the shelter, the child was biten by a spider.  

Family members searched for the mother and child.  The mother called periodically to give updates.  But it took them living in the family for about two years and two bites later before they were placed by the city.  While in the shelter the money continued to work two jobs while her child was in school and doing after school activities.  The mother had to get written consent for being out longer than curfew because of work obligations.  

The whole time the father lived with his girlfriend and his other kids.  Never offering to take in his daughter while the mother worked and looked for a new place.  

Each bite was reported.  Not to be assisted by anyone within the shelter.  Instead, the mother had to take the child herself to the emergency room to be seen. After the time restraint was lifted off of her and her child.

Other than living in the shelter and the bite.  The mother and daughter refuse to discuss the shelter system.  They’d rather forget it, then to discuss their dealings further than the one conversation had while venting.  


A young woman about my age had a son.  He needed assistance for behavioral and mental disorders he was born with.  

For years the city told her that she had to wait until he was the age of daycare or preschool. After starting daycare the Director noticed that the child was not speaking, could not control his anger, and was not potty trained.  But he was at the age of three.


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