I watched the brother of the shoeless NYC resident, living on the street, on the news the other night. Like many others, I was happily inspired by the police officer’s generosity in buying the man a pair of boots. Like the man’s brother, I have a different perspective of the “homeless”. It turns out the shoeless man has choices…and a home.
I had a homeless brother. I couldn’t understand why he preferred life on the streets over a more traditional existance. The fact is, he did. He told me he liked to be free. My brother was a drug addict, an IV drug user, an HIV patient, who did not follow the regimen, and died as a result of the opportunistic diseases categorized as AIDS.
Of course, he was a lot more than that. The journalist who covered his death in the Boston Globe wrote flatteringly about my brother’s activism for the plight of the homeless. A portion of the title to the piece read “A Homeless Man Who Helped Many Like Him Dead at 36”. It wasn’t the first time he’d been featured in the Globe. He was known to the reporter and had been the subject of a piece on the Cambridge drug scene, when he was released, on a day pass, from a locked TB unit, in a Jamaica Plain hospital.
He promptly withdrew his SSI money. (He was physically handicapped from birth by moderate to severe arthrogryposis affecting his jaw, hands, legs and feet.) He smoked a lot of crack and drank a fair amount of gin before he threw up. I admired the piece for its writing as well as its content and honesty. It portrayed my brother as the person he was, caring and opportunistic.
There has been disappointment in the revelation that the shoeless man has a home. People have called the cop a schmuck for spending his own hard earned dollars on a person who, seemingly, exploited the cop’s generosity. I applaud the cop’s behavior. The pinnacle of human decency is reaching inside ourselves to sacrifice for those in need.
In all of the years my brother lived, I always gave cash to “street” people. It was my choice, and it is still my choice today, what they do with it is theirs.