For the entire time I’ve lived on Atlantic Avenue, I’ve wondered about this one man. Homeless, I assumed, always hanging out on the same stretch. Yet he seemed different.
For one, I often find him hanging out inside the corner bodega, drinking a coffee and reading a newspaper while leaning over a cooler. Early in the morning and late at night, he sweeps the sidewalk. I’m fascinated by this. I mean, why? Is he getting paid to sweep? Or is this just his way of passing the time?
Oh, and did I mention he’s perpetually hunched over?
Well, thank you to Brooklyn Heights Blog for this insightful post, “The Hunchback of Atlantic Avenue.” An excerpt:
I asked around the neighborhood, and found out that he was once a prosperous man living in the Bronx. He owned several grocery stores, was strong armed into money laundering. He got caught and ended up in prison. Lost everything. He acquired a drug habit. I don’t know how he made the trek down to Brooklyn Heights, but suffice to say, he became a neighborhood fixture. I did find out however, how he survives.
The owners of the deli, the furniture store and the funeral parlor (and perhaps others) look out for him. Hire him to sweep or shovel. Buy him lunch, hot coffee on cold days, offer him a place to sleep out of the elements. He seems to be a junkie that people trust.
If you’ve ever seen this man, it’s really a good read.
Not to sound cliche, but the homeless are people, too. They have stories to share, histories that shed light on their current situations. It’s important to remember this.