Clicking Your Heels Will Not Get You Home or Kansas

In the Spring of 1962 my father had business in New York City. My grandmother volunteered to take care our my younger brothers and sisters, allowing my older brother and me to accompany our parents to the great city to the south of Boston. Upon our arrival my father drove to the southern tip of Manhattan and pointed out the Statue of Liberty across the harbor.

On our way to the hotel our Ford station wagon proceeded up a broad avenue. Men clustered on the sidewalks and I spotted a man lying on the street.

He wasn’t moving and I asked my father, “Is he dead?”

I had never seen a dead person before.

“No, he’s a bum. He drinks too much. This is the Bowery. The Avenue of Broken Dreams.”

“Why doesn’t he go home to sleep?”

“Men like him don’t have a home.” My father didn’t explain why and my mother was quiet. They looked at each other, as if they knew people like the sleeping man. If they didn’t, those kind of men never came to our house on the South Shore of Boston, not even Red Tate, who Korean War veterans from our church said that he had been a hero in the retreat from the Chosin Reservoir.

Red Tate lived in the town dump.

He drank cheap wine across from the church.


As I got older I moved to the East Village. I realized other homeless people existed in America.

In the 1980s homeless people clustered throughout the city.

The police evicted them from squats and park encampments. City authorities put them on buses to distant cities. The housing shelter were more like cattle pens. No one was allowed to stay the day. Millions were spent on the problem, but I have never seen any of that money going to the poor, who now are displaced families displaced by luxury condos, underpaid working people, the sick, the unfortunates, the tired, hungry, and lost.

New York City spends $35,000 per annum on the tens of thousands of permanent homeless.

No new no-income or lower income projects have been build in the city. The soul of the city has been sacrificed for greed.

$35,000 a year is enough for a good apartment with money left for food and transportation.

Little escapes the grasp of the bureaucracy or the realtors planning to ethnically cleanse the outer boroughs like they did Manhattan.

I know the feeling well.

I am homeless too.

ps San Francisco spends $55,000 a year on each homeless person.

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