(Originally published in New York Beat)
On a recent sunny Thursday afternoon, Tony was sitting alone on a park bench, surrounded by the white plastic bags that hold his belongings. He was playing chess with a hand made set, carved out of scraps of wood, and it was hard to distinguish the pieces. They weren’t the traditional black and white, but rather different shades of blue on one side and a mix of green, brown and orange pieces on the other.
The park was full of children playing, laughing and screaming, but Tony seemed lost in his game, completely unbothered by their excitement. Of course he could have picked any park to practice his chess skills, but everything about this scene suggested that this one was his home.
“I’ve been living here most of my life,” he said, referring to the neighborhood of Clinton Hill in Brooklyn. The fact that Tony, despite not having a house, chose to live in Clinton Hill was no fluke. It was a neighborhood he knew and loved.
Homeless people, just as much as the general population, have preferences for certain neighborhoods and their decision to stay in a specific area can be influenced by a number of factors, from safety, to the presence of services, to a sense of home. But that doesn’t mean homeless people necessarily want to stay in the most peaceful residential neighborhoods…Read More