As we write this, my neighbor, who works as a gardener, is out on bail, unable to return to his home in a remote, impoverished part of Brooklyn after he pleaded guilty to stalking his ex-girlfriend.
The next morning, a group of homeless men, men who used to call themselves “the flower men,” show up at our door.
They’re homeless, homeless because they’ve been out on the streets, homeless because they were born homeless.
But they aren’t alone in this, because homelessness is a common story in the Brooklyn neighborhoods that are home to some of the most vulnerable people in the United States.
“When I was a kid, I had a friend who was homeless, he was homeless because he was the youngest of four,” says Michael Smith, who lived with his mother and stepfather in a cramped apartment for more than a year after he was taken from his family when he was three.
In New York City, homeless people are more likely to be men and children than women.
One in five homeless people in New York State are living with their parents, compared to just 1.4 percent of people who live in poverty in the entire state.
That means that while there are people like Smith and others who can stay in their homes, the rest of us are stuck on the street, in shelters, and in some cases in jail.
As more homeless people face homelessness, more of us find ourselves facing a choice.
We can keep living the way we are, or we can go back to being the people we were.
And we can choose the homeless.