Friday, January 05, 2007

Working on Broadway

So this morning when we got up, Jeff was still asleep in the doorway of the church next door. After breakfast, I brought him some coffee and blueberry flapjacks, and we talked a little.

Jeff's story was familiar in many ways. He's lived all over, including Hawaii and Alaska. Like a lot of people I've met, Jeff went on the street when his family network of support disintegrated: his mom died young, his dad remarried soon after, and then more or less disowned Jeff and his sister in order to focus on his new family. He's 42 years old, and been on the street for over ten years. He has the worn look of someone who's been out for awhile; the average age of death for people on the street is 43 (as compared to about 70 for the rest of us).

One of Jeff's biggest problems is that he has no ID, nor does he have the ID necessary to get ID. This has become a very big problem for homeless people since 9/11, when the standards for getting identification were significantly raised. When you're moving all the time and have no safe dry place to store stuff, it's easy to lose your ID, have it stolen, or ruin it. Then you need a certified copy of your birth certificate to get a new license or state ID. But Jeff doesn't have a birth certificate, nor does he have the means to get one, and without a birth certificate, no ID. And without ID, its difficult for him to get assistance or services, and easy for him to get arrested. As he put it, "It's like they say, 'in order to work on Broadway, you have to have worked on Broadway.'"

Jeff told me he thinks his sister may have a copy of his birth certificate, but she's moved to Arizona, or maybe Florida, and he doesn't have contact information for her. He doesn't remember the spelling of her married name, but thinks he can get it. I told him I'd give him a hand trying to look her up on the Internet sometime.

This evening, I saw that he was still there under a pile of blankets, though in the morning he had said he was going to try to move on to another place where some friends were staying. It's a blustery and rainy night, no time to be traveling, so I figured he was going to hunker down for one more night. After dinner, I got some shells and cheese and Eritrean style vegetables together on a plate, along with some hot coffee, and brought them out for him.

When I got out to the church doorway, I could hear music and singing; a service was going on inside. And Jeff was gone.

No comments: