December 13, 2017

Jerry's Ink


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She's a bundle on a cold sidewalk. She's a very old woman, maybe in her late 80s or early 90s. When you pass by her she is so wrapped up in blankets and rags that only the top of her head can be seen.

You can hear her mumbling. She's out of her head. God know where she thinks she is and to whom she thinks she's talking – a long-lost son? A daughter? A dead husband? Who knows?

She can be found every night sprawled between 63rd and 64th Streets and Lexington Avenue. She's a living, breathing symbol of the failure of every town and hamlet in this country to deal with and save mentally ill, homeless souls. She won't make it through this winter.

Passersby leave her cups of coffee and scraps of food. When she freezes to death, and she will, Mayor Bill de Blasio will have killed her. Don't fall for all his sanctimonious speeches about the homeless. Just look at this pitiful old woman he has left out on the street to die.

When she dies, the New York Police Department, the finest, most compassionate police force in the country, will have a hand in killing her. They must drive and walk past her every night. All they have to do is pick up her tiny body and take her to a shelter. They don't. They drive and walk past her as though she wasn't there.

There are more than a hundred houses of worship in Manhattan. There are churches, synagogues, mosques. Their premises are all peaceful and inviting.

They all have two things in common:

1. They all preach about how theirs is a house of God and everyone is welcome.

2. Their doors are all locked at night.

The closest house of worship to the old woman who will die is the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer. It is on 66th Street and Lexington Avenue, just about 150 steps from the woman who will freeze to death. Two avenues -- or 400 feet -- away is Temple Emanu-El.

My dream is one night, when the temperature is 10 degrees, a young priest from St. Vincent's and a rabbi from Temple Emanu-El will go out into the street to help the freezing old lady. They will meet and come together to bring her to warmth and safety.

Who am I kidding? A priest and a rabbi come together to save the life of an old woman ... that's an old Bing Crosby movie from the 1940s. The truth is the priest and the rabbi will continue to sleep in the warmth of their bedrooms and ignore the little old lady who will die on the street.

Tomorrow night when I pass her I will slip a $20 bill into the blankets and rags where she is sleeping. But once again, who am I kidding? I'm just as responsible as you are.

The old lady will die. And when she dies, and she will, we all must know we killed her.

If you wish to comment on "Jerry's Ink" please send your message to jerry@dfjp.com.

  1. print email
    There But for the Grace of God ...
    December 12, 2017 | 11:25 PM

    Wow Jerry! This is one of the most fabulous and heartfelt articles you've ever written ! homelessness in our beloved NYC and elsewhere being my #1 personal priority in terms of helping those most in need. I can't remember or count all the checks I've written to charitable organizations dedicated to helping the homeless, much less all the cash and cigarettes I've simply handed out on the streets without judgement. Not to mention giving my gloves, scarf, hat, or coat when needed to somebody who had nothing when it was 20 degrees, with the river winds whipping across 31st Street by Penn Station. But that's just me and I HAVE to do it. What really breaks my heart, though, are all the "normal"¯ people I know who continue to call me a naĆÆve fool, as if these downtrodden people sleeping on the street could afford better options by just getting a job. Unfuckinbelievable! Which is to say, thank you so much for your post and the $20 you tucked into the old lady's blanket. Hopefully she found it in the morning, if she survived the night. Love you so much for the way you are, Bill

    Bill Crandall
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    Tears to my Eyes
    December 21, 2017 | 07:45 AM

    Jerry, Take Action, go talk to that priest and rabbi, tell them about this woman's plight and convince them to let her stay in the church or synagogue somewhere in a room. You will be a saint for doing this.

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