Talking to the Homeless in the NW Bronx

Sunny, who’s been homeless since 2006, sits on a bench inside Dead End Park on Oct. 6. (Photo by Adi Talwar via Norwood News)

While community residents in the Norwood area of the Bronx debate the merits of having a new shelter for the homeless established in their neighborhood, a number of homeless there continue to resist the idea of moving into shelters. After interviewing homeless individuals in the Northwest Bronx, David Cruz, Aaron Mayorga and Yara Palin note that “for the number of homeless the Norwood News spoke to, living on the streets is a life more familiar than a roof over their head. It also presents the safest option.”

A case in point is Guyanese native Sunny, 53 years old, who has been homeless since 2006 – and distrustful of shelters since 2007.

Clutching a worn out portable radio and pulling a shopping cart filled with recyclables, Sunny recalled having his backpack stolen after leaving it inside a shelter in the Concourse section of the Bronx a decade ago. At the time, Sunny had been collecting cans and had missed the shelter-mandated curfew. His bag contained his green card and other forms of identification. Since then, he has remained distrustful of the homeless and those employed in city-run homeless shelters. These days, Sunny, who emigrated to the United States 26 years ago and has a son, sleeps on the subway – usually preferring the longer distance route of the D train, which terminates in Norwood.

The Department of Homeless Services contracts with the nonprofit BronxWorks to try to ease the homeless into shelters, with limited success. Got to Norwood News to read about other homeless individuals in the area and the benches, “camps” and other accommodations they patch together. Read too about what they have to say about the recent “influx” of homeless in the area, and how this has affected panhandling in the neighborhood.

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