Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Last Homeless Person In Times Square

Photo credit:  Michael Appleton for The New York Timesby Dick Mac

Times Square had a reputation through most of my life as an exciting, edgy place where you could participate in any number of activities from completely legal and safe (play pinball, attend the theater) to completely dangerous and illegal (meet a prostitute, shoot drugs). That was a very colorful Times Square.

Now the color of the area is literal: the neon of Toys'R'Us and ESPNZone, the NASDAQ ticker and the other international chains that have moved in.
Gone are the pimps and sailors, the soulful street singers and the teenage runaways. Gone are the hookers and porno shops, replaced by young comedians hawking tickets to their debut show at a local comedy club and mobile phone shops.

There are arguments for both cultural movements. Some say Times Square has lost its soul, others say it is much more accessible and entertaining now. Whichever position you take, there is no doubting that times have changed in Times Square.

Last Summer there were seven homeless people living in the area. Over the past decade, the city and its charities has worked diligently to find homes for those who made the streets surrounding 42nd & Broadway their home. The work has gone well. Many of those who lived on these streets are now in apartments, or shelters, and some are getting services they need.

Between September and December, 2009, homeless advocates managed to place six of those last 7 homeless people in shelter. The lone straggler is a man called "Heavy."

His story is covered, in part, by the New York Times today: Times Square's Homeless Holdout, Not Budging

Photo credit: Michael Appleton for The New York Times

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