When I was a little girl growing up in New York City, it was pretty common to see people living on the streets. In the 1970s, many were heroin addicts, or at least that’s what my mom told me. But in the 1980s, the number skyrocketed, due in large part to the closing of mental hospitals, lack of affordable housing and the recession. We walked over people everywhere, many of whom were permanently camped out in the Port Authority and Grand Central Station.
Noticing people lying on the street stressed me out because I didn’t know what to do.
I watched as my mom, dressed in her suit, trench coat and heels systematically ignored everyone from panhandlers to women hallucinating in the public bathrooms. My father acted the same. So, thinking that’s what I was supposed to do, I followed their lead and pretended that I didn’t see people suffering everywhere. The only problem was, I did.