Jason smokes his last cigarette

Jason smokes his last cigarette

By Dong Seong Lyu, Online Editor

As most college students learn during their time in school, a personal life can get in the way of an education and even leave them without a home. New York City, a cultural hub for college students and all people alike, has become a commonplace for the homeless.

A young man by the name of Jason (last name anonymous) is a perfect example of that. Jason, who is in his mid-20s, sits on the corner of W 40th St and 7th Ave and has a hopeless look on his face. He looks at the ground as if he has nothing left.

Jason, before becoming homeless, was a college student from the School of Visual Arts with a full scholarship. However, even with a scholarship, his student loans left him with nothing but a cardboard sign that said “Recently Homeless”. “My father killed himself last year, and I lost the house.” Jason said.

He began to talk about his childhood, prior to his time as a student and said, “Before all this, it was tough, my parents went through a bad divorce, I was an only child. My mom left when I was a kid. I did well though, I was living with my dad, we used to live in Pennsylvania together. He commuted to work every day, he left at 3:30 in the morning and came back home at nine at night. He drank a lot.”

When asked about the reason his father killed himself, he said, “I left school last year, indefinitely, to take care of him. I did everything I could for him, but he suffered every day. I left handicap bars for him because he was suffering with depression. But he just couldn’t take it. After his passing, I was left with nothing.”

“My uncle was a very selfish man who drove me out, shut down the utilities, and didn’t help whatsoever. I had no home. I went to the hospital because of epilepsy and I ignored everything, and I came here to the city, to the shelters, which were a nightmare, that’s an understatement. No hot water, a pillowcase for a towel. And when I came down here, all of my stuff got stolen, my money, my social security card, everything,” Jason said.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, this month alone, the total shelter census estimated that there are 56,454 homeless people in the city. The Department of Homeless Services has also calculated that “1 in 2,662 New Yorkers experience street homelessness”.

When Jason was in school he did a psychological study on why people tend to ignore homeless people. “They can’t relate, they haven’t gone through the things that we’ve experienced. Everyone who passes by, thinks that all homeless are alike, that we’re all alcoholics or drug addicts. I can’t even sleep in the shelters, because I’m afraid of all the violence. Sometimes, people sneak in drugs that we’re not even supposed to have.” Jason said.

Luckily, Jason was able to contact his mother and said, “I’m the lucky one, my mom got back to me and said that if I can get cleaned up here, she would help me out.” In the end, he pulled out a cigarette, given to him by a stranger, as the cigarette and a “Recently Homeless” sign was all that was left of him.