New York City is expensive.
As part of the affordable housing requirements in our apartment building, the management has set aside certain areas for individuals with low incomesand/or who are formerly homeless.
On the third floor stairwell lives one recipient of those initiatives: a man named Jeffrey who has lived in New York City for forty-five years. I spoke to him one Saturday afternoon.
How’s it going?
Today’s a good day.
What makes it a good day?
There’s a little sliver of light that comes in through the hole in the wall on certain days. Sometimes the sun isn’t at the right angle but today it did come through and that made me happy.
How long have you lived in this building?
I’m going on three years now. My case worker came to me one day and said, Jeff, Who Lives in the Apartment Stairwell — that’s my name since I’ve been living in stairwells for a while — we have the perfect place for you.
And she brought me here. It didn’t look as good as it does now, I’ve really fixed the place up. I could tell it had good bones and it would turn out okay once I cleared out all the mice feces.
Where were you living before?
I’ve been in a few different stairwells before. I was over in Manhattan for a while in the Lower East Side but then came to Fort Greene and Clinton Hill but got priced out of those stairwells. My landlord turned off all the services to my rent-stabilized stairwell and locked me out and I wasn’t as familiar then as I am now with New York City regulations and rules so I just left.
How did you become homeless initially?
I lost my job. That was the start of it. Then I couldn’t keep paying my rent, I didn’t have enough saved up, that’s my own fault, I admit that, but I didn’t have enough to cover the rent and I was evicted. I didn’t know where to go so I slept in my car.
But then my car got towed and I didn’t have enough money to get it out of impound and I slept in Prospect Park. I’ve used some of the city services but I don’t like the shelters. People get stabbed, your stuff gets stolen, it’s just a nasty place to be. Worse than sleeping on the streets, I think.
How well do you get along with the neighbors here?
Well, most of them are fine. I have a lease, I’m legally allowed to be here. I know there’s no door but this is my area. And so when people put bikes here or trash, that really pisses me off.
Or they call management to complain about me. I’ve had a bunch of people call the management and are shocked that someone is living legally in the stairwell.
Now read on… Jeff, Who Lives In Our Apartment Stairwell — Medium