Homeless By Choice
Published: Monday, December 26, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, December 28, 2011 19:12
A Cardozo student we'll call "David" sat down with The Observer to discuss the unique decision that took him out of his comfort zone and onto the streets of Manhattan in an effort to experience challenge in life.
OB: We really appreciate you being able to talk to us.
D: For sure
OB: Because it was something very interesting, when we found out we were all like "hmm, why is he doing that?" and I think that's the first question that people hear, when they find out that someone is homeless by decision.
D: So first of all I just wanted to start off by saying on November 1 I moved into my old apartment because it started to get cold and I realized I may be tough but not capable of withstanding freezing temperatures for the whole winter.
There are a bunch of reasons. So I've kinda [sic] been planning this since this spring….I experienced the ultimate problem of mine, which is not having any problems. I know a lot of people with that same issue. People that [sic] are experiencing serious things in their lives like a disease or financial problems or things like that, people will say, "How could you be so ridiculous, how could you say not having any problems is a problem?" But the fact of the matter is, is that my life, it's really easy.
OB: Were you in Cardozo already?
D: So I'm in my second year at Cardozo and I already had an internship of my dream job. And I already had it set up for the summer and, like, my running was doing well, I didn't have romantic problems, and no financial problems, and my apartment was great, and the weather was great, and just everything was so good; yet I wasn't satisfied, my life just felt meaningless because I didn't have really any challenges so you know, just thinking back on humanity and mankind, I've realized that it has always been difficult for humans to survive until recently with technology and everything.
So I don't think that early man, Neanderthals and people a thousand years ago ever struggled with this feeling of boredness [sic] because they didn't have any problems. I kind of wanted to model my life after that a little bit and make my survival more difficult, so I could just give myself a problem. With that said, it's a problem that I can control and stop it whenever I want…and it's a problem that's difficult but not impossible to achieve.
OB: So how exactly does this work?
D: The way that it's working out is I have a gym membership, NY Health and Racquet club, and there's one right around the corner from Cardozo and that's my home base. The organization is probably the hard part about this. So I have four lockers and NY Health and Racquet club has showers and I shave there. It has shampoo and soap and all that stuff.
OB: Do they know you're there?
D: They don't know that I'm homeless, but they know that I'm there all the time and they kinda [sic] have a running joke – "Oh David, is this, like, your third time working out today?" You know most people go to the gym, they go to work out, I go to organize my stuff and leave stuff there, coming and going from school, or my internship, or running. They always see me and joke. They don't even make me scan my card anymore because I go in there so often. Nobody there knows that I'm actually living out of that gym.
So I have one locker for running clothes and laundry, one for dress shirts, one for dress pants and one for miscellaneous things. And also each locker has a spot for shoes at the top so that's really good.
I had to really reduce the amount of stuff that I had. I had to get rid of everything that's nonessential. I only have, like, five dress shirts, five dress pants, some running clothes that are necessary and then obviously sweatshirts and stuff. Other than clothes I don't really have a lot of stuff, just stuff for shaving and brushing my teeth and books. I have a school locker too, so that helps.
I also have access to my school. Its open until midnight and then opens again at 8 a.m. so I nap there a lot. There's this one room in the library that has couches and I nap there during the day when I have breaks in between classes. At night I try and stay in there as late as possible so I can get the maximum amount of warmth. So I'll leave there at midnight and go find a spot and then NY Health and Racquet club opens at six. So I really only have six hours outside, so its not unbearable.
So I guess you might ask how I find a spot?
OB: Yes, I was going to ask how those six hours are spent?
D: I have a "go-bag." You know how during Hurricane Irene Mayor Bloomberg wanted everyone to have a go-bag? So I have a bag, which consists of the things you need to survive. I bring that with me every night and I always make sure I have it before I go to sleep. It has my blanket, three sweatshirts, sweatpants, two pairs of nice long socks it has a toothbrush and mouthwash – I'll show you – [shows the mouthwash]
So I make sure that I always have that with me.
The way that I find a spot is, the later it is the easier it is to find a spot. Less [sic] people are out and it's darker and quieter. I look for a dark nook. The first requirement is that it's out of the way, I don't want to be in anyone's way when I'm sleeping. The second thing that's nice but not necessary is that its dark. Obviously I prefer dark because it's easier to sleep and I don't like people being able to see my face. I don't know, just in case someone knows me. I like having a cover overhead, and also having a corner, so I can put my head on the corner. I put my stuff on the inside of me so that no one can take my stuff or else they'll wake me up.