Manhattan, NY - Homeless Man Living In Cardboard Box In Front Of B&H Photo Store Says Best Day For Him Is Shabbat
Manhattan, NY - William Colon can sleep late on Saturdays.
Mr. Colon, 53, spends nights in a cardboard box on the sidewalk right outside the executive offices of the huge B&H photography store on Ninth Avenue, which is owned and largely staffed by Jews who close the store on Saturdays to observe the sabbath.
“The other days, I have to get the box out of here before they open, but on Saturdays, I can relax and leave it here,” Mr. Colon said as he put the finishing touches on his latest cardboard shelter, which for years he has been erecting on West 33rd Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.
He methodically fastened the box to a sidewalk bicycle rack, using plastic pull-tight strips from a local hardware store. He spread neat plastic covering of clear wrap over the top to make a waterproof roof, on this brown flimsy home next to a dumpster full of demolition trash.
“It’s fine sleeping in there, as long as nobody bothers you,” he said. “You’ve heard of camping? It’s like camping.”
Mr. Colon said he grew up in the Bronx in a family that had its problems. His older brother was his role model.
“One day I walked into his room and he’s sticking a heroin needle in his arm,” Mr. Colon recalled. “He said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be doing this when you get older.’ And he was right.”
Mr. Colon has spent time in prison for drug possession, and he has lost his teeth except for his molars.
“I have a hard time eating solid food,” he said. “I have to break it up by hand first.” He has kicked heroin, he said, and has to go up to a 125th Street clinic every morning to get his methadone. He said he lived for years in a spot under the tracks in Penn Station, but the police cleared him out after 9-11.
Yes, there are people who kick his box while he sleeps, but there are also ones who help him out, like the guy who bought him a Martha Stewart pillow and quilt set recently.
His clothes were clean and he wore brand new Starbury sneakers and a P.G.A. Tour golf hat. Inside his box, it looked comfortable and orderly, like a bunk in a Pullman car.
“I’ve been living in these things for 15 years,” he said. “I get the materials from the hardware store and fix them right up.” He had a blue plastic tarp underneath and a covering of clear plastic on the top to keep out the rain.
“I saw them delivering refrigerators down on 14th Street and just leaving the boxes. If you’re living on the street, that’s a home,” he said. “So I picked up four of them and flattened them out and brought them up here. So I’m set for a while.”
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