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Athos, Porthos and Atheist: three stories of the New York homeless from the former USSR



Once, coming out of the subway on Sheepshead bay and when I saw a beggar with a glass at the door, I spontaneously decided to get rid of a pound of the little change that had accumulated in my pocket and poured it into the bottom with a crash. The beggar, obviously feeling the weight of the donation dishes, nodded to me contentedly: “Such a lot of money!” He said. - Do you want a coffee? ”.

A person who has never lived on the street has a lot of illusions about the sum of the circumstances in which it can be there. We think that people standing near the subway with glasses and boxes are most likely deprived of education, relatives who can help, that they have a combination of general disorder and laziness, that they ended up on the street because of alcohol or drugs, that they got there coming out of prison, that they have bad English, finally. What they do not want to work.

So: all these are our fantasies, in which the real Brooklyn bums don't fit in any way.

Photo by Nata Potemkin

Real Brooklyn bums will change our understanding of who lives on the street and how. Photo by Nata Potemkin

The first story. Sasha-Conductor

Age 52.

Education: Kiev State Conservatory, the departments of conducting and classical vocals, before leaving for the United States worked in Kiev, sang at the Children's Opera House; conductor of the Kiev Philharmonic.

Title: Illegal with 17-year experience.

Citizenship: Ukraine.

Family in the USA: no.

Children: have stayed in Ukraine.

Alcohol: moderately.

Drugs: no.

English: barely.

On the street: 3,5 year.

“I may not be photogenic today. But Mussorgsky Repin also painted before he died. ” Photo by Nata Potemkin

“I may not be photogenic today. But Mussorgsky Repin also painted before he died. ” Photo by Nata Potemkin

Sasha went on tour to America and knew that he would not return. In Uzhgorod, he lost his family (his relatives became victims of murder), an attempt to demand the truth in the prosecutor's office resulted in broken teeth and injuries.

He came here as the conductor of a symphony orchestra, for almost a year he traveled with the program on 42 states.

Then he extended the visa, pledging to fly within 4 months and deliberately did not take a ticket. Earned on tour $ 8,5 thousands sent home. He does not want to return home at the moment.

“Actually, I found myself on the street in the full sense of the word after a chain of failures, the first link of which was that my foreman threw me over $ 5. He was the husband of my classmate, and I was just ashamed to complain to her, to tell her that he did not pay me for the work, and I said nothing. True, he taught me to lay tiles, to do many necessary types of construction work. But in the end he threw it. And I ended up in December in a T-shirt and shorts (all my clothes were left at the facility), without money. Rented a room at 5th Brighton. Then he broke his leg on the boardwalk. I just stumbled. Then the hostess kicked me out of the room. Why? Because he refused to cook her borscht at 3 am. She is not a very healthy person, she did not understand what she was doing. I turned to the church for help. They said: "You were gone for a long time, you must have been into a binge." I wasn't. How can you prove it?

Since then, since 2014, this has been the case: I'm on the street, then Coney Island hospital ”.

At the very beginning of his stay in the country, Sasha rented a room in Seagate and worked in the kitchen in a restaurant in Brighton. Then he went to the construction site. He sincerely wanted to work in his specialty - in a theater or an orchestra, but the lack of documents did not allow him to get a job somewhere other than “black” jobs. I applied to a lawyer, wishing to obtain status, but the lawyer took the money and did not achieve the desired results.

“For a while I worked on the“ stock exchange ”(underground underground for illegal immigrants - auth.), It brought a penny, $ 5-6 per hour, and there was a continuous crime: once I even saw a man shot there, black american

Actually, I physically cannot work more than full-time 2-3, I have diabetes, and I get terribly tired of physical work. However, medical assistance was provided to me in the hospital, even without status and documents, because ... Well, once I was just lucky, because of the kindness of my soul, we were given a little treatment, but there I was a victim of linen lice, the conditions were terrible, and I turned to brother Vadim he worked in the church and helped the homeless, found another hospital for me. ”

About Brother Vadim, the whole “party” of Brighton homeless responds very warmly. The homeless do not exclude that it is thanks to him that they are still alive.

Sasha started drinking alcohol when he was on the street. The life of the New York homeless is different from the life of homeless people, say, from Florida for purely climatic reasons.

"Alcohol? I will tell you why we drink. Do you know what the weather is like in New York? Freezing rains, wind, flooding under the bridge, a tooth on a tooth does not fall. Sometimes a person falls asleep - and wakes up to his waist in ice water. Drinking is necessary simply in order not to freeze to death. Although, it happened and died. An Italian died in front of my eyes, a very successful lawyer in the past, who got drunk, really. I fell asleep under the bridge and did not wake up. ”

At the moment, Sasha, together with other heroes of this report, occupies the social apartment of a person who died in a hospital not so long ago. They know that this is not for long. As soon as the municipality realizes that the living space is free and can be taken away, they will again be on the street.

“Now - how it goes. If there is work at a construction site, then you can work for several hours a day, although, of course, I do not become healthier over time. Realizing that in 17 years I could have earned myself a pension if I had not been an illegal - little pleasant, of course ”...

One of Sasha's main ways of making money in the absence of a construction site is begging on the roadway.

It is theoretically possible to calculate how much this way is obtained per day: from 56 cents to $ 150, but you need to calculate your earnings weekly, since it’s almost impossible to go out every day. In general, how the card will fall.

“There are just awesome cases! One day a man gave me $ 5, and then he came back to pay another $ 5. ”

17-year experience for illegal immigrants is considered almost hopeless. However, Sasha has a visiting card of a lawyer, he keeps it in the hope of trying to do something.

“I'm not really complaining. I do not like to complain, I do not like to ask for help. The street - as a refuge - generally unites all those who do not complain or ask. That is why everyone there willingly helps each other without additional hints. You know, sometimes it is even fun: once a radio in Russian was playing from a car, and there they discussed the signs of spring on the air. And someone said: spring is when homeless people appeared under the bridge. ”

Being a church ward, as a volunteer, Sasha taught singing to children in a Sunday school. For food, clothing and household assistance. Many homeless people with professions work for the church for free, as compensation.

Sasha did not drink his vocal professionalism: he performs arias superbly even today. However, less and less. Not in the mood.


The second story. Viktor Litvinenko. “Vitya-Artist”

Age 38.

Education: Odessa Art College. Grekova, specialty "painting".

Title: resident, green card.

Citizenship: Ukraine.

Family in the USA: is.

Children: have stayed in Ukraine.

Alcohol: in the past; rehabs, detoxes, just 8-9 times.

Drugs: in the past.

English: advance.

On the street: 4 year.

Photo by Nata Potemkin

Photo: Nata Potemkin

Arrived on the groom's visa, got married, got a green card. “Freeze”, lost the green card. On the question of why he did not immediately restore it, he answers briefly and clearly: “Because I am a moron.” The green card was most likely stolen from a backpack along with other ID and library cards.

He fell out with his mother-in-law, left home. He built a church in Maryland, wrote icons, carpentry. He returned to New York, got on a detox, then lived in the church with his brother Vadim (the same one), taught Sunday art school. He played the guitar on the street Russian rock and Vysotsky. He worked at a construction site.

“I'm a great putty. By the way, at Demi Moore putty at home, in Down Town Manhattan. The boss would not put anyone to put on Demi Moore, only the class worker. ”

Throughout the American biography of Vitin, the word "episodic" runs like a red thread. Occasionally - he drank, then worked. Then I took up my mind, then I relaxed again. When trying to describe step by step how he falls into the category of homeless, he names first the hostel, then the church, then the street. Well, and rehab, of course.

“There was a period I painted portraits on Union Square... I did it well, but slowly. And I wanted to earn more. So I injected cocaine and methamphetamine to work faster. And quickly got hooked. And then he quit drugs with the help of alcohol. All the money that I earned by painting quickly began to fly away only for cocaine. I also had a friend David, also an artist. He told me that every summer there are amateur artist exhibitions in Manhattan, and he decided to help me show my work there. But here, in America, I have one graphic, a pencil. And I would like to exhibit painting. And in these 6 years I have painted only 3 works - and I have already sold them. Why so few? I don't know myself. It happened.

"I sold this sailboat to Tete Sveta, who worked in the canteen of the church where I lived."

“I sold this sailboat to Tete Sveta, who worked in the canteen of the church where I lived.”

“You know, there are very sick people here. He called 911 himself, took them to the hospital to survive. We sat hugging each other, I remember, two, one died right on the street, the other was not taken to the "Stables" (This is what they call Сoney island hospital - approx. auth.). Sometimes it happens - they beat our people, even poison them, add something. Yes, and personally I had to simulate a fall, a dislocation there, or a fracture, just to be taken to the hospital for a while, so that there was a reason for it to look like emergency happening. And there are, on the contrary, lucky ones - but this has little effect on their fate.

Photo Mar 26, 23 13 22


Once a couple of ours found a purse on the street with $ 30 in it. They could live on this money for a year! You could have invested them to make a profit! But after a month they didn't have a penny. And all this month they continued to live on the street. Such a psychology. Either after your detox you ask your friends to take you to another state and not show you the Russians, then again ... We even had one millionaire here. Family, by the way. The jeweler made very good money. Wife, children eat on boards ("boards" - slang, meaning the very fact of living on the embankment - author) brought when he drank and found himself on the street. And then again - jeweler, money. So he lived. "

The third story. Konstantin (Kevin) Musienko. “Kostik-Poet”

Age 39.

Education: in the USA and Belarus - Microsoft certified computer engineer (A +); Minsk Polytechnic College.

Title: a US citizen; citizen of Belarus.

Family in the USA: is.

Children: no.

Alcohol: Yes.

Drugs: in the very distant past.

English: fluent.

On the street: 9 months.

Photo by Nata Potemkin

Photo by Nata Potemkin

“It all started with Sandy. Before Sandy, I worked normally in the office as a geek. I know my work perfectly, I love it, I understand it in programming. When I worked in the office, I wrote poems in my spare time, at the time Sandy had a lot of 400 poems. Rented an apartment in basement, that's why I lost everything. Do you have any idea what Sandy looks like? EVERYTHING sinks. Rivers of water. I lost literally everything, everything that was. All manuscripts. All items. It was ... Wrong. My only thought, feeling, when I saw it all - “it was wrong". And in the 3 month, my father passed away in the hospice. At first, I somehow moved, found money for a funeral, buried. He and my stepmother had an apartment, the stepmother took the apartment right away, I did not want to fight with her. My mother and brother live in New Jersey, actually, but we are not friends. Since 2008, I have not been in touch with them. And I did not turn to them for help even once. We are all united by the fact that we do not like to ask for help. ”

Immediately after the flood, Kostya lived with friends, there was no way to rent an apartment. Renting an apartment in New York is a monthly rent plus a deposit, that is, double (or triple) the amount of the monthly rent. Not always that kind of money can be found right away. After the funeral of his father, he fell into depression, apathy, unwillingness to live. Was fired from office. For some time he worked as a dispatcher in cargo transportation.

Then, in a street car accident, I broke my hip, stayed in the hospital, got out ... And since then somehow I have no business at all.

“You always get out of the hostel, it's the law. Neither money, nor English, nor citizenship, nor relatives here decide anything.

The logic is that renting an apartment requires a large sum, a one-time payment, and the hostel is paid daily. There is a gold piece - there is an overnight stay And this is the first step towards the street. Then - the last floors of the buildings, sleeping under the roof, you don't know where to hide. And on the street - attention! - you are respected! And if you are a normal person and are ready to help yourself, then they will help you. And from this you immediately enter into a rage: how beautiful, they help me, they appreciate me! No one will offend you. Pour. They will tell you where to sleep. Getting vodka on the boardwalk is a mere trifle, you just need to walk on it. Actually, that's how it happens. "

Kostya did not live in the church because he was an atheist. Practicing a clear separation of people into “street” people (who will help, give a dollar, etc.) and “just” people (from whom you can expect everything). By his own admission, the street perfectly teaches to understand people not only to know who to ask for money from or to shoot cigarettes, but also to figure out the “rat”.

“In contrast to the fact that in society you need to somehow prove your worth, have money, be someone - on the boardwalk you are accepted and loved by default. That's why we're here. "

By the way, he wants to work. In the profession that he has. When he temporarily finds himself in a place where you can wash, he gradually sends out a resume, because at any moment they can call for an interview, and going there smelly is ugly.

Who helps them

There are three sources of help for the homeless in New York.

  1. State - Shelter

This is both convenient and not. It's inconvenient because you can't bring anything edible there, not even a bag of juice, and to live there you need to follow a strict schedule - come before 9 pm, celebrate, “walk in formation” - and street people don't like this.

At first, our heroes seem to say quite categorically that there is little help from the state, but then they still remember that welfer, food stamps and medicaid can give something. (“$ 120 every 2 of the week and $ 194 per month for a non-hot meal, and there is almost no place to cook, ”our hero comments. Kostya).

  1. The church in general, the Baptist church and the synagogue in particular

Special points are supervised by the church, of which our heroes know no less than 4's only in the Brighton area. At these points you can eat, drink hot coffee, take dry clothes, get your hands on food or ready-made food. Each of these items works on 2 every day, but the charts are different for everyone, and they fit together so that people can eat and change clothes every day. For example, on Ocean pkwy You can eat and change clothes on Tuesdays and Fridays, and in the Georgian Orthodox Church at the corner Mcdonald & Stillwell pea soup is served on Mondays, and kharcho is served on Thursdays.

  1. Manhattan 34 strshopping center corner Macy's

Every Friday and Saturday at midnight, Baptist volunteers bring and distribute pizza and other food, personal hygiene products, underwear, socks, clothes, deodorants, household chemicals to everyone, take everyone's word and do not ask questions. If you say that you need to take things or food for several friends, they give you as much as you ask.

What do they offer based on their own assessments of the situation

“We have a couple of three proposals for solving the problem of the functioning homeless,” says Kostya. - The first step is to determine the level of both the person and his desire to return to normal life. Now they seem to be doing it, but! According to some incomprehensible tables, and then, only in order to decide whether to provide a person with free housing or not (about $ 120 2-room apartment for a single mother with children - ed.). Once my friend, who works as a psychologist on homelessness, told me: “We can allocate an apartment (there are many of them under the program“ affordable housing ”) but multiply choice the test, if I remember correctly, is 10 or 12 pages long, and is calculated on the assumption that the person has already been on the street for at least 3 years, which, I think, is unacceptable.

Then you need to take a person out of addiction, for example, Detox rehab and so on. But modern methods in New York are very scarce, and most of them fall back on addiction. I've heard a lot of stories like “Do you know where I immediately went after the rehab? For liquor and for cigarettes! ”. All this, by the way, was pronounced with excessive pride. It’s like “look how great I am! I defeated their brainwashing system! I didn’t give up! ”. Here in New York, they don't just try to make you want to “not drink”, they just brainwash you in the same way. How this can be done, I can suggest, but this is almost a whole dissertation. And only after withdrawing a person from dependence to provide him with housing.

It is also very important in the process of withdrawing from dependence wean from psychological habits: pick up bulls, drink on the street, express street slang (both in Russian and in English), and the like. To do this, a person needs to create such conditions that he himself would like to quit these habits, and I think that this is not easy, but possible. ”

In fact

New York City Police

He has the right to arrest the homeless, but in practice it rarely does. Shy away.


The so-called “friendly deportation” is when comrades give a homeless person a ticket to his homeland if he wants to leave himself.


It is assumed that all legislation, which outwardly “against” the homeless, were created not for the physical destruction of such, but for the homeless to go to shelters.

In California, it is forbidden to sleep in trailers and mini-vans, in the same place they block water in fountains so that homeless people do not wash in them, all the benches are removed from the parks of Sarasota (Florida), each state has its own oddities.

However, there are Servicedesigned to correct both legal and mental inconsistencies in relation to the homeless.

Exist organization with national state status, designed to solve the problems of the homeless, and also to take care of health care homeless.

In the state of New York, you can read the legislation, or you can drive around the city and see what is happening: begging in the subway, both in carriages and at stations, is not suppressed, overnight places are not subject to police regulation (although, at the request of the owner of the territory, it is theoretically possible to drive can). According to the results of the observation of eyewitnesses, nobody touches the homeless in New York - neither in a good nor in a bad sense.

See also:

Why, after 25 years, the Russian woman returned from San Francisco to Saratov

How to become a millionaire: the story of a homeless man from San Francisco

California Governor asked to declare a state of emergency because of the homeless

In Los Angeles, a homeless person built a “heavenly home” on the side of the road and rents rooms. Video


homeless new york Our people our people homeless
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