Thursday, February 6, 2014


(Name Changed to Protect Privacy)

It was snowing again. So I hit the streets to pass out socks. 

While walking around I was perpetually flanked by windows displaying a plethora of Valentine's Day decorations way too soon.

As the evening rush hour started to crowd the streets I spotted Felix tucked under a tarp trying to stay warm.

This is his story.

Felix has been on the streets for about two years. When I asked him why he was homeless he responded, “It’s a long story but basically I am here sitting in the cold because of a broken heart. I’ll give you the short version”.

His longtime companion was complaining of chest pains one evening. He figured it was just due to aging so he didn’t think much of it. When he woke up the next morning his partner was on the bedroom floor dead from a heart attack.

Felix lost his soul mate and the love of his life. His heart was shattered by the event as expected.

For several months Felix was so distraught that he couldn’t gather up the energy to go to work, eat, or get out of bed. Eventually he lost the apartment they had shared for two decades, his job and as Felix said “I just gave up”.

Felix is a handsome man with soulful eyes and a bright smile. As I was listening to his story it was palpable that he still carries the weight of sadness from losing the love of his life. Recovery will be a lifetime journey.

I cannot add much to this story. Heartbreak is universal and knows no bounds.

I think it is pretty safe to say that most people have experienced some sort of heartbreak during their life. Some people are luckier than others that they have what it takes to work through the depression others struggle every day and sometimes lose the battle.

While you shop for gifts this Valentine’s Day try to remember Felix. Hold your loved ones tight for we only have today and we never know what tomorrow may bring.

If you want to assist by donating funds see the link below. Every bit counts. It's even better if you commit to a monthly donation. Give up one coffee a week. If you and every person you know were to make a monthly $5.00 donation (you can cancel at anytime) just imagine the impact we could make together!

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Sunday, February 2, 2014


After doing this for the past fourteen years I have trained my eyes to pick up on visual cues as I scan the streets looking for people to give socks to. This came in handy once again when I met Max for the second time.

My eyes focused in on a pushcart filled with cans and bottles. It was about fifteen feet from where Max was bent into a garbage bin looking for cans to recycle. I approached him and said, “Excuse me Sir. I am handing out warm socks for free tonight to anyone that may need them.” He popped his head out of the garbage and exclaimed, “Hey! You are the sock lady! I always need socks!”  I immediately recognized him from the week before.

As I handed them to him he said the following. “Someone said they saw me on TV the other day on the news. I don’t have access to a TV so I haven’t seen myself. Don’t forget to tell people that I am not a charity case.”

It hit the center of my heart with an inexplicable pain when Max said this.

I explained to Max that if he had seen the live interview on NY1 he would have heard the part where I tell the host John Schiumo that the last thing I want is for people to feel like they are a charity case. Plus the interview helped to get more exposure for the project. Which in turn meant that people that wanted to help out a fellow citizen paid for the socks I just handed him.

After listening carefully to my explanation. He smiled at me and said, “That’s good because someday I am going to be a Fortune 500 CEO. Just wait and see!”

My smile widened and my heart was restored. I told him that he would make a great CEO because he knows what it is like to be without. He obviously isn’t afraid of a hard day of work  from gathering cans in such cold weather. And, he could be an inspiration to others that dream of rising up out of poverty. The world would be a better place if we had more empathetic CEO’s.

He said, “You got it girl!” Then he gave me an elbow bump because his hands were full of cans.

I hope I walk by a newsstand someday and see him on the cover of every major publication.

If you want to assist by donating funds see the link below. Every bit counts. It's even better if you commit to a monthly donation. Give up one coffee a week. If you and every person you know were to make a monthly $5.00 donation (you can cancel at anytime) just imagine the impact we could make together!

Please share and follow me on Twitter: @saijebashaw

The more people that follow me on Twitter and share this blog it is more likely that potential Patrons and Sponsors will notice me.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


(Name changed to protect privacy)

I almost walked past Caroline she looked like most elderly women in the city. She was wearing a winter coat that made her look larger than she actually was a floppy hat and a colorful scarf. 

The closer I got to her I  noticed that the coat she was wearing was a little tattered. Her shoes were not the kind of shoes someone normally wears on a cold winter day, and she had two shopping carts behind her filled with various things. Next to the cart was a large suitcase that looked like it had been in the rain for quite awhile.

I approached her and offered her some socks. She smiled at me and said “You are the person that left socks in my cart the other day! I tried to run after you because I thought you may be stealing something but I am too old to run. Then I noticed the socks. That was so kind of you, thank you”. She pulled her hands out of her pocket and said, “See I am using the other pair for my hands they get so cold in this weather and I have really bad arthritis. Look at them they are blue right now even with these gloves on”.

Caroline slowly pulled one of the socks off to expose an arthritis riddled hand that was shaped like a claw because she could not straighten her fingers out completely no matter how hard she tried. When I saw this I said, “I wish I had an extra pair of gloves with me right now I would give them to you” Caroline replied, “Oh sweetheart; Thank you but I cannot wear gloves I am unable to straighten my hands out enough to get them in there. But if you have any extra mittens at home I would sure be grateful. I have tried to find some but I haven’t had any luck”. I replied, “I’ll see what I can do”.

I asked her how long she had been on the streets and where she sleeps at night.

This is her story:

She had lived in the neighborhood for almost twenty years.

Caroline's rent had been going up increasingly year after year until it reached the point that she could not pay it anymore. Like most seniors she had a fixed income and was barely able to cover her personal expenses. She spent many years teaching and had worked hard her entire life. She never married and didn’t have any children.

She tried to negotiate with her landlord but he wouldn’t budge. He knew that once she was out he could raise the rent to match the going market rate, which would be well beyond her means. She gave him all of the money she had but it was still not enough to carry her into the next month as she had depleted her savings trying to survive.

She was able to stay in the apartment for a while longer as it is difficult for landlords to usually evict someone right away. Every month she gave him what she could afford but again not enough. He gave her an eviction notice. She still tried to stay even though he was becoming increasingly aggressive. 

Caroline came home one day and all of her personal belonging were scattered in the hallway. Her door was locked and she found her other elderly neighbor crying outside the entrance to her apartment. Her neighbor said, “I tried to stop him because I knew you were not home but I couldn’t. Now I am afraid he will do this to me someday!”

Caroline had no place to go most of her friends were elderly too and lived in small apartments and much like her were struggling to get by on their social security checks.

Her neighbors helped her to organize her things and she found a couple of carts to put everything in. With her hands the way that they are she couldn’t push them very far alone and when she did she would have to push one cart to whatever location she had found that she deemed safe enough then go back and get the other one.

Caroline had now been on the streets for seven months. When she lost her home the weather was warmer but now that winter was starting she was worried. Caroline was trying to sue the landlord but again without much money, living on the streets with no cell phone or a permanent address it made it hard for her to get representation and follow through with documents etc.,.

Caroline had always been an avid reader so she gathered books that she found and tried to sell them and educate people along the way about what they were reading because even though she was no longer a teacher. Teaching was in her DNA and her passion.

People in the neighborhood helped her out as best as they could because that is what good neighbors do. If they were a shop owner they knew her face from being a customer for so many years.

The market down the street would give her a hot coffee every morning. The church on the corner let her use their bathroom when they were open. The girl that worked at the café on the corner would bring her any pastries that they didn’t sell that day.

Caroline was charming and sweet so it is no wonder people wanted to help her out. That is the thing about New Yorkers most are tough on the outside but when push comes to shove if they know you they’ve got your back.

Caroline would stand outside of a pub and wait for it to close around 3:00 a.m. she said even though there were a lot of drunks coming and going she felt safer there because there was a lot of foot traffic and it was well lit. She didn’t stay in shelters because she felt like they were too dangerous for a person her age plus she would have no place to put her two carts that were filled with her life treasures.

The snow was starting to come down again and it was getting late. I had to get home. I told her I would look for her the next day if I found some mittens.

As I walked away I wondered if she would make it through the night. I was wearing my Patagonia fleece (this isn’t an official product endorsement. It is true I was wearing Patagonia. They make great products. Hopefully they will read this and give me some socks!), a pair of thermals and wool socks with a heavy coat and yet I was still cold.

When I got home I posted the story on my Facebook page (Hey, Facebook care to help out?) and asked if any of my knitter friends could quickly make her a pair of mittens.

Within minutes I received a call from my friend Meghan’s husband Jeff he said she was making a pair of mittens but they would be made out of felt. She wanted me to know that felt is really warm. And, that she would make sure that they were as good as a knitted pair of gloves.

The next morning I arranged to meet Jeff when he dropped his daughter off at school. Meghan had made a beautiful pair of mittens. She kept in mind that Caroline’s hands were gnarled and it was hard to tug mittens on. She also made sure they had two layers so that when she needed to use her hands the bottom layer was warm but thin enough to allow her to maneuver. And, they were a nice shade of red.

After leaving Jeff I went in search of Caroline she was where I had found her the night before but she looked much more tired and a bit discouraged. No doubt from a night of shivering in the cold.

When I handed her the gloves she had a smile on her face that beamed brighter than the lights in Times Square. She exclaimed, “They are perfect! And, they are a nice color just in time for Christmas, I love them!”

I told her that I will keep an eye out for her and whenever I am passing out socks she could count on a fresh pair from me. Then we parted ways. I haven’t seen her since and worry that she didn’t make it through another night but am also hopeful that she found a permanent place to live.

As you finish reading this remember the power of social networking and share this story. Remember that we will all age someday. What is your plan for when you are too old to work? Remember to look more closely at the people that you pass on the streets that do not have a home. 

Everyone has a story.

Remember that I cannot continue to do this by only using my own funds. I need others to support this fourteen year project of compassion.

And, lastly hug your Grandma next time you see her and remember Caroline’s story. May she never have to face the same circumstances.

I’ll never forget each word Caroline said and hope that if I do see her again she will tell me that she is safe, warm and happy.

UPDATE: 2/24/14:

While running some errands in my neighborhood today I decided to take a different route home. I saw Caroline walking toward me and recognized her right away. 

I wish I had good news to report about her situation but unfortunately she is still living on the streets. Someone recently stole both of her shopping carts that were filled with all of her possessions. Which included her ID and the mittens that my friend made for her. She was on her way to see the Rabbi in our neighborhood to see if he could help her find a place to stay for awhile as snow is expected again this week. She has been dealing with the bureaucracy that comes along with not having a way to prove your identity without having the proper paperwork along with everything else that faces just to survive. 

The amazing thing about Caroline is that despite her circumstances she still maintains a positive attitude and is a pleasure to talk to. Conversation comes easily with such a wise, charming and intelligent woman. 

We spoke on the street for awhile. Next time I see her I hope I can somehow help her beyond just socks. I gave her a few pairs today. She will use one pair for mittens for her arthritic hands. With some luck my friend will make another set of mittens for her. And I will be able to find Caroline again.

Near the end of our conversation as I was bidding her farewell I told her to stay strong and that she will be on my mind as I send her thoughts of safety and good health. She said: "I come from a strong family. My father survived the Holocaust." As I walked away I thought about how fortunate I am to be alive and safe from such perils and what the future holds for Caroline and everyone that has crossed my path along the way in this life.

Caroline is a reminder to all of us that we must help each other when we have the opportunity to do so.
If you want to assist by donating funds see the link below. Every bit counts. It's even better if you commit to a monthly donation. Give up one coffee a week. If you and every person you know were to make a monthly $5.00 donation (you can cancel at anytime) just imagine the impact we could make together!

Please share and follow me on Twitter: @saijebashaw

The more people that follow me on Twitter and share this blog it is more likely that potential Patrons and Sponsors will notice me.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


(Name Changed to Protect Privacy)

The temperature outside was 25 degrees.

Grace was huddled on the sidewalk with her beautiful well cared for dog.

She had her dog wrapped up in a blanket and snuggled up against her. As I handed Grace a pair of socks I noticed that her hands were bare and they were turning blue so I offered her extras to use to cover her hands. She said, "Are you sure? I don't want to take any out of the hands of others that can use them." (I hear this statement often and I am ALWAYS amazed). I replied "Don't worry some very kind people have been helping me with funds so I can continue to hand out socks." She thanked me several times.

Then I asked her where she was going to go tonight? It is something I have been curious about more and more lately. Where do women go when the shelters are full?

This is her story. 

She is a recovering addict and has been sober for two years. Her eyes were clear, she was articulate and she was very proud of continuing in her sobriety despite the uncertainty she faces each day. When she is healthy she tries to do outreach and help others to become sober.

She is currently in a temporary shelter but she doesn't know how long she will be able to stay there as it is always a fluid thing with so many over packed shelters in NYC. She panhandles for money so she can get extra food, toiletries and pay for more minutes on her phone. She looks for work too but as you can imagine living on the streets makes it even harder to find work when you don't have interview clothes and a place to shower each day.

Five men raped Grace while on the Lower East Side one night two years ago. Grace is recovering from Cancer. And, she has sores and blood clots on her legs from being out in the cold for extended periods of time. A few weeks ago she had suffered so badly from hypothermia that the Fire Dept. came and rescued her off of the streets. Her temperature had reached 105. She refused to leave her dog behind. As her dog is not only her best friend but also provides protection so having her dog by her side at all times is vital. They promised that her dog would be safe. She was passing in and out of conscientiousness and was worried that they would not keep their promise. They found a temporary shelter for her dog (nice work NYFD).

When Grace woke up in the hospital the next day her dog was by her side in her bed. Her eyes were tearing up a little as she was telling me her story. I could tell that she was holding them back. I was too.

I told her about Nikki the Doctor that I am partnering with that does outreach to the homeless and provides care along with her team to those in need on the streets. Grace said she has a phone service that she shares with a few other people and that she adds minutes to it when there are enough funds to do so on a family plan. A phone is an important thing to have but not easy to keep when one doesn't have money to cover the cost. Plus the worry that someone may steal it. Think about how you panic when you leave your phone at home. Now imagine being on the street without one.

She gave me her number. I immediately called Nikki and told her Grace's story. Nikki of course said: "We will absolutely take care of her. Call her back and let her know of the two locations that she can go to for our services." I called Grace. She was so happy and grateful to get the call. With some luck Grace will be feeling better after they see her. Unfortunately she will also have to return to the streets to face another day of just trying to get by.

If you want to assist by donating funds see the link below. Every bit counts. It's even better if you commit to a monthly donation. Give up one coffee a week. If you and every person you know were to make a monthly $5.00 donation (you can cancel at anytime) just imagine the impact we could make together!

Please share and follow me on Twitter: @saijebashaw

The more people that follow me on Twitter and share this blog it is more likely that potential Patrons and Sponsors will notice me.