I saw Eddie panhandling in traffic on Houston Street and 2nd Avenue. Edie is a 57-year-old homeless man with one leg. He weaves in and out of traffic in his wheelchair, collecting change in a paper coffee cup.
Are you from around here?
How long have you been panhandling here?
I'm not panhandling, I'm taking donations. Ten years. Twelve years.
Where were you before this?
Seattle, Washington; Bridgeport, Connecticut.
You get around.
Yes, man, always been a traveler.
Some people say that people who beg are taking advantage and make lots of money.
I've never heard of it. I mean, I have one leg.
What happened to your other leg?
Someone pushed me off a subway platform.
Did you know them?
No. The paramedics took a special unit. Took two hours to get me from under the train. This happened in â97. I was in intensive care in Bellevue and Dr. Bruno was standing over me. He said, "I got to tell you something." I said, "I think I know what you're going to tell me. I got one leg." Doctor said, "We tried everything to reattach it." Oh, well, life goes on.
Did you know this doctor?
No. I saw him when I woke up. He was standing over me in intensive care and he was there when I woke up.
Were you homeless before this happened?
Yeah, sure. I was living in shelters, working in different agencies. Going out every day trying to find work.
What's the steadiest job you've had?
I worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for quite a long time. From '72 to â78 on the dry docks building ships. That's when Jimmy Carter was in office and there was that embargo. The US started building tankers. There were four massive tankers in the yard.
Odd jobs. This and that. I went into the job corps in the â60s. When they had the draft I wasn't in it, and I damn sure wasn't volunteering. They're spending all this money for the war. The government and the corporations manufacture all that shit. Without war nobody makes any money.
Where do you sleep at night?
I sleep right out here, around the corner under the scaffolding. When I'm over here I try to get enough money so I can get a room at night. If I don't, I sleep right out here.
Where's your family?
I don't have any. When I was small I never knew who my mother and father was.
Who raised you?
I was up in Saint Johns Home in the Peekskills. It was all right.
Do you keep in touch with any of the other kids you grew up with?
Who is your best friend?
My pocket, or the man upstairs.
What do you attribute your homelessness to?
I don't have a home!
Do you ever think of what's next for you?
One day at a time. I want to get housing where I don't have to be panhandling. I don't mess with shelters. They're dangerous. There's a bunch of cliques. It's a real awful situation.
How much money do you need to get a place to stay for the night?
Three dollars for the key deposit and $20 for the room.
Can you make that in a day?
Yeah, if people are willing to give. If you hear of anything, let me know, you know, that's wheelchair accessible.