Parking lot living
The calculus of homelessness downtown
by Jan Schlain
"This is a nice area compared to Detroit," says John Andrew Gonzales, Jr., sitting on his crumpled sleeping bag in the parking lot of 200 South Ashley, a few blocks from the Delonis Center homeless shelter. He's plainly visible to early morning patrons at Sweetwaters, but, Gonzales says, "No one bothers me."
Gonzales, fifty, says he lived in his car until the engine blew while driving across Kansas two years ago. He lost most of his possessions while living on the streets of Manhattan--though he managed to hold onto one necklace with an image of Joseph, from the Book of Genesis, that was given him by his late father, and another of St. Francis of Assisi that was a gift from his ex-wife. Gonzales has lost touch with relatives, including two sons. He's living on the street because the homeless shelter has a three-month limit on stays. "If I go to the shelter," he says, "I will go in the wintertime."
[Originally published in September, 2009.]