A day in the life of homeless vet and his family living in NYC shelter

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NEW YORK (PIX11) -- Six-year-old Tristan Guevera begins his day on the floor of the single room he shares with his parents at a New York City homeless shelter, eating a bowl of cereal with milk bought about an hour earlier.

“There’s times that people don’t think that men don’t cry and stuff. This place will actually make you feel that way,” says Wilbert Rosaldo.

This is not the ideal setting in which to raise a family.

But the fact of the matter is, Tristian, his mother Norma, and his stepfather Wilbert, who is an unemployed Army veteran, currently don’t have any other options.

“And it gets to the point that you think about letting go, of so many stuff -- but you don’t want to. There’s a lot of people with problems in here. You get into arguments,” said Wilbert.

There are almost 25,000 other families who, on any given night, have no other choice but to sleep in a New York City homeless shelter.

Norma says this is not the life she wants for her family.

“You have to wait at least a year before they call you. It’s like, I don’t want to be here a year,” said Norma.

One of Norma’s worries is security.

It’s tight at their Powers Avenue facility in the South Bronx.

But there are horror stories that keep her up at night, including the October deaths, just a two weeks after our interview, of a 3-yea-old girl in Brooklyn, and a 4-year-old girl in Queens.

Both children were beaten to death in temporary housing shelters sub-contracted by the city.

But this story is not one aimed at uncovering a salacious scandal or deep-rooted controversy.

We wanted to spend time with Wilbert and his family, including a recent school day morning, for insight, and for a fresh perspective on the challenges that keep so many families, often for so many years, on the dark side of the American dream.

When discussing how being homeless and living in a shelter complicate the morning commute, Tristian uttered, “It complicates it in the way that, you don’t know when you wake up what’s going to happen.”

During our 10 stop ride on the No. 6 train, still on the way to Tristian’s school, he shared the gnawing sense of uncertainty that now sadly defines his outlook on life.

When asked why it’s tough living in a shelter, young Tristian replied, “Because it’s hard to get out, and go to a different place. It’s hard to sleep. I keep on staying up.”

Partnership for the Homeless CEO Arnold Cohen says the number of children in Tristian’s situation just keeps going up.

“There are thousands and thousands more in this city, who are just teetering on the edge of homelessness. We need to find a way to really deal with affordability here. That’s critical.”

As we hopped off the train, and began our second walk toward a 5 stop ride on a BX-39 bus on our way to school, we passed a homeless couple on a park bench, sleeping under rain soaked sleeping bags.

“Every morning they’re there. Every morning. It’s really hard to think about. We could actually end up being the same way,” said Wilbert.

It’s sights like this Wilbert says, that force him to make the nearly hour long school commute every single day, all so Tristian can continue enjoying his friends and teachers.

Simply put, they offer a much needed dose of stability in an otherwise chaotic life, constantly on the move from shelter to shelter with permanent housing seemingly always just out of their reach.

“Gotta do it. If you don’t do it ... I don’t’ think you a parent if you give up on your kids. I won’t,” said Wilbert.

1 Comment

  • Dawn S

    Why on earth can’t they be given a rent subsidy to stay in their prior residence or find a new apartment closer to this child’s school? I am sure the city is paying well over $3,000 a month to house them in the crappy one room shelter. A rent subsidy would be more humane and more cost effective yo nyc taxpayers. Oh wait, I forgot, shelters are big business here in NYC.

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