New York, NY- Chyna is 22 years old, four months pregnant and has lived on the streets her entire adult life. “Do you feel safe in the shelters?” I asked. “No, that’s why we’re out here. I sleep with a knife under my pillow.” Because without it, she doesn’t feel secure. But there are moments that remind her there are people who care. “Does it surprise you sometimes how generous people can be?” I asked. “Yeah some people are really, really nice and some people are really judgmental.”
Chyna lost her mother to a heroin overdose when she was only six years old. But on the streets, she has found people who are like family, like Mickey Zezima. “Most New Yorkers walk by and it’s like seeing a street lamp to them, sadly, not you?” I said to Zezima. “No and it never has been,” he replied. Mickey is a writer and an activist, but these days spends his time helping homeless women get the basic necessities of life. “From my mom to partners, I’ve had amazing women in my life that have guided me and helped me,” he explained. “I feel like this is the most powerful individual act that I can do to challenge the whole male supremacy paradigm.”
He collects, packs and donates bags with foods and minor essentials. All of the donations by word of mouth, his GoFundMe and Patreon pages. “Food goes across the board and feminine hygiene products,” he described of his donations. “There are certain products you want to make sure you supply 24/7.” He is very careful to make sure the women feel comfortable and know he is there to help. “I made a very safe assumption that any woman was going to be wary of a strange man coming up to her,” Zezima said. “Once I go back a couple times I think it offers some credibility that I have no ulterior motives then it becomes fantastic to cross that barrier.”
A barrier that allows him to help with more specific needs; help the people he wants New Yorkers to see and not just walk by. “I’d like people who are hearing these words to perhaps challenge their perceptions of homeless people,” he said. “I’ve let a handful of women so far know they’re not forgotten and that things can get better.” Chyna is one of several women Mickey visits weekly. “Every time he sees me he’s like is there anything you need and it’s really nice to have somebody who cares to go an extra mile to help,” she said. He does his best to fulfill requests. “Socks are really a lot more important than you’d think, socks are great,” Chyna smiled.
Chyna is just months away from being a mom, and while she doesn’t have a home right now, she still has hope. “What is it that you want to do?” Ia sked her. “We’re supposed to get housing very soon, and [we want to] get our life together.”
Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi