I try to do the right thing, but sometimes it’s hard to know what that is.
I was working on a show last year that was near Penn Station, and every day on my way to the theater I would see a white woman with two kids under the age of 3 begging for money. What caught my attention was she was really mean to passersby who did not give her money. Calling people names and screaming at them. The kids were in a double stroller, often crying.
This would happen daily around 6:30pm, and they would still be there when I walked back to Penn Station a few times as late as 2:00am. The situation was hard to gauge because they were all dressed in clean clothes, and the kids were in expensive strollers. Were they really homeless? Was it a scam? Why did she cuss out everyone who wouldn’t give her money?
After about a month of this, I walked by in the pouring rain. The kids were in their strollers soaking wet and screaming bloody murder.
Then when I left the theater at 11:00pm they were still out there in the rain, soaked to the bone. Call me crazy, but I felt like I needed to do something. I didn’t want the kids taken away from their family, but the conditions they dealt with on the street concerned me.
I decided to call the NYC Administration for Child Services, and they told me that unless I knew their address that nothing could be done. I asked if what was happening would be considered child abuse, and the woman replied, “Absolutely.”
The woman told me that all I could do was tell a police officer and they could help them find a shelter. So the next day when the kids were out there in the cold, I stopped the nearest cop and asked him to assist.
He said, “Yeah they are there all the time. I am pretty sure they live in Jersey. I can help them get to a shelter, but that is all I can do.”
I said thanks, and walked away as he headed towards the woman.
I am still not sure if I was sticking my nose where it didn’t belong, but I am glad I looked into it.
Over the past year I have been by their old post a few times, and I haven’t seen them. Hopefully things have gotten better for them one way or another.