- Posted April 17, 2014 by
Manhattan, New York
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Student voices in journalism
Prayers of Water Vapor, Hands of Ice
The evening was frigid as snow began to accumulate on the sidewalk that a 42-year-old homeless man calls “home” on East 22nd street in Kips Bay. Jimmy DiTulio, an ex-convict of a double murder planted his feet on the ground and covered his blankets, pillows, books and few articles of clothing with a large plastic tarp to protect his belongings from the winter cold.
“Hi, I’m Jimmy,” he said as he extended his frozen hand for a handshake. “I’m no bum either; I’m just homeless.” He shivered as he made his hands into balls and stuffed them into the pockets of his thin black jacket.
Considering the crippling temperatures that fluctuated in the low teens, DiTulio, like the other estimated 60,000 homeless people in NewYork City was eligible to take advantage of a new city policy ordered by Mayor Bill DeBlasio. Called “Code Blue,” which offers free shelter, a shower and food at all drop-in shelters when the temperature falls below 35 degrees. But not everyone can be accommodated.
“When the weather is this bad, the line for shelter and food is much longer than any other day,” said the director of public relations at the Madison Avenue Bowery Mission Transitional Center, a 24-hour homeless shelter, who declined to share her name. “We wish to take in everyone, but we can’t risk filling over the capacity. We also respect Blasio’s new policy, but when there is no room, we can only hand out food and recommend them to another shelter.”
DiTulio is among the many people who join the long lines, but is also among those who give up on shelters altogether.
“Those lines are crazy, believe me,” he said with a nod. “I got tired of waiting on them and I’m sure other people did too. The Gustavus Lutheran Church lets me shower and feed me when they are opened. I just depend on them and the people who walk past me and give me real food to eat.
Although no one at the 22nd Street church was available to comment, its website’s vision statement says that the church is “dedicated to growing the personal faith of its members, strengthening the support and connection between its members and becoming a religious resource in its urban neighborhood surroundings.
DiTulio says that the church’s love and his prayers are what get him through the crisis he is enduring. He prays every day and continues to hope that God will permit him to transcend adversity.
“I am hoping for a blessing,” he said. “God will bless me.”
One passerby, 47-year-old Mark Arnau described seeing DiTulio pray one night, clutching his bible.
“He’s a prayer warrior,” Arnau said. “I hand him food whenever I have some to spare. I am a believer myself, and God saves. Believers should know that we must go through something to get something. He has, I have and everyone else will.”