M.A. Dennis

My Success Story

Success feels different after failure.

And there is no greater fail than losing your dignity and having your humanity marginalized. Overcoming that level of defeat, which is the agony of homelessness, requires a Herculean effort. It is no small feat to fight for your life; make no mistake about it, this is what it means to live in a homeless shelter.

I know a number of men (in the double-digits), who once lived on New York City’s lowest societal rung–the epicenter of homelessness known as Ward’s Island; they didn’t succeed in living to see themselves rise to the rank of “formerly homeless.”

Those last two words, so simple, so sweet. When I say them it sounds victorious; they mean success–in spite of unbelievable hardship–success that can be keenly sensed in the simplest things:

Success is opening the mailbox and seeing a utility bill bearing your name.

Success is putting out regular trash on Tuesdays and recyclables on Fridays.

Success is boiling water on YOUR stove, in a glass kettle that you paid $1 for at the Every Thing Goes thrift shop.

Success is buying TWENTY pints of Haagen-Dazs (because they’re on sale for $2 each and you have 20 “$1 OFF” coupons).

Success is having a freezer for all that ice cream!

Success is coming home–Wait, repeat that: Success is coming home–and instead of seeing (yet again) a body bag being tossed in the Medical Examiner’s van parked outside the Keener Men’s Shelter, I see a refrigerated truck in front of mi casa because leche and queso is being delivered to the Guatemalan corner store.

Success is when you have keys and walk in whenever you please–no more sign-in sheet.

Success is attending Coalition for the Homeless’ weekly Client Advisory Group meeting and introducing myself:

“Hi, I’m Dennis. Formerly homeless.”

M.A. Dennis is a writer and a formerly homeless member of the Coalition’s Client Advisory Group (CAG). This essay won the 2019 Care for the Homeless Summer Solstice Celebration “Story of Success” Essay Competition. His writing has appeared in the New York Daily News and is featured in CAG’s newsletter The Monitor.

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After years of decline, New York’s subway is showing signs of improvement, with the percentage of trains running on time creeping upward.

But at least one area is getting worse: disruptions involving homeless people.

Trains were delayed 659 times last year by homeless people walking on tracks, blocking train doors and engaging in other unruly behavior — a 54 percent increase from the 428 such delays in 2014, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the subway.

And the disruptions have continued to escalate this year, with 313 train delays in the first three months.

“It’s a real challenge, and a growing challenge, and that’s consistent with the broader challenge in the city,” said Andy Byford, the official who oversees the subway. “We’re just not equipped to deal with this on our own.”

New York Lawmakers Call on Trump to Rethink Plan to Change How Poverty is Defined and Calculated

ALBANY — New York lawmakers and advocacy groups are calling on President Trump to rethink his plan to redefine poverty.

Last month, the White House Office of Management and Budget proposed changes to how inflation and the consumer price index are calculated, which would alter how poverty rates are estimated.

Currently, 12.3% of Americans, roughly 40 million people, live below the poverty line. The recalculation could impact millions who rely on government assistance programs, Assemblyman Andy Hevesi (D-Queens) and others argue.

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