Remembering a Homeless Hero

In both life and death, far to many people walked past Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax.

But he’ll be remembered for heroically giving his life in an attempt to protect a woman from an attack in the Jamaica section of Queens.

The New York Times and other local news organizations reported how, as a police surveillance video shows, Tale-Yax was stabbed while apparently attempting to help a woman who was being attacked by an unidentified man who later fled the scene. Even the New York Post, which posted the video on its website here, described him as “a heroic homeless man” — and this from a newspaper that, in both its news and opinion pages, routinely and willfully uses the slurs “bums” and “vagrants” to refer to homeless people.

(For instance, here and here and here and here and…well, you get the idea.)

Tale-Yax, who was born in Guatemala, was one of New York City’s growing number of homeless day laborers (we’ve written about their plight here and here), largely Central American and Mexican immigrants who’ve been hit hard by the sharp downturn in the local construction industry.

To add to the tragic circumstances of Tale-Yax’s death, the surveillance video shows that after he was stabbed, he lay on a sidewalk for more than an hour before anyone called the police — and more than 20 people walked past him without stopping to offer help.

In the three decades since modern homelessness began, New Yorkers have grown far too accustomed to walking past men and women prone on the streets.  Last week one of those people was Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, who died heroically.

And like all of the other homeless people on our streets, he should be remembered.