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While there are no immediate plans for such apps in New York City, Lauren Gray, senior communications adviser at the NYC Department of Homeless Services, says, “We are committed to generating new solutions to help homeless New Yorkers get back on their feet.” She pointed out services like the new computer lab at Kensington Family Shelter, which will help people search for jobs and housing.
A scroll through your Facebook feed might reveal that you have a friend like Adam Kaufman.
(He bought his i Phone outright and pays monthly for service, using a shelter’s address for his bill and piggybacking on free Wi-Fi when he can.) He makes money by selling the paintings on e Bay through a third-party seller.
The seller has the legitimacy of a physical address and a good track record, which Robert can’t prove for himself.
But, he admits, “The methadone I take to kick my dope habit kills my sex drive.” The fact that Robert is homeless doesn’t come up during these hookups — verification of a permanent address is not a typical topic of first-date chit-chat.
His dream is to sell his original artwork, but in reality, it’s the reproductions that pay the bills: monthly cellphone service, the occasional night at a hostel, gym membership and art supplies.
When that didn’t happen, he defected cross-country to Brooklyn, determined to make it as a full-time artist.
It’s the doldrums of an overnight Sunday shift at a Brooklyn men’s homeless shelter, after dinner but before the 10 p.m. On this particular night, the guys are chatty and cracking jokes, except for the youngest of the bunch, 30-year-old Robert, who is staring intently at his phone and swiping away. “I am.” He hands over the phone and sure enough, there’s his profile.
“Hey Robert,” a volunteer asks, “what’s with the swiping? His picture reveals the kind of bad boy that girls love and parents fear: Heavily tattooed, muscular arms fill out a well-worn T-shirt while a gray knit hat hides long, wavy tendrils of dirty blond hair.
According to the Coalition for the Homeless, the problem is at its highest level now since the Great Depression: In April 2016 there were 60,060 homeless people sleeping in New York City shelters each night.
But some displaced New Yorkers are able to avoid the system thanks to cellphone savvy.