I've been keeping a mental map for the past year or so, all the homeless girls in the neighborhood. Not the homeless adults, though I see the regulars -- the guy who sits on the sprinkler jutting out from the building off 15th, the person shrouded in a mound of blankets living off 17th just east of Fifth. The girls. The girl with the ratty dreads and the big blond dog; she had a boyfriend, and they'd split up during the day. He'd be off on one block, and she'd be two blocks away with the dog. I think they did better without him around, god knows the demographic I give the least of my pocket change to is the "muscular twentysomething dude with tattoos on his neck" category.
But it seems like a lot of the girls aren't around. They took down the scaffolding by Petco, and the strawberry blonde isn't there anymore. The lazy-eyed girl on Broadway, the one who had brain surgery, she showed me the scars -- not around. I walked Fifth Avenue from 14th to 23rd three times this week, and not a single person panhandling, except for the guy outside the ATM on 23rd.
Where are the girls?
Stopped by the shelter the other day, hoping to meet the new head of the unit, since Nadine left a few weeks ago. The new head wasn't around, but I chatted with two of the counselors, peering over their heads at the whiteboard with the current roster of residents. Looked like 25 girls, at most, down from an average of 40 or 50 over the last six months.
"The census is down," I observed.
"Certain times of year," they agreed. Right around Halloween, it gets busy, and by Thanksgiving, it's crazy. A dip around Christmas. The warm weather comes, and people disappear.
But why? The female counselor shrugs, unfazed. "Just the cycle." But why? "Warm weather." Is this self-explanatory? I want to understand this cycle. I want to see the female counselor's map: "Migratory Systems of Homeless and Displaced Youth, A Seasonal Comparison."
I'm thinking, while I'm trying to write this second book, that I might go back to school, or try to educate myself somehow about this hobby of mine, the care and feeding of said youth. I have the desire to do something more than put thirty-five cents in a cup. These days, it seems, I can't even find the cup.