Niagara Gazette — I had just parked my car in front of the Gazette offices on Niagara Street last week Thursday when a man approached me and stood by my door.
I rolled my window down and he told me he needed help. I sighed.
This has happened to me many times before all around the city. In most cases, it’s young people begging for money. They always use the same story. They’ve from out of town and they’ve run out of gas. They just want to get home.
But this guy wasn’t young. He was African American, slight of build, and he walked with a cane. Although he was missing a lot of his teeth, he struck me as rather gentlemanly, and clearly down on his luck.
I knew he was going to ask for money but I was running late and as he started his tale of woe, I tried to hurry him along. “Just tell me what you need,” I said, sighing.
His name was Joe. He had just gotten out of prison and had gone to the Community Mission for a place to stay, but they had turned him away because they were full. He was told to go to the YMCA, but he needed $14 to get a room there. He kept waving a big yellow envelope which I guessed held his papers and was saying something about needing an address to satisfy Social Services.
He was talking rapidly with great emotion and I was nodding, watching his expressions, trying to determine if he was legit. At one point, he was so frustrated he almost started crying. And that’s how he got me.
I can relate to a frustration so deep you want to cry. Who hasn’t felt that?
Besides, his story rang true. At this newspaper my colleague Justin Sondel has been writing about the mission on Ferry Street that provides free meals to the needy and beds for the homeless. The neighbors have been upset about the place for some time and recently, the city shut down its residency program because the proper licenses had not been obtained.