By Scott Keyes
Just another guy who I should avoid eye contact with and hope he doesn’t ask me for spare change, many residents likely thought as they walked by Chris Murphy on the streets of New Haven, CT Monday.
Few knew his day job: United States senator.
While most Americans were still on vacation celebrating the holidays, Sen. Murphy (D-CT) spent Monday shadowing “Nick,” a New Haven man who has been homeless for the past six months. Nick preferred that his real name not be printed.
The cards were stacked against Nick from the beginning. His father was a drug addict, and by 13 years old, Nick was hooked on crack as well. Two years later, Nick was a ward of the state.
The fact that he was able to overcome these odds, graduate from high school, and find work as a salesman is a testament to his resolve. But Nick, who had worked his entire life, lost his advertising sales job last year. Without an income, he lost his home soon thereafter. And last week, his jobless benefits expired. Nick lives on the streets now as he looks for new work.
The two men, both 40 years old, spent the day together to give Murphy a better sense of the unique challenges that homeless people face in trying to improve their lives. Their day began at 7:30 a.m., when the shelter Nick stayed at asks residents to vacate. Their first stop was the methadone clinic for Nick to treat his drug addiction. The two then hung out at Dunkin Donuts and walked around to kill time, waiting for the library to open at 10 a.m. Nick spent the next hour and a half filling out sales job applications, responding to emails, and setting up an appointment with a career counseling organization. Because he doesn’t own a car, the jobs he could apply for were restricted to those that had offices on a bus route.