Marvin’s World: Homeless Living In NYC

(NBC News) – Stairs are for climbing or descending, but for Marvin Bolton they also are a place to rest, eat and sleep.

The 61-year-old homeless man with a graying goatee spends most of his evenings and nights in the stairwell of a building in New York’s St. Nicholas housing project, sitting on the steps or reclining on the cement landing on the ninth-floor of the 14-story building. Sometimes he does both, laying a piece of cardboard on a step to sit on, then putting a newspaper down on another step where he can place his elbow and rest his nearly toothless head in his hand, surrounded by dirty white walls and bathed in bright florescent light.

All his earthly possessions are within reach: a toothbrush, his cellphone, a couple shirts and a few pairs of pants, three coats, a hat and gloves and a suitcase.

The stairwell is sometimes noisy and is home to the occasional cockroach, but it’s a warm refuge from New York’s cruel winter. Marvin avoids homeless shelters because he thinks they’re unsafe and unhealthy. They also stress him out, making the cravings for the crack cocaine and heroin that have landed him in jail many times over the last 40 years even more intense.

Marvin is just one of 60,000 homeless people in the city and, as a single black man with a drug problem, in many ways typifies them. But by refusing to take advantage of the city’s shelter system, he’s also one of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“Life is hard because of the things that I have to go through, just trying to survive, you know, trying to put food on the table so to speak,” he says. “Winter makes a lot of things rough for me… It’s too cold. I don’t have the proper gear… Being out here, I can get sick from this type of weather. I’m taking a lot of chances, you know?”

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