It all started about a year ago when I began noticing more homeless men in the Chicago neighborhood where I work. Back of the Yards is a community that faces some of the city’s toughest problems: joblessness, crime, drug use.
Many of these men would be sitting in doorways or shuffling along on 47th Street, many times asking for money. One day, I asked one of them: “Where are you from?” He told me a story that I later heard again and again and again.
The men told me they were from Puerto Rico. They were addicted to heroin and they ended up in Chicago because someone in Puerto Rico drove them to the airport and put them on a plane with a one-way ticket to Chicago.
They were promised a great rehab place, with over-the-top services and plenty of medical staff. One of them is Angel, a short and dark-skinned man. He’s missing most of his top teeth. He said he came to Chicago from Puerto Rico seven years ago for help kicking a heroin addiction.
“I no see nothing”
“Somebody told my family is one rehab in Chicago got nurse, got pool, got medication, when I get here I no see nothing,” Angel said.
Angel said that when he landed in Chicago he was met at the airport and taken to a place that definitely had no pool. That place didn’t have social workers or doctors. Instead, it was just a rundown building with other addicts trying to stay clean, sleeping on dirty mattresses on the floor, going cold turkey.