My father was a drug addict and my mother abandoned me when I was young, so I grew up in the streets by myself. I met the Guardian Angels (a volunteer organization of unarmed crime-prevention citizens) when I was a teenager. They took me in in, taught me how to be a man and how to be better than what people think I am. First I was a junior Guardian Angel, then head of my safety patrol and finally the captain of a unit. I did it because I liked helping people and making them feel safe. I went through a lot of abuse growing up so I didn’t like to see others get abused.
Four years ago there was an elderly couple on 103rd Street who told us that someone was dealing drugs out of their building, so we went to check it out. After we spoke with the couple we went to the roof to have a smoke because as part of the Guardian Angels bylaws you can’t smoke in front of civilians when you’re on duty.
As we were coming down from the roof we heard a commotion. We crept down the stairs and saw this big guy grabbing a girl by the neck and trying to rip her skirt off. All five or six of us went into action immediately. We jumped on the rapist and handcuffed him and waited for the police to come and arrest him. Afterwards we found out the girl was only 13 years old.
For the last four years I was married to a woman that had three older kids from a previous marriage. All the kids were in their mid-twenties and were living in the same place as her and I. But they were not paying rent and causing chaos and arguments. It got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore…so two weeks ago my wife and I broke up and she kicked me out of our home. Because I was homeless I couldn’t keep up with the hours at my job so I got fired. I literally lost everything in the span of a few days and I’ve been living on the streets since.
This is my first time being homeless so I’m learning how to deal with it. One night I slept at the Bellevue homeless shelter and my stuff was stolen so I’ve just been sleeping on the streets ever since. I just try to make it through the day. If I don’t panhandle enough to afford a room I sleep in the Sleepy’s store entrance down the street. Two nights ago somebody came up to me in the middle of the night and started urinating on me.
He said, “There are no cops here so I can f*** you up.”
I got up and chased him all the way to 5th Avenue but he got away.
It’s hard because not every homeless person out here is doing bad stuff, there are a lot of good people out here that are just in hard times. But everyone judges us instead of stopping and finding out what's really going on.
For instance, even though I’m homeless I still patrol the streets when the Guardian Angels ask me. I mostly make sure that women leaving bars at night are safe. If a woman goes out for a drink it's not okay for someone to harass her on her way home. On certain nights you’ll see me on Christopher and 14th street walking around with the Guardian Angels jacket and red beret. Even though I’m homeless I do it because it's not about me, it's about the people I serve.
See link below where Santos’ colleague is interviewed as they patrol the streets of NYC after Hurricane Sandy:
Goose Chronicles Outtakes:
“How does the NYPD feel about the Guardian Angels?”
“It took them a long time but they respect us now.”
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