We told you back on March 2 that graphic artist Yusef Ramelize was going homeless for one week to raise awareness and cash for the Coalition for the Homeless. He came back from the streets last night, and we caught up with him at his desk job this afternoon.
“I wish everyone could experience what I experienced,” Ramelize says. “My purpose was to bring awareness to the problem, and I feel like I was able to do that, even if I didn’t reach my goals.” (He wanted to raise $5000 for the Coalition, and has taken in $3,300 so far: viewers can make donations at his site until May 1.)
Ramelize had expected to spend some time in shelters, but had no luck there — when he conscientiously informed shelter workers that he was doing this as a project, they refused him admittance. “Most of the time I slept on the subways,” he says. “That was the warmest place. A lot of times I saw homeless people getting kicked off the trains, but I guess I didn’t really look homeless, so they left me alone.”
Ramelize did get kicked out of other sleeping accommodations, though — the fast-food joints where he’d catch cat-naps, and a quiet corridor at the Pennsylvania Hotel he happened upon after using the hotel’s bathroom.
He lived off food brought to him by friends, and from the soup kitchen at the Salvation Army on 14th Street. The weather was no problem, as Ramelize had a good Burton snowboarding jacket and a warm North Face hat. He attended to personal hygiene in public restrooms, but had trouble keeping his feet clean. “I had on the same socks for seven days,” he tells us. “I had Baby-Wipes, and I would go into Starbucks, Borders, and wash and brush my teeth every morning, but even when I wiped my feet, with the same wet socks every day it would just be gross.”
During the days Ramelize handed out flyers about his project in Union Square, and was touched that some people came back to let him know they’d donated money through his site. He expects to update with footage he shot of his experience in a couple of days.