Giving homeless women your leftovers may not be as helpful as you think.
Aug. 29, 2018 (Period) -- Michael Zezima, a native of Queens, New York, is one of the few people who breaks the classic New York attitude of “mind your own business” on a regular basis. For nearly two years, he -- who also goes by the nickname “Mickey Z.” -- has spent all of his spare time traversing Manhattan, providing a kind face and free care packages to homeless women.
He began distributing care packages to women in 2016 -- starting with one pregnant woman in a subway station. Since then -- thanks to the help of a gofundme campaign -- the project has expanded to a vast network of women that Zezima regularly visits and forms connections with.
Through his experience, Zezima has become more attentive to the gendered and racial dynamics of homelessness and how it affects his own relationship to homeless women as a white male, stating,
“I’ve noticed that, if I approach a woman of color, who doesn’t have a sign up… I’d be more likely to be vehemently shooed off. And I’ve said to myself -- after two or three times -- this is a pattern that I have to respect. She doesn’t have a sign up, she clearly needs help, but you’re not the messenger… Whether it’s my maleness, my whiteness, or both, she doesn’t want me within five feet of her.”
While the experience of rejection is heartbreaking, it constantly reminds Zezima of the boundaries between himself and homeless women of color.
He also shares that the dynamics of the patriarchy still play out on the street, only more harshly without the basics of food and shelter.
“I’ve witnessed homeless men harass women, and then they’ll try to bully homeless women out of their spot if they see that it’s a good moneymaking spot.”
Mickey Z. is the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on the streets of New York City. To help him grow this project, CLICK HERE and make a donation right now. And please spread the word!