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Wednesday, February 04, 2009


by Ann Malaspina

Today they’re counting the homeless in
Bergen County. There are the crazy ones
we see everyday: the trumpeter on the steps
of Town Hall, the unkempt woman scribbling
poems on newspaper margins at Starbucks,
the man in a Civil War uniform who paces
up and down Main Street, year after year.
But there’s also the car washer who rides to
work on a one-speed bike in a snowstorm
(though he can sleep at his cousin’s place
if he wants), the Costa Rican who
starts work at the bagel place at 4 AM,
and the elderly taxi driver who
sleeps behind the wheel so he doesn’t
burden his son's wife. Soon it may be the bank
vice-president, laid off a year ago but
still too stunned to job hunt, and
the software engineer who found temporary
work in California but is home again,
behind on the mortgage. It could be
the radio announcer who can find only
one-day gigs, the journalist forced into
early retirement, and the lawyer who
cut his hours in half and sleeps in on
Mondays. The homeless in Bergen County .
They'll be counting them today,
and adding more tomorrow.

Ann Malaspina is a former newspaper reporter and the author of many nonfiction books for young people. Her next book Harriet Tubman will be published by Chelsea House in 2009. She lives in Northern New Jersey with her family.