Joseph, 56, is disabled and receives a monthly $733 Social Security check and $168 in SNAP benefits.

He believes he lives in the “drug capital of the world” -- between Cherry and Chestnut and North 4th Street and North 5th Street. Someone recently shot a bullet through the side of his apartment while he was inside. 

February 2017:  Joseph sits with his dog outside of his converted garage apartment on the north side of town. The apartment is tiny, with mice scurrying around inside during the day. Joseph doesn’t feel safe, but it’s what he can afford. Joseph used to be a furniture mover but became disabled when his knee blew out.   “After the knee went, there wasn't a whole lot I could do,” Joseph said. “I did go to culinary arts school. I got two degrees in culinary arts, but I can't stand at a grill for eight hours any more to,  you know, even to do shift cooking. After I was hurt, I couldn't work a regular job.”  Joseph now volunteers his time at various organizations.  “I worked with a lady here in town,” Joseph said. “She worked the Jefferson Center on the north side. She gave me a job working with kids, and that seemed like something I was good at. Kids and animals love me. I worked there probably 14 years. It even got to the point where she talked me into playing Santa Claus a couple of years.”

February 2017: Joseph sits with his dog outside of his converted garage apartment on the north side of town. The apartment is tiny, with mice scurrying around inside during the day. Joseph doesn’t feel safe, but it’s what he can afford. Joseph used to be a furniture mover but became disabled when his knee blew out. 

“After the knee went, there wasn't a whole lot I could do,” Joseph said. “I did go to culinary arts school. I got two degrees in culinary arts, but I can't stand at a grill for eight hours any more to,  you know, even to do shift cooking. After I was hurt, I couldn't work a regular job.”

Joseph now volunteers his time at various organizations.

“I worked with a lady here in town,” Joseph said. “She worked the Jefferson Center on the north side. She gave me a job working with kids, and that seemed like something I was good at. Kids and animals love me. I worked there probably 14 years. It even got to the point where she talked me into playing Santa Claus a couple of years.”

March 2017:   Joseph, a diabetic, says the scar on his forehead is the result of being assaulted and robbed for his hypodermic needles.  “They woke me up during the middle of the night. They wanted a needle, a syringe,” he said. “I told 'em I wasn't getting out of bed to get them a syringe so they could do their drugs. They decided to just break into the house, and they busted me in the head, in the forehead with a roofing hatchet -- a hammer on one end and an ax on the other. They got their syringe, and I was lucky they didn’t kill me.  “I'm a diabetic. That's where most of my extra money goes, because they don't give you any extra money for the stuff that's not covered by Medicare. I guess I'm only allowed four prescriptions, yet I have 11 or 12 scripts. Alcohol wipes, some of the other stuff isn't covered, either.  So, I mean, whatever Medicaid doesn't pay, I have to either find a program that will help me pay for it, or I just don't get it, I guess. I try to be healthy, eat what I'm supposed to eat, but everything that's diabetic is twice as much as regular food.”

March 2017:  Joseph, a diabetic, says the scar on his forehead is the result of being assaulted and robbed for his hypodermic needles.

“They woke me up during the middle of the night. They wanted a needle, a syringe,” he said. “I told 'em I wasn't getting out of bed to get them a syringe so they could do their drugs. They decided to just break into the house, and they busted me in the head, in the forehead with a roofing hatchet -- a hammer on one end and an ax on the other. They got their syringe, and I was lucky they didn’t kill me.

“I'm a diabetic. That's where most of my extra money goes, because they don't give you any extra money for the stuff that's not covered by Medicare. I guess I'm only allowed four prescriptions, yet I have 11 or 12 scripts. Alcohol wipes, some of the other stuff isn't covered, either.  So, I mean, whatever Medicaid doesn't pay, I have to either find a program that will help me pay for it, or I just don't get it, I guess. I try to be healthy, eat what I'm supposed to eat, but everything that's diabetic is twice as much as regular food.”

“It’s important that everybody knows that there’s people out here starving every day. There’s people who are doing crimes just to feed their families, just to try and make ends meet.”
— Joseph
March 2017:   Dressed in his Sunday church clothes, Joseph displays a knife he uses for protection. “It’s a shame I have to carry all this hardware around to protect myself,” he says. “It goes back to not having enough money for just simple survival. It's trying to have enough to eat, making sure that you don't starve to death out here in the streets. It gets down to the point where people break into your house and take your food, your medicine. My next door neighbor, Pat was killed,” Joseph said. “I guess they wanted drugs or something, but they had broken every bone in his face, every rib but three, and broke his arm in two places. He passed away in the hospital several days later.”

March 2017:  Dressed in his Sunday church clothes, Joseph displays a knife he uses for protection. “It’s a shame I have to carry all this hardware around to protect myself,” he says. “It goes back to not having enough money for just simple survival. It's trying to have enough to eat, making sure that you don't starve to death out here in the streets. It gets down to the point where people break into your house and take your food, your medicine. My next door neighbor, Pat was killed,” Joseph said. “I guess they wanted drugs or something, but they had broken every bone in his face, every rib but three, and broke his arm in two places. He passed away in the hospital several days later.”

April 2017:  Joseph says he can’t afford his pain medication. “Just last year, they replaced the lenses in my eyes and they put me on a medication called Gabapentin,” Joseph said. “It's for neuropathy. It's nerve pain. The Gabapentin was in such an excess dose every day, it was causing my eyes to have problems. The eyes just don't adjust like your regular eyes would, because they're man-made lenses. I’m supposed to have knee surgery on my left knee. It doesn't look like that's gonna happen. They did the right one. There's not supposed to be anything in there that hurts, but it hurts every day.” Sometimes I have to go to the streets to find pain medication. And I know they say if you find money for that, how do you survive? I wheel and deal in the streets, sell this, sell that. I know it's not right, but you gotta do what you gotta do when you're in pain every day. Sometimes the decisions you make aren't good ones.” 

April 2017: Joseph says he can’t afford his pain medication. “Just last year, they replaced the lenses in my eyes and they put me on a medication called Gabapentin,” Joseph said. “It's for neuropathy. It's nerve pain. The Gabapentin was in such an excess dose every day, it was causing my eyes to have problems. The eyes just don't adjust like your regular eyes would, because they're man-made lenses. I’m supposed to have knee surgery on my left knee. It doesn't look like that's gonna happen. They did the right one. There's not supposed to be anything in there that hurts, but it hurts every day.” Sometimes I have to go to the streets to find pain medication. And I know they say if you find money for that, how do you survive? I wheel and deal in the streets, sell this, sell that. I know it's not right, but you gotta do what you gotta do when you're in pain every day. Sometimes the decisions you make aren't good ones.” 

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