My Second Book
I will soon be publishing my second book, “Homeless in Flatbush” . It has taken me time to write, edit and I will most likely re-edit again as I re-live the experience that I was privileged to be a part of in my career as a Psychologist. This and other true stories of people going through emotionally charged times in their lives dealing with real life conflicts and struggles , some facing controlling and manipulative people, or facing their fears and self-defeating thoughts, has been both intensely rewarding, but also at times, emotionally draining for me.
RJ, the heroine of this story, was only ten years old when she contacted me through my Blog. I believed it was a scam or sting operation when I was first contacted by her. At the same time I thought, if this is real and true, do I really want to deal with this child, or can I even find people to help her ? However, after a few contacts, I was hooked !
The first thing she told me was that she was homeless, in an area known as Flatbush, near Brooklyn, New York. Not with a family, but alone. How could that even be possible ? But she had taken at least a year to plot and plan her escape. Escape ? Yes, she had been living with her mother and two year old sister in a small one bedroom apartment over one of the many bar/delis that dotted the landscape in Flatbush. Her mother had told her very matter of factly, that RJ would have to start contributing to paying bills by working at the only business her mother knew, “servicing men”, after her tenth birthday. RJ knew exactly what she meant as she had for years seen the parade of men coming to their apartment and going into mother’s office, the only bedroom. Since they had no TV, she would listen to worn out religious cassette tapes on a battery driven player that was held together with duct tape to drown out the sounds emanating from mother’s bedroom. Renee wanted nothing to do with this way of life, so she knew she had to leave.
It was inconceivable to me that a ten year old would have the personal strength, the courage, the tenacity and the survival skills, to make it on the streets by herself. She proved me wrong ! So she and I built a Support System of special people who could help her to break free of this life on the streets.
I worked with her from the age of ten to fourteen, as I guided her through the many challenges she faced. She held me to my promise that somehow we would get her into a school, find her a family that would love her, and help her become a strong person who could help other children, because that is what God would want her to do.
There were many high points, but many disappointments. However, in my mind, she was a success against all odds.
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist/Emeritus
The Benhaven Group