This is Jose
I met Jose while he was talking to his friend Manny who I had previously photographed with his friend, Lou. Both Jose and Manny attend the Lincoln Square Community center at West 65th Street. Jose is 78 years old and works at the Community Center as a caretaker. He opens the center up every morning and closes it in the evening. He is responsible for the physical maintenance of the building.
Jose was born in Puerto Rico and was brought here by his mother when he was five. His father left the family when he was eight.
Jose started working as a shoeshine boy when he was eleven years old and has been working ever since. He had many different and varied jobs, taking whatever was available, including as a delivery boy, and in supermarkets, stocking the shelves. He was homeless for 3 years and lived out of his car. During that time, he worked at a hospital as a janitor. He told me that he held that job for eight years and was never once late for work. When he was living out of his car, he would get to the hospital early so he could shower. He kept his car parked across the street from the hospital.
Jose has been married three times. It was the marriage to his current wife which led to the end of his homelessness. Married now for 18 years. He and his wife live in public housing above the Community Center. His wife has had one leg amputated and is blind, all due to diabetes. Jose is clearly dedicated to her and is her loving caretaker. While we were talking, he left for a few minutes to go upstairs to check on her. Manny commented just how much he cares for his wife.
When he returned he told me that he had had a pacemaker implanted several years ago. He showed me the scar as if it was a badge of courage.
I asked him about children and he told me that he has two sons and a daughter who all live in Florida. He sees his sons from time to time, but not too often. It is too expensive. He said that he has not seen his daughter in 27 years because she is still angry with him for what he did to her mother, his second wife. Jose did not explain what happened but promised to tell me the full story when we have more time to talk.
Jose not only is getting older and getting out, his need to be productive and caretaking for his wife keeps him going.