As The World Goes Crazy For The Royal Newborn, Bronx Families Struggle For A Home

Unless you’re a hermit and live in the middle of the jungle or a desert for that matter, you were undoubtedly bombarded with the media’s frenzy heralding not only the birth of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s first child, but also when she went into labor and now, their first appearance with the yet to be named newborn baby boy.

16 years ago, almost the same date that the royal baby was born, the late Princess Diana walked the streets of the South Bronx hand in hand with the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta on a hot Wednesday on July 18 in 1997.

But that’s the only connection you’ll see between the royal family and Bronxites.

This child will never have to worry about a home, nor if he will go to bed hungry – again. He will most assuredly attend the top schools while Bronx kids navigate our broken education system.

He will play in hundreds of acres of land owned by the royal family while Bronx babies can only look forward to playing on polluted streets with trucks invading their neighborhoods causing more traffic, spewing toxins to be released into the air as FredhDirect will do if they get their way.

Kudos to Denis Hamill of the New York Daily News for writing an excellent piece spotlighting the trials and tribulations families face in trying to have a roof over their heads in the Bronx. The stories of a broken system that does not work is enough to make your stomach turn.

Via Daily News:

No royal reception for struggling Bronx families looking for a home | Jul 22nd 2013 11:27 PM

Photo by: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images
Harry, Kate and William (l.-r.) and the newborn Prince of Cambridge live in a different world to struggling Bronx families.

There was no royal baby watch going on outside 151 E. 151st the Bronx on Monday.

As Prince William and wife Kate awaited the birth of their royal rugrat, the truly struggling families of New York trekked to the city’s Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing center on this grim corner of the hot sticky city, hoping to secure a roof over the uncrowned heads of their kids.

“Wish my baby was born into all that money,” says Kenneth Chestnut, 22, standing with Charlotte Burkett, 20, and their sons Kenny Jr., 5, and, dozing in a stroller, Kennourious, 10 months. “Solid gold pacifiers.”

“Silver spoon in their mouth,” says Burkett.

“Palaces to live in,” says Chestnut.

Kenneth Chesnut, 22, and Charlott Burkett, 20, with kids Kenny, 5, and Kennourious, 10 mos, have been together 6 years, four in shelter system because they cannot prove they once had addresses.
Photo by: Denis Hamill

“Don’t have to work like me,” says Burkett. “Because they’re royal family. Meanwhile, we getting royally screwed.”

They laughed to keep from crying.

“Instead, we’ve been coming here for like three years trying to get an apartment,” says Chestnut. “We don’t want no handout. We want a home. ”

Here are a couple of kids raising a couple of kids in the vortex of the shelter system. Instead of Kenneth Chestnut taking a hike like his father did on his mother, who is also in the shelter system, he’s been with his girlfriend since he got her pregnant when he was 16 and she was 14.

Brandy Palmer, Rafael Cox and their kids in their Bronx apartment.
Photo by: Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News

PATH requires proof of a previous mailing address and rental history, but both had lived with their parents, who ended up being evicted.

“I dropped out of high school to help raise my son,” says Chestnut. “Took a job in the Linden Movie Theater” in Brooklyn.

“I work three days a week at Baja Fresh, a Mexican restaurant in Manhattan, $7.50 an hour,” says Burkett. “Cashier. Making tacos. Cleaning up. I take home a meal for my kids. But when I see people spending lots of money, I just feel bad. Sad, bad. I’m not jealous of their money. Just that they have a place to live, a home.”

This is but one invisible noble family of the city’s struggling poor as the world media fawn over the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who live on public assistance in public housing in Great Britain, where they welcomed another royal layabout son.

“We can never get the month’s rent, security, agent fee saved to get an apartment,” says Chestnut. “If we did get a $700-a-month apartment in the Bronx, we could both work and make the rent.

Palmer, Cox and their kids at the Bronx PATH homeless shelter.
Photo by: Denis Hamill

“Instead, the city makes us come here three times a month and apply for temporary housing,” says Burkett. “They send us to a new place for 10 days. Then you gotta come back. Each time I miss a day’s work.

“In the last shelter, they stole all our clothes,” says Chestnut. “Baby stuff, too. It’s just so hard to keep a family together. If they gave us an apartment, I would turn it into our own royal palace. ”

“That’s all I’m jealous of,” says Burkett. “Not their money, their jewels, crowns, castles. Keep all that. Just want a place to call home.”

Anther couple and their five kids exit PATH, all their belongings packed into a shopping cart and suitcases.

They had a three-bedroom unit for $1,600 a month, but fell behind on the rent, says Brandy Palmer, 30, standing with Rafael Cox, 42, and their children, ages 4 to 12.

Asked what she thought of the royal baby, Palmer smiled.

“I hope it’s healthy,” she says. “But there are babies born every day, each one just as precious. My five are my royal family. But I never saw this happening to them — homeless.”

“I’m a construction worker, but work is so hard to find,” says Rafael. “ We juggled bills. We fell behind. The city promised to help pay the back-rent so we could start over.”

“At the last minute, the city just changed its mind,” says Palmer. “We needed that one helping hand. We want to work. I have an AA in accounting. Rafael works hard when he finds work.”

Now they were a dispossessed family as the world celebrated the royal family’s newest heir.

“We got evicted,” Cox says. “We came here. But PATH insists we have till Wednesday to vacate the apartment. They won’t house us. Told us to call the sheriff to retrieve the apartment keys. If we don’t get the keys back, we’ll be on the street.”

As the world waited with bated breath for a baby to be born to a palace.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.