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Alex Lively and April Saccoccio have been sleeping rough under the FDR Drive with their two dogs inside a makeshift shelter since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, they have created a unique home out of found and donated objects.
Earlier this month amNewYork Metro spoke with the couple regarding their background and living conditions, we followed up with the pair to discover how they are preparing for the cold weather.
Lively now spends hours of his days holding up a sign as cars zoom down by the FDR Drive by Avenue C. He hopes that a few kind New Yorkers will briefly stop and hand off some spare change. This effort is not just about making money in order to afford food, but instead about saving for an investment. With the winter growing more treacherous by the day and construction work beneath the FDR Drive slowly crawling closer to their dwelling, Lively believes that it may soon be time to move on.
“Do you want to stand over here so you don’t get snowed on?” Lively asked, inviting amNew York Metro into his modest shelter in order to take refuge from the falling snowflakes Tuesday afternoon. With the predicted snowfall incoming, he had just finished using tarps and zip ties to keep his belongings from becoming waterlogged. Losing their only possessions is a constant worry when living on the street.
“I only worry if our stuff is going to get wet, or if [the snow] comes while we are sleeping. That’s a problem because once our stuff gets wet it is cold and it will never dry—that’s how you get sick. We have the dogs under the blankets and hand warmers under the blankets, so it keeps them warm,” Lively said.
Unfortunately, the bleak weather isn’t the only concern for the homeless couple when it comes to keeping their items secure. Food items for both themselves and their pets are under siege from one of NYC’s most notorious pests: rats. Since their arrival beneath the FDR drive, they steadily garnered a humble array of treasures that have been gifted to them by nearby residents and passersby. To keep rats out of the food and the bleak weather off their clothing, the couple have begun collecting containers in which to store their goods. While they are grateful for the kindness of others, owning these items is both a blessing and a curse.
“That’s the biggest issue for us. When we first got here it was just a bed, nothing else… none of it. It grew in size because people bought us stuff. We would like to go places together but as it is, we just can’t do that because we worry about losing our stuff. We have to get a storage unit,” Lively explained.
The couple have been saving to rent out a storage unit in order to save their beloved gifts, but as of right now it is just not economically feasible for them. Still, they are beginning to pack just in case they are one day forced to move. Lively pointed to a construction site in the distance with fears that he and his wife will be forced to relocate one day soon.
“We want to try and get out of here. They are doing construction in this area. They are starting down there between 23rd street and 20th but they are going to be moving down this way. We don’t want to have to be rushed to move out, so it is better to start getting prepared for what we have to do,” Lively said dolefully.
Although his wife was away at an appointment, Lively also took the time to express their gratitude for the positive feedback he read online in amNewYork Metro’s comment section. Stunned by the outpouring of support, he is thankful and open to meeting those interested in helping. Lively receives emails on his cell phone at [email protected]. However, Lively was most worried about readers mistakenly believing he was feeding his beloved dogs Buddy and Snoopy chicken bones.
“People thought we were feeding them chicken bones. We wouldn’t do that. We give them milk bones and rawhide bones,” Lively said.
Once the couple can procure a storage unit, it will be one step closer for them in their search for a permanent home. For now, the small family will continue trying to survive beneath the FDR using umbrellas, tarp, donated blankets, and other materials to stay dry, warm, and COVID-19 free.