Stephenie stretches her body and takes a little break after reading for the entire afternoon. Photo by Peiyu Jiang

Every day on my way to school, I noticed Stephenie (she doesn’t want her last name to be used), a homeless woman, sitting and reading books. Since March 2020, Stephenie has lived at this spot next to a CVS pharmacy at 8th Street  and University Place in Manhattan. She didn’t want to talk about how she became homeless but said she likes the current spot there.

To shower and get donated clothes, Stephenie goes to Mary’s house on 2nd Ave. A lady in this neighborhood lends her books every week and an old man occasionally gives her cash (they declined to be photographed). People walking by also offer her some food and drink.

Unlike many of the other homeless people who live on the streets, Stephenie doesn’t drink or take drugs. She has a pile of books and spends her time reading.

“Reading and writing are the most important things in my life,” said Stephanie. “When I read, I like the process of visualizing the words in my head like a movie. Writing is like a canvas where I can draw any ideas. They keep my brain alert.”

8 am, Stephenie sleeping at 8th Street and University Place. This has been a home for her since March 2020. Photo by Peiyu Jiang

Sitting in the same spot, Stephenie watches hundreds of people passing by every day. Photo by Peiyu Jiang

Reading “The King’s Justice: A Maggie Hope Mystery,” Stephenie commented that she really enjoys it. Photo by Peiyu Jiang

Stephenie sitting at 8th Street and University Place. Photo by Peiyu Jiang

Some of Stephenie’s things that were donated by people walking by her. Photo by Peiyu Jiang

Stephenie stares as life around her moves by. Photo by Peiyu Jiang

A man walks by Stephenie who is lying down. Photo by Peiyu Jiang