MPW.71 / 2019 No Good Deed… by Rachel Wisniewski
Photographer
Rachel Wisniewski Philadelphia, Pa.
Team Cliff & Vi

Story Summary

Gerald Walker doesn’t have a lot. He’s served his country in the U.S. Navy. He’s saved lives as a paramedic and he’s raised six children.

Life isn’t easy. Addiction runs in the family. Though Gerald Walker has been sober for 20 years, his children struggle with substance abuse. Gerald hasn’t had stable housing for a year and a half. He lost his job in September 2019, leaving him torn between helping himself and supporting his children. Despite Gerald’s dwindling resources, his love and patience show as he helps one son to pay for cigarettes. He’s fighting to get another son into a treatment facility. And he feeds his dog “filet mignon” dog food.

Although he compulsively offers help, he is reluctant to accept it. As the end of the month approaches, he will once again be without housing. He leaves the motel room that’s been home for three months and packs his car, but he has nowhere to go.

Going from government office to social services agencies, Gerald looks for his next shelter and applies for food stamps. He looks at group homes, but neither his dog nor his son are welcome. At 71, he is eligible for senior housing, but only if there is space. There isn’t. Still, he says, “things could be worse.”