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  1. Photograph: Brett Carlsen
    Photograph: Brett Carlsen

    Angel Shapiro, 18, poses for a portrait just yards away from where his biological brother, sister and nephew lost their lives in 2011 in a car accident on Henry Hudson Parkway.

  2. Brett Carlsen
    Brett Carlsen

    Angel Shapiro looks down the street, waiting for his friends.

  3. Photograph: Brett Carlsen
    Photograph: Brett Carlsen

    Angel Shapiro, 18, rides the subway to some of his most coveted spots in the neighborhood of west 96th.

  4. Photograph: Brett Carlsen
    Photograph: Brett Carlsen

    Angel Shapiro, 18, walks through Central Park, where he spent countless times bonding with new friends following being put out by his family for being trans.

  5. Photograph: Brett Carlsen
    Photograph: Brett Carlsen

    Angel Shapiro, 18, sits in one of his favorite spots, a quite area where he bonded with other trans teens following his coming out.

  6. Photograph: Brett Carlsen
    Photograph: Brett Carlsen

    Angel Shapiro, 18 (right) walks beside one of his closest friends Stella Lushaj; both are transgender and have bonded through hardships.

  7. Photograph: Brett Carlsen
    Photograph: Brett Carlsen

    Angel Shapiro, 18, looks onto the Hudson River in a cherished place for him and friend Stella Lushaj (foreground).

  8. Brett Carlsen
    Brett Carlsen

    Angel Shapiro (right) talks to a friend before taking the subway to Manhattan.

New York's Hidden Homeless: Part 1, Angel's story

In the first part of a series commissioned by Susan Sarandon, we hear the stories of those living on the streets in our city

As guest editor at Time Out New York this week, Susan Sarandon was keen to highlight an issue that's close to her heart: New York's hidden homeless. In her editor's letter, she writes, "I was hoping to dispel some of the false myths about the unhoused. I am hoping to give them a face. I am hoping to give you a chance to see them and maybe give them a chance to feel human, to no longer be invisible." The statistics are certainly impossible to ignore. The number of homeless people that were in the New York City shelter system one evening last April comes to 54,667—a figure that’s up 75 percent from when Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002, and up 22 percent from just last year. Nearly a third of those in NYC’s shelter system work—that’s 57 percent more than there were a decade ago—and 80 percent live with their spouses or kids. We spent the day with three of NYC's hidden homeless to spotlight this growing epidemic of everyday New Yorkers ending up without a home.

Angel Shapiro, 18

On paper, Shapiro appeared to have it made. From a well-off family with homes in Manhattan and Florida, he was smart and athletic; he even had a $50,000-per-year tennis scholarship to a tony Connecticut boarding school.

But inside, he was suffering. He couldn’t look in the mirror without despising what he saw. He even considered lighting his body on fire to destroy the thing he hated most. He felt that he was a man trapped inside a girl’s body.

After his junior year, Shapiro cut off his hair and began wearing men’s clothes, which didn’t sit well with his religious, traditional aunt (who had taken him in after his mom died). “I adopted a daughter, not a man,” she said, and told Shapiro to leave. With no place to go, he negotiated a deal and started paying rent for the privilege of living in her walk-in closet during the summer, “like Harry Potter,” Shapiro says.

After flunking out of school in the fall, he returned to NYC and took to the streets instead of returning to his aunt’s home. “When it was really cold, I stayed on the D and R platform at the Herald Square subway stop.” Then, on the 2 train, he was accosted by another homeless man. “He was three times my size and lifted me up with one arm, so I was just hanging there, my feet dangling. He shouted into my face, ‘All I wanted was some damn change!’

“When I’m dead broke, I feel so vulnerable,” he adds. “It’s like I’m walking around naked.”

In April, Shapiro moved into the Ali Forney Center, which places homeless LGBT teens in free-of-charge apartments. Now he plans to get his diploma from Harvey Milk High School and pursue a career as an EMT, but he’s still not optimistic about his fellow New Yorkers. “You also see how cruel the world is when you’re homeless. Most people just don’t care.”

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