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Ex-Creedmoor homeless man makes it in Manhattan

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Allan Hunter, 46, came to New York City from New Mexico with nothing more than a backpack, a tax return, and a thumb to catch a ride. He left behind his parents, who did not think their son, a diagnosed schizophrenic, was ready to leave home. They may have been right.After arriving in New York in 1984, Hunter found that his tax return did not go far and his job prospects had fallen through, leaving him homeless. "I took jobs that didn't go anywhere and ended up on the streets," said Hunter in an interview from his desk in Manhattan, where he now works full time. After getting sick, Hunter went to a homeless shelter in Manhattan and was referred to the Queens Men's Shelter, which was located in Building Four of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital. From there, Hunter said he was placed in a new program in the same building, the Residential Care Center for Adults, run by New York City's Human Resources Administration.Hunter said that although the living arrangements were less than perfect, it was better than being homeless."Living on the streets left no time to further yourself because you're always looking for food and shelter," said Hunter. "(Living in the shelter) I didn't have to carry everything I owned."Hunter said he used his time at the shelter to establish a residence where he could receive mail, set up a bank account, and other amenities that were not possible while living on the streets. He had a room with a bed and a locker to store his personal belongings. Hunter used this permanent residence to apply to college and was accepted at the State University of New York at Old Westbury where he attended classes during the day and lived in the shelter at night. He became wary of the difference in treatment he got as a college student during the day and a schizophrenic homeless person at night."Having that daily binocular vision brought out the contrast," said Hunter. "I had it up to here, so I started living in the abandoned building." Hunter said he began living in Building 25 at Creedmoor that was left vacant after the hospital was forced to close many of its facilities due to budget cuts in the late 1960s. He said he was no longer subject to what he perceived as negative treatment by the staff at the Residential Care Center for Adults, but was still able to keep his address so he could continue to go to school.Hunter said he had a bed and locker in the building and lived there with other homeless people who were not affiliated with the shelter. He checked into the Residential Care Center for Adults on a daily basis, but snuck out each night and entered the abandoned building through a broken window at night."There was no heat or plumbing and the windows were broken," said Hunter. "But no one bothered me."Hunter lived in Building 25 from the summer through the fall of 1986, until he was able to move into the dorms at Old Westbury. He graduated from Old Westbury in 1988 and went on to attend graduate school at Stony Brook University where he got a master's in sociology. After working in the social services field for a number of years, Hunter found that his talent for computers could take him further and he now works as a programer at Digital Color Concepts in Manhattan.Hunter credits his time at Creedmoor with helping him get back on his feet more for the intangibles than any treatment programs, saying that the human contact and a place to call home were the best parts."As a homeless person, you have little time to communicate with other people," said Hunter, who now lives in Manhattan. "At Creedmoor I had that."Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 173.

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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