Shafiq Abdussabur pulled up to Union Station to make his latest campaign pitch — and found himself calling an ambulance for a man seeking shelter inside the train stop rather than crusading for votes.
“I’m a little suicidal right now… I’m sad, I’m depressed, I’m hurting,” Eddie Fernandez, a 48-year-old bound to a wheelchair since hurting his leg in an epileptic fit, told the mayoral hopeful soon after Abdussabur arrived at 11 p.m.
“He’s gotta go to the hospital — I know someone who just committed suicide who just told me what he just told me. This is serious shit,” another woman, Dee, told Abdussabur upon hearing Fernandez utter those words.
Fernandez was supposed to be taking medication twice a day to control his seizures as well as blood thinners for clots in his legs. “But I didn’t take it today,” he admitted.
“I don’t wanna walk away from you tonight and not help you,” Abdussabur told Fernandez. “If I arrange for you to go to the hospital so they can evaluate you, will you be honest with them today?”
Yes, Fernandez responded. Ten minutes later, he was strapped into a stretcher, clutching a piece of paper containing Abudssabur’s cell phone number.
Abdussabur, a former cop turned one of four Democratic candidates for the city’s top elected office, made that visit Tuesday night while at least 30 other people without stable housing slept on benches inside the station.
Dozens of individuals curled up in the station’s seats and corners, as well as alongside the sidewalk just outside its doors. That has become a nightly scene around the station over the past few years, as the onset of the pandemic, shrinking shelter options, and an affordable housing crisis have pushed more people onto the streets.
“I spent two years as a patrol officer on midnights. We never had concentrated homelessness like this,” the 56-year-old retired sergeant observed.
Abdussabur arrived at Union Station hours after his campaign released a proposed plan to reduce homelessness. That plan calls for converting underutilized city-owned properties into sanctioned and supervised resource hubs for people experiencing homelessness, made up of tiny homes and tents where people unable to get into apartments or shelters could take refuge. (Read about a structured tent city model in Colorado here that Abudssabur said he wants to emulate.)