Twice a day, Sammy makes two trips from Flushing, Queens, to the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Sammy, like the many homeless who survive by riding casino buses, makes the four-hour round-trip pilgrimages to and from the Sands to take advantage of the free-play voucher that the casino offers, and that Sammy can resell for a modest profit. Between trips, Sammy spends most of his time in the local Starbucks waiting, reading chapters from the Quran in his native Arabic or watching old Egyptian movies on the cracked screen of his generic Android phone.
Sammy and I first crossed paths seven years ago. I can't recall how we first met, but we have grown close, bonding over our shared Egyptian heritage. For him, the Starbucks on 41st Road and Main Street is more than just a coffee shop that’s a pit stop on the way to work or home; Starbucks is his living room, as it is for many others I have met over the years who have no place else to go.