Richard Romero’s apartment can’t measure much more than 6 feet by 10 feet, tucked into a little street with lousy sidewalks, behind an industrial building a block from the railroad tracks. There’s a bed and a chair. The bathroom’s tiny and the mini-fridge, often empty. But the place is clean and he knows how to find everything, no small thing for a 55-year-old man without a family to help, a man whose eyes went completely dark five years ago from glaucoma and diabetes.
Romero used to work at Palm Beach International Airport, cleaning the insides of planes. Before that he ran a food service at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. Ten years ago he worked in the fields.
Now, he says, “Everything’s dark, day and night.” Doctors told him nothing can be done.
He almost died a month ago of a blood infection, but is on the mend from that.
He doesn’t leave home much, afraid he’ll get lost, which happened more than once. Every so often a friend walks him to a nearby grocery. Otherwise he stays home, except for the three days a week he gets taken for dialysis, or on church days. A special wristwatch from Lighthouse for the Blind helps him tell what time it is.
With no income other than $194 per month in food stamps, “he relies on friends, church members, neighbors and the aide who comes to his home a few days a week to assist with housekeeping,” said Lighthouse caseworker Rosemary Mulero. “Church members take up collections for him. When he is given $5 or $10, he gives it to his landlord to cover the dish soap and toilet paper.” Some of the money goes to his landlord, to cover utilities. He’s applying for Social Security, but it’s a challenge because of missing records, Mulero said.
“I like this place,” Romero said. “I live here four years. I know where is the bed, the freezer, the bathroom. If I rent another place, I would have to learn where everything is.”
He could use a bigger refrigerator and a wall air conditioner. Mulero adds that he needs healthy food, clothing, including size 8 1/2 shoes and special shirts for dialysis, and an iPhone with special apps to help him keep phone numbers, manage doctor’s appointments and retrieve messages.
Despite his circumstances, Romero smiles easily, stays positive and does what he can. A neighbor watches him practice learning to use his white cane, in hopes he’ll be able to navigate the neighborhood. He listens to music, TV and Talking Books, falling asleep to an audio book of the Bible.
But “it’s very difficult,” he said. No question.
Richard Romero, 55, is a man without a family to help him through truly dark days. His eyes went completely blind five years ago from glaucoma and diabetes. A dialysis patient, he almost died a month ago of a blood infection. Before he got ill, Romero made a living cleaning the insides of planes and working in the fields. Now he has no income. He subsists on $194 a month in food stamps and the charity of neighbors and church friends. Romero, who lives in a small studio, could use a refrigerator and a wall air conditioner. He needs healthy food, clothing, including size 8 1/2 shoes and special shirts for dialysis, and an iPhone with special apps to help him keep phone numbers, manage doctor’s appointments and retrieve messages. He loves to listen to music and Talking Books, falling asleep each night to an audio book of the Bible.
Photography by Greg Lovett/Staff
Nominated by Lighthouse for the Blind