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Martin Takes On a New Foe: Homelessness


Jets fans loved watching clips of Curtis Martin cutting and slashing while clamping a football and wearing the green and white. They probably still can't get used to seeing him on TV these days, sporting his impeccable suits and colorful ties.

But that is the uniform of choice as No. 28 moves in his post-football world. Last week he appeared on many home screens talking about one of those pursuits: helping New York City's homeless.

"What's rewarding to me is just being involved with an organization in which the programs actually work," Martin told * *this week. "Sometimes you're not sure if these things are real or if they're just for show. The initiative and all the programs the mayor has organized and put together through his office and the work of commissioner Robert Hess, the programs are really working to benefit homeless people."

That came through during a news conference attended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Hess, the Department of Homeless Services commissioner, Martin and others. The purpose of the news conference was to announce the results of the annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate — the HOPE survey, conducted every January.

The good news: Homelessness in New York City is down 12 percent since last year and 25 percent since the survey was first taken in 2005.

Martin said he was amazed by another statistic, that the city put 133 homeless people into homes in a one-week period. He even had a hand in personally helping one woman get a new address back when he first started with the program.

"I was just coming out of the office, I walked around the corner and a homeless person was sitting on the steps," he said. "I gave her 20 dollars. She took it and said, 'I'll pay you this back when I get my check.' I said, 'You don't have to pay this back.' She said thank you.

"One of the points I've been stressing is to just give them eye contact, speak to them, ask them how they're doing, things like that. Don't treat them like they're the outcasts of society."

Martin asked the woman that if he offered her help in finding a place to live, would she accept it? She said yes, so he went back into the office and returned with Commissioner Hess and several others, and the group began "negotiating" with the woman on finding her a residence and getting her into the programs that would better her life.

She declined one offer, then another. Martin was about to leave her without a "deal," but he brought her to a nearby drugstore to pick up some toiletries and she asked if she could kiss him on the cheek. Then she finally accepted the city's help.

Curtis was asked what people interested in helping the homeless can do. He suggested contacting the Department for Homeless Services but also offered another simple task that he said is more effective than it may seem: If you see a homeless person in the city, dial 311.

"DHS has teams set up all over New York — Harlem, Manhattan, Queens. They immediately get someone out there," he said. "They have experts who know how to deal with the homeless, get them the proper care they need. You can even do a checkup call with them and they'll let you know what the end result was. These things really work."

One of the stations Martin appeared on last week was NY1, where, eloquent and passionate as always, he stated his commitment to this cause:

"There are things in life we're really called to do," he said. "To neglect this for me would be neglecting a huge part of my life. I plan on doing this probably till the day I die."

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