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Everyone loves a little tittle-tattle, some gossip, a sharing of opinions — social media needs a topic to discuss. A couple of weeks ago, at social network Nextdoor, one of its members decided to start a new topic: “Spare a dollar for coffee guy“. If you are a Hell’s Kitchen resident and a member of Nextdoor, you might have followed the thread that extends to over 180 comments.
The comments below the initial post ranged widely from abusive to kind. From describing him as a “grifter”, “homeless”, “abusive” and here for “for just over a year”; to having potential for comedy — “my actor friend wants to use his mantra for his homeless shtick”; to “he does no harm to anyone”, “this man is not homeless, he is permanently housed in supportive housing” and “annoying as he is/can be, he’s been around forever.”
Meanwhile, over on “All the Cool Kids Love Hell’s Kitchen” Facebook group a member posted that he’d passed away.
We are told that Camacho, aka “Dollar for a Coffee” guy, had been feeling unwell and died in his bed at Ivan Shapiro House on W46th Street between 9/10th Avenue on Sunday January 17. We’ve reached out to the team at Urban Pathways for more information.
Social media can be an easy platform for a quick judgment and things people would never say face-to-face with another human being. Luckily, there are also people who use the platforms to express a point of view that is thought out. Below is one such message on the Nextdoor thread from David Orbach who works around mental healthcare (published before anyone was aware that Camacho had died — and with David’s permission):
This thread seems to be running on the energy of people who are all ready to assume the worst of each other. I see no evidence here that anyone has anything personal against the guy. The fact remains that he is living in supportive housing, which is occupied by people who have significant enough mental health issues that they cannot navigate the challenges posed by daily life successfully on their own. His facility confirms that he is a substance abuser, and that at least some of the money he is asking for is being used to purchase illict substances. Again, none of this is to damn him, but it is likely that his mental health is further suffering because he is getting high.
Unfortunately, he has become a nuisance to enough residents that he is now a topic of discussion. One likely conclusion that could be drawn is that he needs to live in a facility that provides a higher level of care. One thing that is certain is that his facility needed to be made aware that there are legitimate concerns about his behavior, so that the professionals who are responsible for his well-being can assess his needs and take the next appropriate steps. I’m pretty much certain that this behavior is not his baseline. Remember, he is where he is because he cannot reliably make good decisions regarding his own well-being. We know that he is self-medicating. We don’t know what prescribed medications he is on, or whether he is taking them as directed, or at all. We don’t know if he makes his mental health appointments. His caseworker does. I’d suggest that anyone who is truly concerned about his situation, or about the massive problem that is the triad of homelessness (yes, I know, he’s not homeless), mental health, and addiction, stop into his residence and ask to speak with his caseworker. A discussion might provide new information and a different perspective.
In our research for this story, we reached out to readers for photos or videos of Camacho. We share these below for reference.
Everyone who has come across Camacho in Hell’s Kitchen will reflect in some way on his death. He might have been annoying, but our neighborhood has lost a character and another human being who touched our lives. The author [who liked to feel he could do a good impression of Camacho’s voice] is going to certainly reflect. We’ve turned off comments on this post, and suggest that you pick up the phone/grab a coffee and chat one-to-one to a friend if you want to discuss.
Pat Hughes, the owner of Hellcat Annie’s Taproom and Scruffy Duffy’s produced a short cartoon and Lilly’s Craft Kitchen posted on Instagram stories to pay tribute to Camacho.
We hope that Camacho rests in peace — with the most fabulous coffee and egg sandwich.