Earlier this year, I left my haunted Bed Stuy apartment, which faced a junkyard and an abandoned building, for a different kind of life on the upper east side. Though I throw more “woe is me” pity parties than I’d like to admit, I’m so much happier here than I ever was at my first NYC area place, and part of the reason for that is being close to lots of cool bars and restaurants now.

For the past few months, I’ve frequently walked past a well-known homeless man named Jose Perez. He made himself at home on the corner of 87th and 2nd Avenue, and he always had his dog with him. I saw him many times and gladly gave him him spare change. Unlike a lot of the aggressive homeless people of NYC, Jose Perez was peaceful, friendly, and calm. His pet was sweet too, and I’ll definitely say that I was more willing to help him because he was trying to look out for an animal in addition to himself.

Jose Perez was in his designated area all the time, even before Hurricane Sandy. Suddenly he was gone, and so was his pup, shopping cart, and sack of belongings. In place of all that was a display of cards and posters. He’s no longer with us:

Jose Perez of NYC

Jose Perez of NYC

Research shows that homeless people have much shorter lives than their sheltered counterparts, but it was upsetting to see an example of this in my own city. especially after a horrendous storm temporarily broke our spirits. We all know NYC is full of homeless folks, and it’s a shame there’s only so much we can do to elevate them — or at least help them help themselves.

Two months ago, I blogged about the importance of looking out for others during the holiday season. More people have been in that unfortunate situation than you’d think. One of my closest friends, Nikki had to face such adversity during her foster care days, and that’s partially why she’s so not amused by the line “As long as you love me, we could…be homeless, we could be broke” in Justin Bieber’s hit song. So, as Christmas/Hanukkah/the whole enchilada nears, remember to give back to your community in any way you can. I’m not saying you have to donate money, but perhaps you could give your old clothes to Good Will or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Bring canned food to churches or look into Hurricane Sandy relief organizations. Send gifts to U.S. soldiers if you’d prefer. I promise there’s something you can do that won’t break your bank or take up too much of your time.

Recent events have made me much more charitable and sympathetic, so I urge you to care for others as 2012 comes to a close. There’s no better way to end the year than by having a positive impact on someone else’s life.

RIP Jose Perez of 87th Street and 2nd Avenue.