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Home sweet home: Homeless couple evicted from FDR Drive encampment receives temporary apartment

Alex Lively and April Saccoccio near their Upper West Side apartment on June 2.
Photo by Dean Moses

Finally home free.

Alex Lively and April Saccoccio’s ever-growing makeshift shelter under the FDR Drive was literally torn down and dismantled on June 1 by a battalion of NYPD officers. Police officials cited the couple’s placement in an ongoing construction zone as cause for the removal, which saw the rough sleepers overcome with grief.

After the majority of their belongings were either destroyed or placed in police storage, Lively and Saccoccio were left with nothing but a few bags in a shopping cart and their beloved dogs Buddy and Snoopy. The future looked bleak for the pair, who had made a crude home under the FDR Drive since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a light appeared at the end of the tunnel.

Following their traumatic ordeal, Saccoccio told amNewYork Metro that an anonymous individual reached out to a DSS-DHS official and mere hours after amNewYork Metro first reported the eviction, a representative from the homeless outreach service informed the couple that they would be spending the night in an apartment for the first time in years.

April Saccoccio speaks with a homeless outreach team member on June 1. Photo by Dean Moses

“I was praying to God. It has been a rollercoaster ride. I have never been so sad and then so happy,” Saccoccio said as she, Lively, and their pets sat on the corner of East 18th Street and Avenue C for transportation to her new, albeit temporary, home. While they waited, friends they had made over the 16-month period in the surrounding community arrived to bid the twosome good tidings on the next stage in their lives. 

Wilma Loosen is an elderly resident of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village who has lived at the complex for 48 years. Ever since first reading of Lively and Saccoccio in amNewYork Metro back in January, she has delivered care packages to them every Wednesday, so seeing them off was a bittersweet moment for the senior.

“I read the article and I brought it to my church. I have been homeless, and I survived the second World War and I know what these people have gone through,” Wilma Loosen said, adding, “I’m so glad for them.” 

April Saccoccio and Wilma Loosen. Photo by Dean Moses

While their morning began with dread as officers shredded their home apart, the afternoon saw a vastly different encounter with the police force. After a DSS-DHS outreach team member informed the couple about the Upper West Side apartment they would soon be inhabiting, an NYPD patrol car escorted them to their new home. 

“We had a bad experience with the police, and then a good experience,” Saccoccio said.

Making themselves at home

amNewYork Metro followed up with Lively and Saccoccio after their first night with a roof over their heads. The couple are now residing in a temporary housing complex complete with their own rooms and — much to the excitement of the formally unhoused pair — their very own shower.

“It has a real tub! I literally took like four or five showers. I love it,” Saccoccio said excitedly, describing that her new apartment is not only furnished with a bed and dresser, but that this was the first time in three years that Saccoccio has even entered a building aside from a local storefront.

Buddy enjoying his new home. Photo by April Saccoccio

Now that they are housed, Lively says he plans on taking a job in Queens. 

“It was like we were stuck there. We weren’t going ahead with our lives, we weren’t going anywhere,” Saccoccio said, adding, “I feel so much lighter now, the stress level has gone down so much. I’m happy. It gives us a chance to better ourselves.” 

With tears in her eyes, Saccoccio shared how much she appreciates the readers of amNewYork Metro for reaching out and helping them, especially those who donated to their GoFundMe.

April Saccoccio and Snoopy inside their new home on June 3. Photo by April Saccoccio

“I don’t have the words to express how much it means for people who don’t even know us to support us,” Saccoccio said. “I don’t think we would have gotten this far without their help.” 

It was a big first time for their beloved dogs, too. Buddy and Snoopy who never were able to freely play on the grass, were able to roam and frolic in a local park. Lively says he is overjoyed to see his family so happy and thanks the authorities for allowing the pets to remain with them.

While living beneath the FDR Drive, the couple would take turns watching their belongings so neither of them could enjoy the moment with a clear head. Now, with the black cloud finally lifting, they say they hope to go on a date and watch a film at their local movie theater.

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