Homeless Hero Lays Dying, Ignored By NYC Citizens

Posted: April 25, 2010 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions, Morality, Poverty, Stereotypes

A homeless man died on New York City streets last Sunday after he had been stabbed while coming to the aid of a woman who was being attacked by a currently unidentified assailant.

What makes the death of Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax so tragic was the callousness and indifference of passers-by.  

Surveillance video obtained by the New York Post, and posted with the article, Stabbed hero dies as more than 20 people stroll past him, shows Mr. Tale-Yax as he lay in a pool of blood for more than an hour, dying on the sidewalk while, as the Post wrote, "… nearly 25 people indifferently strolled past him."

Mr. Tale-Yax may have been one of NYC’s homeless population, but first and foremost he was a person. And – he was someone’s child.

That he came to the rescue of someone who was being accosted, is a clear indication that he had a sense of moral obligation to his fellow human beings; a personal responsibility to help those in need.

I don’t know how long Mr. Tale-Yax had been living on the streets of New York. But, because he was homeless, I’m willing to bet that many folks thought of him as being just another worthless lazy bum or someone who was nothing more than a drain on society.

Yet, he gave of himself in a way that not many could lay claim to: he gave his life in defense of someone else – a total stranger in need of help. And, I think it would be safe to say that the woman didn’t refuse his help simply because he was homeless. If anything, I’ll bet that she wholeheartedly welcomed his help.

More like as not, when Mr. Tale-Yax saw the woman being attacked, he didn’t pause to wonder about her social status as a way of deciding whether or not he should help her.

He probably didn’t wonder about her political affiliations or what her religious beliefs were. Most likely he didn’t think about whether the woman was housed or homeless; financially well-off or impoverished. He certainly didn’t ignore her need or look away and pretend she didn’t exist. Although, because he was homeless, it’s a strong probability that at one time or another, he had experienced being ignored by others in the community.

The irony is that in the last moments of his life, he was once again ignored by the community.

And that’s to the shame of us all.

Mr. Tale-Yax’s selfless actions speak volumes of his personal character.

In sharp contrast, the indifference of those who passed by and did nothing to help as he lay dying, screams loudly of their lack of moral character.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Homelessness does not define a person’s character.

Homelessness is a socio-economic condition that occurs when a person cannot afford to maintain housing of their own.

Personal character is not measured by what material possessions a person may or may not have, or whether they are housed or not.

A person may have an abundance of wealth and still be morally bankrupt.

Likewise, a person may lack housing, live in the most extreme manifestation of poverty and still have a heart of gold.

Because of his homelessness, some may have thought that Mr. Tale-Yax’s was a wasted life. His heroic actions proved otherwise. It also serves as proof that anyone – no matter what their social status – can make a difference.

Hopefully his death will be a reminder to all of us that each and every life has value – regardless of the circumstances.

  1. John says:

    Thank you for your comments. Very well said, I totally agree.

  2. Bri says:

    I know, this story saddened me so much too, and I blogged about it as well.

    Another thing that struck me was that not even the woman whose life he saved bothered to call the police. She just took off and never thought twice about it. NOBODY called them…none of those 25 people on the surveillance tape can even claimed that they walked past because they were afraid to get involved, but at least dialed 911 on their way to wherever they were going. He was discovered by firefighters responding to a completely non-related, non-emergency call in the same area. Not one person reported him in nearly two hours.

    Makes me wonder what’s wrong with people. A larger percentage of those 25 people would have helped a dying cat or dog on the street than were willing to help him.


  3. Skye says:


  4. Betty says:

    I just opened my fourth homeless shelter and I know what people think of the homeless.

    I’ve been asked why I help “those kind of people.” They picture them as lazy, druggies, alcoholics, etc. Once they get that pic in their mind, you can’t change it.

    I’ve worked 18 yrs assisting the needy and homeless in my state and to hear people put them down bothers me. There are people who aren’t homeless that are lazy, druggies, etc. but they like to pin it on the homeless. To read that this homeless man came to the rescue of a woman and died while doing it while all those people ignored him disgusts me. It seems that human life is not worth anything now days. How can ANYONE ignore a person dying and how the can person he helped ignore him? If he wouldn’t have stepped in, would someone else have??

    Makes me wonder what would have happened if he wouldn’t have. I don’t know how all those people can sleep at night. We’ve become a society of “not wanting to get involved.”

    If it would’ve been a child injured would they have ignored them?

    I hope those who didn’t help realize what they did and I hope the family (if this man has some) knows he was a HERO.

  5. Jeremy says:

    It is so true, and I am very disgusted at this fact. The least the people could’ve done is to call the police. I understand them not wanting to get involved though, because they didn’t want to get in trouble. It is a horrible fact, but I’m sure half of them didn’t want to get into a lawsuit with the assailant. It just infuriates me that no-one has any common courtesy to do anything at all.

  6. Christopher Jack says:

    Jesus won’t ignore him. He will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” And for those passers-by, Jesus will say “Depart from me into everlasting fire!” For what you have done unto the least of these, you have done to me! Do not fear the one who can kill the body, but fear the one who can cast your soul into Hell.

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