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'Too much to lose.' Why a Miami man moved into a backyard tent during coronavirus crisis

Carlos Frías, Miami Herald on

Published in Parenting News

MIAMI -- Rain dripped into in his tent and woke John Delgado before the sun.

Beneath a pounding rain, he quickly scrambled, careful not to trip into his backyard pool in the dark. He dragged the air mattress from his Coleman camping tent into the pool bathroom that acts as an airlock between himself and the rest of his family asleep inside their Homestead, Fla., house.

Delgado has spent the last two weeks living in this tent in his backyard to avoid the possibility of infecting his family with the coronavirus. He's a frontline staffer for a food bank, Farm Share, where he oversees free groceries being handed out to thousands of people weekly at drop sites throughout South Florida.

But when he comes home from those food drops, he worries about the people at home: His 84-year-old mother-in-law with Alzheimer's. His 48-year-old wife with a heart condition. His three teenage sons, including one with asthma. His 2-year-old grandson.

"I can't get my family sick. I have too much to lose," Delgado, 52, said, sitting on a chair outside of the tent on his pool deck, sipping a Heineken beneath a South Florida pink-sky sunset.

"I would rather take this on to keep my family safe," he said.

 

Delgado doesn't believe he's doing anything particularly extreme or heroic.

Born in New Jersey but raised in Liberty City, he has dedicated his life to outreach, handing out clean needles to drug users in shooting houses, giving condoms to HIV patients and carrying bags of groceries to the homeless living under the causeways.

His work in food banks the last 14 years, the last seven at Farm Share, has shown him what it means for a person to count on having food. Children who go to school hungry are more likely to bully others and adults with food insecurity are more likely to turn to crime for food, he said.

"In order to keep the country calm, we have to let people know there are places where people can get food," he said. "Eating is not a privilege, it's a necessity. If there is panic and there's nowhere to get food, que tu crees is going to happen?"

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