Sunday, January 9, 2022

RAHIMA JACKSON- A HUMAN BEING-A BROKEN SYSTEM





SEATTLE AND EVERYWHERE: A BROKEN SYSYTEM-THE LIFE OF A HOMELESS PERSON WHO IS ILL.. It's a long read but worth the time to experience THE REALITY that many human beings endure to stay alive. DO YOU CARE enough to take the time read about this human being and so many others like her who live all around us, everywhere. THE VICTIMS OF INDIFFERENCE.
Pain was the first clue. Sharp, jagged streaks of it shooting up the sides of Rahima Jackson’s body. Jackson’s pain grew worse at night. It hurt to lie down, so she learned to sleep standing up, her back leaned against a wall. At first, Jackson, a 50-year-old former home health aide with an easy laugh, avoided going to the doctor. No insurance. Then the day came when she couldn’t take it anymore. A searing pain in her right breast had become too overwhelming to ignore, and Jackson pulled on her backpack and asked friends to take her to the emergency room.
Within days, Jackson was transferred to Harborview Medical Center and diagnosed with a metastasizing cancer consuming much of her spinal cord, breast tissue and bones throughout her body. She would need to start chemo right away, go on pain medication. But Jackson’s treatment plan might not mean much if she couldn’t solve a bigger problem.
She had nowhere to live. That meant Jackson would soon become one of hundreds of people in extreme poverty tumbling into a housing void, where a threadbare cohort of shelters, hospitals, nurses and social workers try to find people safe, stable places to stay while they manage serious illness. Only a fraction of those who need it see that much support.
Here, a crisis level of homeless baby boomers are living with high rates of chronic disease that require intensive care alongside mental health and substance use issues. In 2020, 31% of homeless residents surveyed in King County said they struggled with a chronic health problem, while 44% reported drug or alcohol disorders, 47% said they suffered from post-traumatic stress and 54% said they dealt with a mental health condition like depression or schizophrenia, the highest rates in all four categories in four years.
Of the nearly 20,000 homeless and housing unstable patients seen by Public Health – Seattle & King County’s Healthcare for the Homeless Network in 2020, nearly two-thirds were treated for at least one chronic health condition. People suffering from these diseases are disproportionately Black and Native, from communities that have been deprived of generational wealth over centuries. Their illnesses are often caught late, at younger ages, in advanced and rarely seen stages.
Of the shelter that is available, little, if any, is appropriate for people dealing with serious health problems, and no local residential hospice programs specifically cater to people without housing. As a result, people are dying on the street or in shelters poorly equipped to care for them, though what can be seen in the official tally of homeless deaths is an undercount. Through November of 2021, King County recorded 21 homeless deaths last year linked to a chronic illness, 14 of them outdoors or in vehicles. Many more people with chronic illness likely died by overdose, the largest single cause of homeless deaths last year.
This was the situation Jackson faced when she landed in the emergency room of St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. To doctors, she named her worst fear, the one that had lingered in the back of her mind for months. “My mom died of cancer,” she said. “I don’t want to die like my mom.”
So, quickly, Jackson’s diagnosis, her homelessness — all things that might make others look at her with pity — became part of a mission. To find housing. To start a movement as she received cancer treatment, one meant to spread awareness about cancer symptoms and to reduce stigma against sickness.
It would start with an album.
There was little time, and Jackson didn’t know it yet, but the next year and a half would cycle her through homelessness and health care systems that were never built to care for the growing number of people like her. She started to record songs in her hospital bed with her phone.I’ve been scared and running, but not anymore, Jackson thought. I will finish what I start.
February 2020 =A long, winding path led Jackson here, to the Seattle area from Zanzibar, where Jackson’s mother died and where Jackson grew up. She moved to the U.S. in 1993, and although she was gay, she entered a relationship with a man to try for another shot at what she thought passed for normalcy.
Eventually she left the relationship and found new family in communities where LGBTQ+ people shunned elsewhere became cousins, aunties and sisters. Despite the support she found after coming out, bad relationships and financial hardships made housing elusive.
After her diagnosis, Jackson bounced between the hospital and a short-term shelter for people in crisis. While Jackson’s doctors handled her treatment, a social worker named Michael Light worked to find Jackson a longer-term place to stay. Light is part of a specialized three-person, part-time team at Harborview assigned to help homeless patients manage their stress and symptoms, navigate the medical and homelessness systems and, if needed, plan for the end of their lives. The palliative care model they follow focuses on improving quality of life for their patients, beyond the medical treatment prescribed to them by doctors.
This palliative care program, the first of its kind in the country, sees up to 80 patients a year, but that’s probably 1% of people who need this support, according to Tricia Madden, Harborview Medical Center’s director of downtown programs.
“We know we’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg,” Madden said. “We always have a waiting list. We always have people trying to refer more people than we can take care of.”
The palliative care team started out as a pilot in 2013, when health care workers saw hospitals overwhelmed with people suffering from chronic homelessness and advanced diseases. The diseases that they saw — cancer, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — bloomed into rarely seen extremes because people were stranded from regular health care.
And, from most housing options. Local homeless shelters already struggle with an aging population, many with complex needs. Several also prohibit the pain medications needed to manage symptoms of diseases like cancer.
Skilled nursing and hospice facilities that might be appropriate for patients like Jackson aren’t much of an option either. They often reject homeless patients because their needs are so high and the rates that Medicaid pays are so low, doctors and social workers say.
University of Washington professor and nurse practitioner Josephine Ensign recently published a book “Skid Road” that chronicles her research into the historical roots of homelessness and poverty in Seattle. Ensign describes a takeaway from researching her book: “Because of the unique qualities of Seattle again since the settler colonial founding is the fact that we’ve actually had per capita one of the highest rates of homeless from the very beginning. This is not something new,” said Ensign. (Daniel Kim / The Seattle Times)
Seattle has struggled to care for sick and homeless people since the 1800s.
Today, the palliative care team costs about $225,000 a year, funded by Public Health’s Healthcare for the Homeless program, Harborview Medical Center, private foundations and patient insurance. Madden and her colleagues would like to expand the program but don’t have the money to, she said.
At the end of February, Light landed Jackson a bed at Harborview’s Medical Respite program, a stopgap shelter next to the hospital doctors use so they don’t have to discharge patients directly to the street. Homeless patients can receive daily nursing care there for up to six weeks, and people living with serious illness can stay there for up to six months.
Finally, Jackson found a place she could breathe. Since her breast cancer diagnosis spring of 2020, Rahima Jackson, leaving Harborview’s respite center had four admissions to medical respite, four major hospitalizations and stayed at a couple of shelters, all while getting treatment at multiple health care institutions with multiple teams.
August 2020
When Jackson’s time at medical respite ran out in August 2020, she had to move. One of the few places available was a poor fit: a shelter for women in recovery from substance use disorder that had prohibited marijuana and only allowed certain kinds of prescription pain medication.
Jackson didn’t discuss it with many people, but she sometimes used methamphetamine. Some of the people closest to Jackson didn’t even know about this, though it’s common for homeless people, especially women, to use meth to stay alert at night when they’re most vulnerable. Jackson’s doctors and care team were aware of her meth use, but it never caused enough concern to interfere with her treatment or housing plans. Instead, she was placed at the shelter because of space reasons.
At the shelter, it wasn’t Jackson’s meth use that raised alarms, if the shelter was even aware of it. Instead, she was reprimanded at the shelter for having the pain medication and marijuana she used to treat her cancer symptoms. She felt utterly isolated and angry, and intentionally overdosed on sleeping pills.
When Jackson awoke, she was back at Harborview. She regretted overdosing, she told Light, but there was no way she’d be going back to that shelter.
February 2021
After her overdose, Jackson moved to the Red Lion hotel in Renton, a building transformed into a shelter during the pandemic. Within her first few weeks, she accidentally locked herself out of her room, leaving her stranded from the pain medication she took every day at 9 a.m.
She asked the front desk for help, she said, and was told someone would come up shortly. For a long time, no one did. The symptoms worsened. Pain that felt like a buzz saw shearing into her shins, her neck, behind her ear. Jackson said she confronted a supervisor who became angry with her and told her, “This is not a hospital. This is not a hotel. This is a shelter.” Still, this shelter was better than the other places she had been in the past year.
March 2021-Shortly after noon on a Friday, Jackson pressed “record” on her phone. “What’s up, she howled into the device. “What’s happening, what’s happening, what’s happe-NING?” She paused before starting to speak again, her tone matter-of-fact. OK. Let me introduce myself. Jackson explained she was on the verge of creating something big. But her time to do it was running out. I’m dying anyway. Just make my dream come true, please. Softly, Jackson began to cry. Something metallic rattled, maybe the sides of a hospital bed. Four of her songs were ready to be listened to, she said. It’s about my story, but the way I said it with love, with, you know, with everything.
April 2021- At the Red Lion, Jackson made her way to the makeshift clinic in a ground-floor room with striped curtains framing a view of the parking lot where she spent most mornings, humming melodies in a camp chair with coffee, tilting her face to let her skin soak in the sun.
As Jackson settled into an exam chair, Dr. Russell Berg, a lanky Harborview doctor, scooted over to his patient’s side. The room, once used for paying guests, now hosted a vitals machine and a cramped desk, just big enough for a scanner, a label-maker and a naked bulb.
Light perched on a bedside table nearby while Berg asked Jackson if she had medical concerns. Jackson skipped over the question. She wanted to talk about bigger things: how homeless people were dehumanized by society, and sometimes even by shelter staff, and the importance of treating people with kindness. Light mentioned to the doctor that Jackson was working on an album on these themes. “Mr. Michael’s going to put it together,” Jackson told the doctor, gesturing to Light.
May 2021 -Jackson had trouble sleeping the night before, anxious about meeting her housing case manager in Pioneer Square on time to look at an apartment. “I had a dream about this,” Jackson told Joshua Torregrossa as they waited for the bus. “I need this place.” Jackson had never been like this about punctuality before. But her relationship with time had shifted since the diagnosis. Where time had once felt flexible, now Jackson felt the minutes passing, circling her as she moved through the world.
The building, named The Jackson for its intersection at Jackson Street, swept up from the sidewalk, 532 brand new units across two buildings, all metal and glass exteriors. It got a tax break from the city for setting aside affordable units, which in this case meant an apartment that cost either $1,481 or $1,581 a month. Jackson had won a rare federal voucher that could pay her rent.
It felt like fate. Inside, assistant building manager Abby Herro settled them into the corner of a cavernous lounge, where she pulled out an iPad for a virtual tour. “I picked out a couple options,” Herro said, her finger tapping the screen. But first, Torregrossa explained that Jackson’s voucher had strict criteria and only allowed for bedrooms with an egress. Bedrooms without windows wouldn’t cut it. “I’m so sorry,” Herro said. She only had windowless bedroom units left.
Jackson was quiet for a moment, her expression unreadable behind her mask. Herro asked if she’d still like to see the amenities and showed Jackson a jazz lounge in the building. Jackson perked up at the mention of music. Softly, she began to sing, her voice carrying up to the high ceilings.
Renewals would be up in June or July, Herro said. They could check back in then. “You have to pinch yourself,” Jackson joked to Torregrossa and Herro, pulling at the skin on her hand, her eyes wide. “I must stay alive, I must stay alive.”
Social worker Michael Light and registered nurse Joe Hufford are part of the only mobile outreach palliative care team in the country serving people who have serious illness and live without stable housing.
July 2021- Inside a Pioneer Square coffee shop over a table of patient notes and empty plastic coffee cups, Light and palliative care nurse Joe Hufford tried to make sense of where their clients were coming and going. The two went through the details on their list quickly, shaking their heads at doctor-ordered treatment plans that would be impossible for their patients to adhere to.
One patient with kidney failure and masses of bacteria clustered around her organs from years of injecting heroin had been set up on a plan to get on methadone. This patient had never once showed up for a prescheduled appointment but was supposed to show up every day at an office in Sodo. Her antibiotics were also expected to be delivered to a dispensing machine inside the emergency department at night. The next day, the medications were nowhere to be found.
Tracking down and working with the roughly 40 patients assigned to Hufford and Light at any given time who are bouncing among streets, shelters and the hospital is just a portion of their jobs. The rest of the time, the two work at Harborview or in shelters. But even shelter or supportive housing programs are not set up to handle the medical or emotional needs of people who are dying. Staff are overwhelmed.
Joy Estill, an administrator at the St. Martin de Porres men’s shelter in Sodo, sometimes just closes the door to her office and cries. She often sees late-stage kidney disease and severe mental illness from a lifetime on the streets. Shelter residents need help doing simple tasks — going to the bathroom, walking up stairs — and sometimes care that goes beyond the training of shelter staff, like administering morphine.
“We care what happens, but we don’t have the actual physical expertise for this,” Estill said. “Right now there’s no place for some of these people.”
Late July 2021- Jackson’s brain and body had begun to feel like they were talking past each other. It was hard to stay focused, and she struggled to choose between anti-depressants or the headaches she believed they caused. She was hospitalized for a seizure, after which she had trouble controlling her bladder. Cancer pain wouldn’t leave her left side, and she began to walk with a cane. And she still didn’t have housing.
A close friend was worried. After losing contact with Jackson for several months, Latasha Perkins had just found out Jackson had been hospitalized and had nowhere to live. In late July, Perkins flew out to Seattle from Chicago and rented a hotel room near the airport. The security gate around the Red Lion shelter where Jackson had been living reminded her of a prison. She took Jackson to the hotel where she was staying, gave her CBD oil for her pain and tried to get her to eat steak and potatoes.
Dr. Leslie Enzian, Jackson’s primary care provider, asked Jackson when she might finally get into an apartment of her own. “Any day from now,” Jackson said. “Any day from today. Any day.” Dr. Enzian urged her patient to come up with a backup plan. When Perkins checked out of her hotel, Jackson would have to check out, too.
But Jackson’s doctors were optimistic that she’d show signs of responding to treatment. Enzian asked about Jackson’s appetite — did she feel interested in food? As Jackson’s answer strayed to other concerns, Perkins leaned in close to her friend, her long blond braids falling onto her forearms folded in her lap. She needed to keep Jackson on track. “But do you have an appetite?” Perkins asked Jackson, her tone gentle, but firm. “Yes or no?”
August 2021-Finally, Torregrossa found Jackson a place. It had been a year and a half since her diagnosis. The one-bedroom apartment in a new low-income building overlooked the neighborhood’s Vietnamese delis and shopping centers. On clear days, Jackson could see Mount Rainier.
The day she moved in, Jackson and Light walked over to the window and high-fived. “Does it feel real?” Light asked. “I have to pinch myself,” she said. Before she left Harborview’s Medical Respite program, Jackson clasped a pile of going-away gifts from her friends — comfy clothes, a $50 scratch-off lottery ticket — as she waited for Light to pick her up and take her to a home that was finally hers. She spoke softly, her voice raspy and tired. “We made it. We made it,” she murmured. “And it’s going to be so beautiful.”
Nine days after Jackson moved into her apartment, she died.
The news surprised everyone, her doctors included. Jackson had seemed to be doing well. The cancer hadn’t shown signs of progression at her last scan. She had been optimistic about the time she had left, the time she had to launch her album.
The Medical Examiner’s Office determined her death to be an accident, a toxic combination of meth, Jackson’s medications for her cancer symptoms, including prescribed fentanyl, and her anti-depressants. She may have been particularly vulnerable because of her advanced cancer and the length of time she had been using meth. Now Light and Torregrossa were back at the apartment, slowly and quietly packing up the things they had helped Jackson move in with just two weeks earlier. Light pulled down a set of pajamas hanging behind the bathroom door, lifted the sheets off Jackson’s mattress and folded them. He remembered the last time he saw her, standing at that window, cradling a little wooden sign, a new decoration for her new apartment.
It read, “The future is bright.”
“Thank you, Seattle”In honor and remembrance of the beautiful Rahima Jackson. She wrote and recorded this song, on her hospital bed, while undergoing cancer treatment. This song serves as an homage to the city of Seattle and the community of people who helped her in her healing journey. Watch the music video below.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

JACKSON GOULD-9 YEAR OLD WITH CYSTIC FIBROSIS-A VICTIM OF CRUELTY BY A SCHOOL DISTRICT AND BOARD

                                                     Jackson Gould- 9 years old

Jackson Gould is a 9 year old child who like so many children his age enjoys going to school, playing with friends, and interacting socially with the other students. He lives in Douglas County Colorado with his loving family and attends 4th grade at the Heritage Elementary School located in the Douglas County School District.

Oh, but in one way Jackson is a little "different". Jackson unlike many other children his age has had to contend with having a chronic medical condition known as Cystic Fibrosis.

Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive, disease that causes long-lasting lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.More than 30,000 children and adults in the United States have CF (70,000 worldwide) and CF affects people of every racial and ethnic group.CF does not affect cognitive or learning abilities.

Jackson works very hard to stay healthy. He does 90 minutes of airway clearance treatments each day and takes over 30 pills multiple times a day. He swims laps for an hour twice a week to strengthen his lungs. He is a gymnast, a gifted and talented student, a pianist, and an animal lover who wants to be a writer and an entrepreneur when he grows up. This has been devastating for him and his family who are now faced with making decisions they should never have been forced to make.

Sadly, Jackson Gould is also a victim of being preyed upon by adults who seem to be subhuman creatures with no soul, no heart, no feelings, and absolutely no clue to how uncaring, evil they are as they attempt to destroy this innocent youngster's life.

I personally interviewed his mother Kate Gould who is a single parent and also vetted her story as being factual.

Jackson began the current 2001-2022 school year in August with masking optional as part of the local Health Departments directive relating to the Covid Pandemic. As numbers rose and the delta variant took hold, the Tri-County Health Department issued a mandatory mask mandate for Schools.

However, the three ultra conservative Douglas County Commissioners proceeded to pull Douglas County out of Tri-County Health and create their own Board of Health appointing themselves to the board. None of them have any medical training or experience. They also appointed a diagnostic radiologist.

The first thing they did was to issue a new Public Health Order making masking optional in Douglas County. The Douglas County School District decided to sue this newly self appointed local Health Board for their making the mandatory mask mandate optional instead of following the directive issued by the Tri-County Health board and approached 9 families, of which Jackson's family was one, to join as plaintiffs. They sued the local Health Board as violating the American Disabilities Act, Individual Disabilities Act, and the Free Appropriation Act.

Judge John Kane of the 10th Circuit granted them a temporary restraining order ruling that universal masking was an appropriate accommodation considering the potential for serious complications and even death from Covid-19 for this Cystic Fibrosis population.

As they were preparing to go forward with a permanent injunction, Douglas County elected 4 new ultra conservative, anti mask candidates (who ironically ran on a "Kids First" platform) to the Board of Education. Being 4 out of 7 members they now had the majority and quickly voted themselves President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary.

Knowing that the new board would take power at the end of November, in order to get the case dismissed,the Board of Health offered to keep the temporary restraining order in place and amend their public health order to allow the school district to make their own rules about masking.

At the Dec. 7th 2021 school board meeting the 4 new members voted 4-3 to make masking optional in schools. Jackson's mother Kate made a public comment at that meeting and had to have a sheriff escort her to her car because other parents were giving her the finger and getting in her face and saying that she was using Jackson as a pawn for her own political gain.

Kate is not a public figure or a politician. She is a stay at home mom and a graduate student at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver where she will be receiving her Master of Divinity on June 3, 2022. The new mask choice rule went into effect immediately and she was faced with the awful decision of whether to send her son to school the next morning (less than 8 hours later).

The board of education said that they should work with individual principals to get accommodations so Kate sent Jackson and went straight to the school office to secure those accommodations. She was told that the principal was "too busy to see her. Kate refused to leave. After several calls to the Superintendent (who did not return her calls) and the press, she saw me after waiting in the office for two hours.

The accommodation Kate asked for was to amend her sons 504 medical plan to state that he needed for the children in his classroom to be masked. His pulmonologist wrote a letter also stating that this was the accommodation needed because individuals with CF are at a much higher risk for serious Covid-19 infection. She sent the request to her supervisor, who sent it to his, who sent it to legal and it was denied. They offered to have any unmasked individual stay 6 feet from him.

Kate did not agree to that accommodation because 1) how in the world would they monitor and enforce that in a public elementary school and 2) She was afraid it would set a precedent for them to be able to segregate him. And that is exactly what happened. In his math class, he was pulled from his usually place and put at the teachers desk, which faces away from the white boards and the rest of the class. Imagine how that made him feel? This bright, social, loving 9 year old boy who is a friend to everyone, sitting alone at the teachers desk facing the wall.

So, that is when Kate realized it was necessary to have to retain a special education attorney. Thanks to a $2000 donation from another special needs family and Kate Gerland (the Special Education Attorney) lowering her retainer fee from $3000 to $2000 she was able to hire her.

According to Kate Gould, on December 14th, 2021 the special education attorney and her met with representatives from the school district where they presented an additional letter from Jackson’s pulmonologist stating that it is a requirement for Jackson’s lung health that the students and staff in his classroom wear masks. Despite this, the school district continues to deny the accommodation. They said the best they can do is to facilitate transferring Jackson to a school district that is masking.
They  also reiterated that the accommodation Jackson needs in his 594 plan is that all children in his class be masked. They were told that isn’t fair to the other children.They told them that they will meet with a deputy superintendent and the director of special education and try to come up with some “creative solutions.”
It also turns out that when Kate contacted the other local public school districts that mandate mask wearing and also private schools, they all told her that they were "filled up" with no room for Jackson.
We all know that anyone with the right connections could easily have a school open up one more space for Jackson Gould due to his extenuating circumstances. 
If anyone CAN HELP KATE GET JACKSON INTO ONE OF THOSE "FILLED UP" safe schools please email her at: Kgould@iliff.edu
In other words instead of acting like responsible, caring human beings, the school district just dumps this 9 year old into another district instead of helping him from becoming more ill, as well as preserving his right to attend their school.
These ignorant, despicable school district Neanderthals were essentially expelling Jackson from his right to attend their school by getting rid of him.
The family is at "wits end" as they now are forced to have their Attorney file a Court Case on Jackson's behalf to attend the local school where he is supposed to be a student but in the meantime that means a long drawn out legal case while Jackson gets his education where?
Kate now realizes this will again end up having to go to court and in the meantime she will have to figure out a way to get him into a safe mask mandated school. 
This not just a fight to obtain justice for a 9 year old child who is an innocent victim but also represents all the other special needs students in our Country that face the same discrimination by others who will get away with their inexcusably cruel, selfish, ignorant behavior if they are not forced legally to obey the law.

After reading this blog post, if you have any conscience and are human this is how you can help Jackson and his family who are fighting for themselves and all disabled children:

 If anyone CAN HELP KATE GET JACKSON INTO ONE OF THOSE "FILLED UP" safe schools please email her at:Kgould@iliff.edu

KATE GOULD " is raising funds  "because she had to retain a special education attorney to help get Jackson accommodations at school to help keep him safe during this time of pandemic. His school district, Douglas County School District in Colorado, removed masking from the schools this week despite the fact our county has high rates of community transmission and our hospitals are at 100% capacity. We requested that his 504 medical plan be amended to have children in his classroom mask to help keep him safe because Jackson has cystic fibrosis. The request has been denied and we have had to hire an attorney to help ensure we get this important accommodation met. We are so grateful for your help! Thank You."

If you want to contact Kate Gould directly by email she can be reached at:Kgould@iliff.edu

Their fundraising goal is $5,000 and they have raised as of this date $2,856 from 47 donors. Any donation amount you can afford is welcome as this is a truly righteous cause and deserves your support. To donate to Jackson's legal fund (I just donated) please click on the link below:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/fund-for-jacksons-legal-fight?utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer


Kate Sullivan
This is our legal fund page: https://gofund.me/9072d9ba

Monday, October 4, 2021

SAY THEIR NAMES! Leng Hongsheng and HIS FAMILY, THE FAMILY OF Ang Gelu Lama , Mingma Yangji Sherpa, Lopsang Lama.,

QUEENS,NYC.......SAY THEIR NAMES! Leng Hongsheng and HIS FAMILY, THE FAMILY OF Ang Gelu Lama , Mingma Yangji Sherpa, Lopsang Lama.

No one cares, no-one knows, but they were innocent human beings and became victims of not only climate change, corrupt laws, greedy evil landlords. These victims lives mattered and they did their best to realize their dreams yet no one knows about what happened to them. There are so many human beings, innocent  victims in our Country and the World but the huge divide between the rich and those with privilege act as a blind bubble of uncaring ignorance and cruelty betweeen the "haves" and the have nots".

Like many who come to America, Leng Hongsheng was looking for freedom. He arrived in the 1990s, having lived through the tumult of a world war, a cultural revolution and the emergence of a nation into modernity.
He was thought to have been an engineer back in China. In New York, he collected rubbish for a living, peddling around Chinatown in Queens looking for plastic bottles and electronics to recycle. Still, he found joy, brought his family to the US and got a green card, endeavouring to make a better life.
That hope ended last month, when Mr Leng, 82, along with his wife and daughter, drowned in the turbid waters that flooded his tiny basement flat - one of 14 victims of Hurricane Ida in New York City. The family was cremated on 3 October, a month after the devastating storm struck.
Most of the casualties in New York, including a two-year-old boy and a 86-year-old woman, were Asian and Hispanic immigrants living in illegal basement dwellings.
The tragedies have laid bare the ways in which extreme weather events ravage decaying infrastructure, devastate low-income communities and deepen social inequality, leading to what experts call a "climate apartheid". Without a more equitable approach to intervention, the problem will only get worse.
Hurricane Ida, a powerful Category 4 storm, made landfall in Louisiana with wind speeds of 150mph (240 km/h). As it moved north, it left a trail of destruction with dozens killed and tens of thousands of homes seriously damaged. When it hit the Northeast on 1 September it would become the deadliest storm the region has faced since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The deluge started around sunset and continued until past midnight. New rainfall records had just been set days earlier by a tropical storm, only for them to be broken again when Ida arrived. Rainfall averages for the entire month of September were reached within a few hours, triggering one of the worst urban flood disasters in US history.
It was around 11pm when Wu Ming was woken up by the sound of water. He opened his eyes, only to realise that flood waters were gushing into his ground-floor flat, on the same block as the Leng family's home.
He looked out the window and saw cars floating in the streets. "I had never seen anything like that in my 10 years of living in New York," Mr Wu told the BBC in Mandarin. (Wu Ming isn't his real name, as he has asked not to be identified.)
In less than two minutes, the water rose from his knees to his chest. He tried to escape through his front door, but to his shock, it wouldn't move an inch - he could not open it against the powerful cascade of water. He fled through the back door and spent a sleepless night on the outside staircase.
"I thought 'just endure tonight, we'd all be okay tomorrow,'" Mr Wu, a builder in his 50s, told the BBC.
There were glimpses of hope. A resident swam through the flash flood and rescued a cat and a dog from a flooded apartment. Residents on higher floors provided shelters to others.
It crossed Mr Wu's mind at some point that he had not spotted the Leng family. "I wanted to help them," Mr Wu said, "but the floods were so overwhelming. I couldn't even see the door to their basement."
Flooding is expected to be the environmental calamity that will affect the largest portion of the global population amid the climate crisis. Today, some 1.5 billion people - about one in five people worldwide - face at least moderate flood risk, according to the World Bank. Nearly 90% of the world's flood-exposed people live in Southern hemisphere low-and middle- income countries, but rich countries are not immune, and nearly 160 million who live in the developed world are also vulnerable to floods.
In the coming decades, Europe, North America and other parts of the Northern hemisphere will see newly exposed areas prone to flooding - and in these places, too, the poorest will fare the worst.
In the US, about 41 million people are exposed to flood risk, concentrated in metropolitan areas where population density is high, and building on land newly prone to flooding is common. Floodplains are often occupied by low-income and racial minority communities, as they are more likely to live in low-quality housing, where rents are cheaper, said Dr Shannon Van Zandt, Professor of Urban Planning at Texas A&M University.
Immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, are "often are even more vulnerable than our racial and ethnic minorities who are American citizens," she added, because they are more afraid to ask for help.
A narrow outdoor stairwell led down to the Lengs' underground home, a nondescript red-bricked house on a quiet street in Flushing, with multiple families sharing the three floors of a few rooms each. Theirs was one of at least three blocks of such abodes in the neighbourhood.
No sunlight reached the room in the back of the basements like the one where the Lengs had lived - even in daytime, when the BBC walked through a flat a few doors down, the place was obscured in darkness. A single skylight let in some sun near the front of the flat, but there is no other exit besides the door to the stairwell.
Days after the storm, dirt, toppled furniture and rubbish laid strewn about the Lengs' flooded flat. Intense musty odours permeated the air and lingered around the neighbourhood.
In major US cities, as in many urban centres, a housing crisis has forced low-income renters into flats like those occupied by the family and other Ida victims.
"New York just doesn't have adequate housing for everyone who lives here, including the immigrants who are often very vulnerable," says Dr Jacqueline Klopp, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University.
There are many who tend to rely on informal networks within their communities to find housing, often illegal conversions constructed without proper permits. There are around 50,000 illegal basement dwellings in New York City, according to the city's estimate.
Despite the hazards, tenants and homeowners often avoid reporting any issues due to fear of eviction or fines.
Two other household, also Chinese immigrants, shared the 93 sq m (1,000 sq ft) basement with the Lengs - but they were out at the time of the flood, one household having gone back to China for a visit and the other, a single man, out for work as a delivery man.
According to neighbours, the Lengs were housebound, surviving on government assistance as Mr Leng had suffered several strokes in recent years while his daughter was autistic and needed in-home care.
Only weeks before the storm, Mr Wu had asked Mr Leng's wife Shen why they kept living in such cramped conditions. The family had applied for federal housing, she told him, but it had not yet been approved.
"They did not realise their American Dream," Mr Wu said, sighing.
Five of the six properties where New Yorkers lost their lives during the floods are unlicensed cellar-level homes, city officials said.
The lack of quality housing is an obvious reason why poorer people are more at risk during an extreme weather event, but there are also less overt factors. Low-income communities, for example, tend to have far fewer trees and green spaces.
During heatwaves, concrete surfaces become traps for hot temperatures and in floods, they prevent water from draining.
Most of the New York Ida flood fatalities were residents living in areas near large impervious surfaces, such as highways and car parks. Several people died in vehicles submerged on highways across the Northeast. "We saw highways that were completely flooded out because it's where the water would run off. If the water can't get absorbed, the highways become rivers," Dr Klopp said.
Seven miles from the Lengs' home, the Lama family from Nepal lived in the basement of a brick house next to two major highways in Maspeth, Queens.
Ang Gelu Lama, 50, had come to the US from Nepal 14 years ago. He and his wife Mingma Yangji Sherpa had a two-year-old son Lopsang, who had red, chubby cheeks and liked playing with monkey toys. A family friend told the Washington Post that the family lived in the cramped basement space for the cheap rent.
The last phone call Mrs Sherpa made was to a neighbour upstairs, telling her that flood waters were seeping into her flat.
A makeshift memorial now stands in front of the Lamas' home, displaying a black-and-white family photo, Lopsang's stuffed monkey and two lollipops.
On a recent day, Nuku Sherpa, Mr Lama's aunt, broke down in tears as she chanted a Buddhist prayer for the Lamas. Ms Sherpa, who lives in New Jersey, had just cleaned up her own flooded flat when she learnt of their deaths. "We are heartbroken," she said.
In all, Hurricane Ida tore through 1,500 miles of the continental US over the course of three days, spawning tornadoes in at least seven states, record rainfalls across the country and bringing about New York City's first-ever flash flood emergency.
Days after the storm, Mr Wu returned to salvage his belongings and to drain floodwaters from his mud-covered car, hoping that the engine could restart when dried. He couldn't bear to lose it, he said, after almost everything else had been taken by the water. "Even the trousers that I am wearing now are borrowed," he said.
It can take low-income and marginalised communities as much as twice as long to recover from a disaster, Dr Van Zandt said, as they are less likely to have the resources to rebuild or relocate.
The extremes in how the rich and the poor can respond to climate disasters is already being seen. A 2019 UN report noted that when Hurricane Sandy left large swathes of New York City in the dark in 2012, the headquarters of the investment bank Goldman Sachs in Lower Manhattan was protected by a massive wall of sandbags. Private firefighters had been hired to save the mansions from wildfires in California. The report estimates that climate change could push more than 120 million people into poverty by 2030, undoing 50 years of progress on poverty reduction. The effects will not only threaten basic human rights, such as life, food, housing and water, but also the rule of law and democracy.
The class divide has also entered the public consciousness in fiction. Parasite, an Oscar-winning South Korean film, depicts a poor family living in Seoul forced to flee their employer's luxurious mansion during a storm, only to discover that their subterranean home is heavily flooded and most of their belongings ruined.
This new "climate apartheid" has brought the world to the point of a "historic ultimatum," Dr Klopp said, and the crisis demands an approach that addresses not only environmental, but also social equality issues, locally and globally.
"We really have to be able to grapple with climate and equity. They are inseparable."
Since its days as a Dutch colonial outpost, openness has been a defining character for Flushing, Queens. Its 17th Century charter enshrined freedom of religious worship, welcoming Quaker refugees fleeing persecution.
A rail that connected the neighbourhood to the rest of New York City in the 19th century fostered its popularity and encouraged the arts. Eventually it became a hotbed for entertainment, a precursor to Hollywood.
In more recent decades, it has become an enclave for immigrants. Within its 800 acres are thriving communities from Taiwan, South Korea, China and India.
Though his life in the city was not easy, Mr Leng embraced New York. "He loved the artistic and political freedom here," his former immigration lawyer Norman Wong told the BBC.
Born in Northeast China in 1939, he had a poetic name: Hongsheng, which means an ascending wild goose.
He immigrated when he was in his 50s to pursue a life as a New Yorker, painting Chinese landscapes and once submitting a design for the World Trade Center memorial competition. He also became politically active in America, penning newspaper commentary critical of the Chinese Communist Party and joining the "China Democratic Party".
Citing fear of persecution in China, Mr Leng applied for political asylum in the US in the 2000s, and his case is still cited by local immigration lawyers.
The Lengs' deaths have been widely remarked upon in China, with many wondering on social media why the patriarch chose such a seemingly impoverished life for his family.
Asked one user: "He loved America, but did America love him back?"
In the starkest way, the country failed him - but perhaps in another way, he was loved. In the month after their deaths, the Chinese-American community pooled the money to cover their funeral costs and to send their ashes back to their homeland - an act, as a Chinese proverb goes, of returning fallen leaves to their roots.