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December 29, 1989
200 homeless get tix to inaugural

by Mark Mooney
Mayor-elect Dinkins yesterday gave away 200 inauguration tickets to a group of homeless men and women who donated about $50 in pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

The loose change, given to Dinkins in a heavy-duty envelope wrapped tight with a rubber band, was collected at several Brooklyn shelters and from homeless people on the street.

"A lot of people who live on the streets of New York were very surprised, shocked really," said Steve Riley, a homeless man who helped collect the money.

"Hey, I'm living on a piece of cardboard and somebody's telling me I might get to go to the mayor's inaugural? It was like, ?Come on, man, seriously,'" Riley said.

Riley, who works with the United Homeless Organization, said Monday's ceremony on the steps of City Hall would be "my first inaugural."

The Rev. Timothy Mitchell of the Ebenezer Baptist Church organized the donation drive after reading that Dinkins was calling on fat cats to donate as much as $10,000 each for the inaugural party.

Mitchell called the envelope of change "our fair share, a widow's mite."

Fred Tyrus, a homeless Vietnam veteran, said he collected "pennies, nickels, dimes and a few quarters" from other homeless vets at the Borden Avenue shelter.

George McDonald, an activist for the homeless, said the presence of the homeless at the inauguration was symbolically important. "Now 200 of our most needy people are represented up front in this inaugural," McDonald said.

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