Saturday, January 31, 2009

He has a name...and its Johnnie Redding...thank you Charlie LeDuff...for following this

Saturday, January 31, 2009
Family: Frozen man was our Johnnie
Relatives identify body found in elevator shaft as River Rouge native, 56.
Charlie LeDuff / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- The dead man at the bottom of the elevator shaft has been identified.For the record, his name was Johnnie. Johnnie Redding.Redding
died about a month ago, authorities surmise, when he was pushed or fell
down the shaft inside an abandoned Detroit warehouse and came to rest
in 5 feet of water. The weather turned blue, and Redding would become
encased in a vault of ice, his shoes and shins protruding.The
world was shocked to learn that people knew that a man lay below and
yet carried on with their own games and grievances, not bothering to
inform the authorities. Eventually, someone with a heart called this
reporter. Once located, two dozen police officers and firefighters
working with chainsaws and guide rope extricated his body.A
wallet was found on the corpse. The identification told investigators
the barest of facts. Name: Johnnie Lewis Redding. DOB: 09-29-1952. City
of residence: River Rouge.They know little else. Whether his was death by misadventure or by the hand of another man remains a mystery."He
is still too frozen to even take fingerprints," said Vanessa
Denha-Garmo, spokeswoman for the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office.The
address in the wallet leads to a small Cape Cod in River Rouge, where
he once lived with his mother. For the record, her name was Orlene.The home is now owned by his brother Homer, who along with his sister, Lillian Warren, identified the body late Friday.Homer Redding, 59, was heart-broken but not shocked by his little brother's death.According
to him, Johnnie was a soft-hearted man who fell into a hard world and
could never extricate himself from it, no matter how hard he tried.
Johnnie was infected with the need for drugs and alcohol. Rundown
buildings were his clubhouse."He chose the life for whatever
reason," Redding said. "But he wasn't homeless. Please don't call him
homeless. He always had a place to go. He was loved."Johnnie
Redding, according to his brother and sister, was one of those men who
bounced from odd job to couch to the homeless mission and back.He lived with his mother in River Rouge, the same house he was raised in, until she died two years ago.It
wasn't always this way for Johnnie. He worked until he was 40 at a
local steel mill alongside his father. Then Johnnie's brother Marion
died of an overdose."That's when I seen the change," Homer said. "He was very close to Marion."Johnnie
began to ping-pong in life. He would do odd jobs: gardening, plumbing,
anything to get him through. When he couldn't get through, he would
insinuate himself on his sister's couch and then insinuate himself on
his brother's couch and then, feeling better, he would get lost again."Last time I saw him was in September for his birthday," Homer said. "It was all right. I haven't seen him since."If
the outpouring of phone calls and letters are any indication, then the
life and sad end of Johnnie Redding reminds us that even the dirtiest
life has value. There are many Johnnies out there: Victor, Kenneth,
Terrence, your loved ones are asking about you.And if you should
judge Johnnie Redding harshly, his brother Homer said, remember that no
man deserves to go ignored at the bottom of an elevator shaft."We've got to live in the world together," Homer said. "And we got to care about each other."You can reach Charlie LeDuff at (313) 222-2071 or

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rough Day!!

Its been a tough day..i sobbed for over two full whole hours...called a co-worker for support and got it (thank you I love you and you know who you are!) and I have broke down numerous other times...but its has also been an invigorating day ....before leaving for work today I had already planned that today was the day I go back out ON the streets even though I have been sick for over 2 weeks and avoiding doing so cuz I was just getting sicker every time I I thought no more just having bags of food and socks ready in my car to pass out the window, which has been very helpful mind you.....but right now I have a bag full of food and I am going to look for Manual, Albert, Stephan and Bryan tonight and anyone else I can find...I need to reach out to them...for me more than anything. I admit this.

So instead of getting all down and staying down from the news of days story (read the blog just before this one)...i am more determined to move forward with the Back Pack Project and getting information on services so that I am in the know and share the knowledge with those that need it!. I will have this system down by next fall I promise that!!

and yes I have been feeling bad about not getting out lately...its tearing me up to be honest...but I was just getting sicker and the numbness has been harder and harder to curb and bone chilling reality is that I was getting worse every time I went out..and this story made me feel guilty about not getting out even though I am sick and need to get better...even though I know I need to get better to be able to serve sucks that I got the sickest when its been the closest..and yes I know I got sick due to not having the right boots and gloves and fuck coat for that matter...I get all of that..and its not like I have wanted to experience on the smallest level what homeless do...dear god I don't want my biggest fear to come true...I am just stupid for not having those things to protect me while I try to help, it doesn't help that pretty fucking frugal as well.. I went to Moose jaw this weekend with Lil Jen and Taymar..and holy freoly i am not spending 30 dollars (say it with a Canadian accent) on a pair of Glove. I will stick to wearing three pair at a time cuz that works and it helps when someone needs a pair I just peel one layer off!...or you can call me cheap how ever you wanna put it.

As for the press...this story better and i mean better fucking be followed...Matty "I am billionaire living in a gated community in Grosse Pointe' Moroun better be held accountable, the city offices and police as well..cops should not ignore calls like this...which makes me wonder if I ever did have to call 911 would I get the assistance I needed?

In my view those homeless men are not for second to be considered negligent even if that guy is homeless or not for their not contacting help.. even if they were 10 steps from that man...because they are literally 10 steps from that man as well and they know it! His reality is one they are all to fearful of for themselves I imagine. And the hockey players...don’t get me started…oh that angers me and saddens. leduff calling the scene almost peaceful? uh searching for a prize in writing?...there was NOTHING fucking peaceful about that image. It was devastating and painful especially with all the refuse and cracked ice. who knows maybe having climbed down that elevator shaft to get that close for images those two had to find some peace to come to terms with the reality of it...wishful thinking on my part i get that but i'm allowed hope.

and what is a “porpoising walrus”...what the FUCK is that ..what crevice of his asshole did he pull that out of ? For fucks sake.…I am not trying to attack him really but those two points boil me. I really do hope he follows this story…this story is award waiting quality..if that is his goal..which I don’t fucking care if it …just as long as it gets other people to look up and FOCUS on what is going on..and gloss their eyes over the people on the streets..Our streets!

Please leduff continue to push this! You stuck with it for a few days and thank you for having done so. And even if the paper doesn’t give him enough inches to write about it I hope he will blog it or push it some other way. Go talk to Matty Moroun again, you just wrote a glowing story about him, knock on his door again and hold his ass accountable see what he plans to do. Mind you this is double if not multi edged…cuz now attention will be brought to the places homeless are staying outside of shelters without consideration as to why they are not there, which includes but is far beyond the fact that they are over-crowded and the system is overwhelmed. I do fear homeless will be pushed from buildings where they do find shelter and there are so many around the city.

AND hey YOU reader……If you are affected by this ..hit the forums up and put your opinion out there, let the paper know you to hear follows up on THIS story and others!! Encourage them to give stories extended lives instead of one time headlines. . Your suggestions-Help!! That is what the forum is for- USE IT!!

Knowing Max had climbed down that shack to get a better angle, assuming leduff did....I get it but I don’t at the same time or I don’t and I do at the same time. I will not be surprised when Max is awarded for having captured that image. Those images are powerful and we need reality ...on THIS subject to be blatant....and in your face!! This image is hard of us…but what people see around the world its nothing…
the forums have been amazing today about the subject...all viewpoints being expressed...some I agree with some I don’t..- all valid! Many upset over the image…GOOD you need to be upset by this picture….now maybe you will look up and help someone you don’t know. Hand that homeless man a sandwich, a drink, a buck…hold the door open for a stranger. CONSIDER the other humans on this planet with you…how many of you do NOT say hello to strangers? Please tomorrow or the next day or better yet everyone one til your just that…say ‘hi’ or even smile! It can change a persons whole day! I know it does mine when I do it!!

I do hope this topic gets attention...A LOT of that we stop thinking that others are not our problem….cuz we are our brother’s keeper. How we treat our children, our aged and our homeless is a reflection on our society…and ours doesn’t look too pleasant in many places right now. And a tragedy like this is a chance to build a better more open connection between people we know..and better yet those we do not. This quote is from someone on the forum;

"To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world."

Labels: ,

Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant Detroit warehouse

i am a complete wreck right now and my heart is broken...even if you don't believe...just send some energy out to this man...and to all of humanity right now.

Frozen in indifference: Life goes on around body found in vacant Detroit warehouse

Charlie LeDuff / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- This city has not always been a gentle place, but a series of events over the past few, frigid days causes one to wonder how cold the collective heart has grown.

It starts with a phone call made by a man who said his friend found a dead body in the elevator shaft of an abandoned building on the city's west side.

"He's encased in ice, except his legs, which are sticking out like Popsicle sticks," the caller phoned to tell this reporter.

"Why didn't your friend call the police?"

"He was trespassing and didn't want to get in trouble," the caller replied. As it happens, the caller's friend is an urban explorer who gets thrills rummaging through and photographing the ruins of Detroit. It turns out that this explorer last week was playing hockey with a group of other explorers on the frozen waters that had collected in the basement of the building. None of the men called the police, the explorer said. They, in fact, continued their hockey game.

Before calling the police, this reporter went to check on the tip, skeptical of a hoax. Sure enough, in the well of the cargo elevator, two feet jutted out above the ice. Closer inspection revealed that the rest of the body was encased in 2-3 feet of ice, the body prostrate, suspended into the ice like a porpoising walrus.

The hem of a beige jacket could be made out, as could the cuffs of blue jeans. The socks were relatively clean and white. The left shoe was worn at the heel but carried fresh laces. Adding to the macabre and incongruous scene was a pillow that gently propped up the left foot of the corpse. It looked almost peaceful.

What happened to this person, one wonders? Murder in Motown is a definite possibility. Perhaps it was death by alcoholic stupor. Perhaps the person was crawling around in the elevator shaft trying to retrieve some metal that he could sell at a scrap yard. In any event, there the person was. Stone-cold dead.
A symbol of decay

The building is known as the Roosevelt Warehouse, once belonging to the Detroit Public Schools as a book repository. Located near 14th Street and Michigan Avenue, the warehouse burned in 1987 and caused something of a scandal as thousands of books, scissors, footballs and crayons were left to rot while Detroit schoolchildren -- some of the poorest children in the country -- went without supplies.

The building was eventually sold to Matty Moroun, the trucking and real estate mogul who is worth billions of dollars and is the largest private property owner in the state of Michigan. Among other properties, Moroun owns the decrepit Michigan Central Rail Depot that squats directly next to the warehouse. The train station has become the symbol of Detroit's decay. Like much of his property in southwestern Detroit, Moroun's warehouse and the train station are gaping sores.

The warehouse is so easily accessible, a person in a wheelchair could get in with little effort. There are holes in the fence and in the side entrance. The elevator shaft is wide open. It appears no one has ever tried to close the bay doors.

A colony of homeless men live in the warehouse. Wednesday morning a few fires were burning inside oil drums. Scott Ruben, 38, huddled under filthy blankets not 20 paces from the elevator shaft.

"Yeah, I seen him," Ruben said. The snow outside howled. The heat from the can warped the landscape of rotting buildings and razor wire.

Did he know who the dead person was?

"I don't recognize him from his shoes."

Did he call the police?

"No, I figured someone else did," he said.

"There's lots of people coming through here with cameras and cell phones. I don't got no phone. I don't got no quarter. Things is tight around here."

His shack mate, Kenneth Williams, 47, returned at that point with an armload of wood.

"Yeah, he's been down there since last month at least."

He was asked if he called the police.

"No, I thought it was a dummy myself," he said unconvincingly. Besides, Williams said, there were more pressing issues like keeping warm and finding something to eat.

"You got a couple bucks?" he asked.
Waiting for a response

There are at least 19,000 homeless people in Detroit, by some estimates. Put another way, more than 1 in 50 people here are homeless.

The human problem is so bad, and the beds so few, that some shelters in the city provide only a chair. The chair is yours as long as you sit in it. Once you leave, the chair is reassigned.

Thousands of down-on-their-luck adults do nothing more with their day than clutch onto a chair. This passes for normal in some quarters of the city.

"I hate that musical chair game," Ruben said. He said he'd rather live next to a corpse.

Convinced that it was indeed a body, this reporter made a discreet call to a police officer.

"Aw, just give 911 a call," the cop said. "We'll be called eventually."

A call was placed to 911. A woman answered. She was told it was a reporter calling. The operator tried to follow, but seemed confused. "Where is this building?"

She promised to contact the appropriate authorities.

Twenty minutes or so went by when 911 called the newsroom. This time it was a man.

"Where's this building?"

It was explained to him, as was the elevator shaft and the tomb of ice.

"Bring a jack-hammer," this reporter suggested.

"That's what we do," he said.

Nearly 24 hours went by. The elevator shaft was still a gaping wound. There was no crime scene tape. The homeless continued to burn their fires. City schoolchildren still do not have the necessary books to learn. The train station continues to crumble. Too many homicides still go unsolved.

After another two calls to 911 on Wednesday afternoon (one of which was disconnected), the Detroit Fire Department called and agreed to meet nearby.

Capt. Emma McDonald was on the scene.

"Every time I think I've seen it all, I see this," she said.

And with that they went about the work of recovering a person who might otherwise be waiting for the warm winds of spring.

You can reach Charlie LeDuff at (313) 222-2620 or

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Deep freeze: Metro Detroit shelters packed PLEASE HELP!!

Today Be especially thankful for what you have!!! if you see a homeless person today..PLEASE give them bus fare to get to a shelter! NO ONE should be out in these conditions!!! PLEASE HELP SOMEONE TODAY!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009
Deep freeze: Metro Detroit shelters packed as region copes with arctic blast
Doug Guthrie and Steve Pardo / The Detroit News

Tommy Lopp, 53, lost his truck driving job in October and had been living in his pickup until frigid weather forced him into one of Detroit's suddenly overcrowded shelters for the homeless.

"I don't want to be here, but it's a godsend: the warmth, the food," Lopp said on Wednesday inside the Tumaini warming center near Wayne State University. "Sleeping in those metal chairs is pretty uncomfortable, but I was so cold."

Metro Detroiters struggled to maintain a sense of normalcy Wednesday as the region fought arctic chill that could linger until Sunday. Work crews battled failing equipment. Thousands found themselves with dead car batteries. And police say icy conditions contributed to dozens of crashes on area roads by nightfall.

School administrators will keep their eyes on the thermometer. Traditionally, schools don't shut down for cold temps alone until they reach a real feel of around 30 below, said Frank Ruggirello, director of community relations for the Plymouth-Canton school district.

But a wind chill expected to plunge as low as minus 20 degrees in some areas prompted officials to cancel classes today at East Detroit Public Schools in Eastpointe.

The bitter cold was particularly brutal on the homeless and poor. Michael Alston, 51, lost both feet to frostbite four years ago. He pushed his wheelchair through the deep snow to a Salvation Army canteen truck for free soup. Keefe Lancaster, 53, said police brought him to the Tumaini facility early Wednesday morning after catching him sleeping near a steam vent on Hart Plaza.

"I don't like to sleep in there with all those people," Lancaster said about the facility that normally closes overnight but has been held open 24 hours to handle the need. "But I guess I got to. It's too cold."

With the National Weather Service warning the wind chill factor could plunge to between minus 10 and minus 20 degrees, shelter organizers fear exposure and even death for some of the area's homeless.

Chad Audi, president and CEO of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, said his shelters are filled well beyond their 260-bed capacity. Spare mattresses were placed on the floors. Others slept in chairs.

"We have had 400 to 450 a night and this is the time of year when you kick no one out," Audi said. "We hope no one is still outside, but I fear some are."

At the Tumaini Center, they are seeing more than 400 people a day. Normal winter visits might number 150, said Christopher Parks, director of homeless services for center operator Neighborhood Service Organization.

"No matter what got you to where you are at, human beings shouldn't be in these conditions," Parks said.

There are no known homeless deaths yet this season, he said. "We lost a couple of our folks last winter. They were found in abandoned buildings, dead from natural causes for the homeless: exposure, heart attacks. It's certainly cold enough again to cause this to happen."

The homeless beyond the city are being affected by the severe cold. Kevin Roach, executive director of the South Oakland Shelter in Royal Oak expected a capacity crowd again Wednesday night where about 25 people have been turned away daily.

The organization has weekly rotating emergency shelters at 67 churches throughout Oakland County, and has a 30-bed capacity.

"It's like the perfect storm with low temperatures and the increase of homeless people who need shelter while the number of beds we have available remains the same," Roach said. The shelter has been sending people to other shelters and warming centers like St. Mary's in Royal Oak.

Lobby doors stayed open at the Roseville offices of the Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter Team, ready for anyone who needed a place to get the chill out of their bones.

"We don't want people out on the street," said Jimetta Lewis, executive director. "That's all there is to it. Anyone who comes in and we can't give them a bed, we're telling them immediately to get to a warming center and give them a bus ticket to get there."

In Livonia, public service crews already weary from weekend snowstorms battled not only the cold but a broken water main on Middle Belt south of Seven Mile in Livonia.

"It certainly is a challenge out there right now," said Brian Wilson, Livonia public service superintendent. "This cold is not kind to the equipment. We're having the need for jumps in the morning like everyone else and we don't have the ability to put everything inside."

Others also soldiered on; unwilling or financially unable to let the cold affect their daily lives.

Snowflakes collected on 23-year-old Jeffrey Holliday's eyelashes and beard as he waved to traffic on Michigan Avenue in Detroit, wearing the green robes and crown of Lady Liberty to advertise a tax preparation service.

"It's really cold, but that's all right. It's work," he said about the $7.50 per hour job that had him standing in the cold for hours. Wednesday marked Holliday's first day on the job. He needs the money to support 2-year-old daughter, Ja-Nila. Beneath the costume, he wore three pairs of pants, four shirts and two sweaters. "I take a break now and then and they give me something warm to drink," he said about the tax preparation office at 6500 Michigan Avenue. "I'm cold but it's OK."

Harrison Township resident Michael Holland worked to finish a three-day construction project. Holland, owner of Thomas Construction, replaced missing shingles on the roof of a Mount Clemens home. But first he had to clear off the snow.

"Today it's just frigid cold," said Holland, 49. "It's a little hard to breathe up there."

Wesley Middleton, 27, was out for a three-mile run on Normandy near Crooks in Royal Oak on Wednesday afternoon. "I know people see me and think I'm crazy but I don't mind the cold so much. I find it invigorating," he said.

Calls to AAA Michigan shifted from victims of spinouts over the weekend to reports of dead batteries. The organization received more than 7,000 calls from stranded motorists Tuesday and Wednesday, spokeswoman Nancy Cain said.

Detroit Receiving Hospital had treated two people for chest pains after they shoveled snow.

"Michigan winters can be pretty harsh," Dr. Michael White, medical director of Detroit Receiving Hospital said in a statement issued Wednesday. "On extremely cold days the onset of frostbite symptoms can be fairly quick."

The cold snap gripping Metro Detroit is part of a larger system that sent temperatures plunging to single digits and below from the Midwest into the Northeast.

Schools from Iowa to North Carolina opened late so kids would not have to be out in the coldest part of the morning. Some schools closed altogether.

No deaths were reported in the Northeast, but snowy conditions caused a 14-car crash Wednesday on Interstate 75 in Ohio and a truck that slowed to avoid the wreckage slammed into a car, killing its 55-year-old driver, said Tipp City patrolman Greg Adkins.

Also on Wednesday, two men died in a 20-vehicle pileup in near-blizzard conditions on the Indiana Toll Road.

A day earlier, a Wisconsin man died of exposure after wandering from his home; relatives said he was prone to sleepwalking. Poor visibility in blowing snow caused a 20-car pileup that killed two people Wednesday in Indiana.

Northern Georgia and Kentucky could see single-digit lows by Friday, with zero possible at Lexington, Ky., the weather service said. Kentucky hasn't been that cold since December 2004.

In Metro Detroit, the National Weather Service issued a wind chill watch for tonight through Saturday morning because the relative temperature due to expected winds will plummet as low as minus 14 degrees. Wind chill factors of minus 20 degrees and below are considered dangerous, according to the weather service.

Detroit News Staff Writers Delores Flynn, Candice Williams, Charles E. Ramirez and Mark Hicks contributed to this report.

Find this article at:

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sladen Library Patient / Consumer Health Information Request Form

My wish is her command…I love librarians!

I heard back from the Sladen Library at Henry Ford Hospital in regards to searching out HF would help the homeless….of course I spoke to the lovely Ms. Yolanda before I got this answer …but at least I got a few more references..and I am sharing them with you now!!

“Hello D,

Thank you for your question. I have found out a few things that I hope you find helpful. I spoke to someone in the Social Work department here at the hospital, and they recommended that you take the individuals to the Herman Kiefer health clinic for care. Herman Kiefer is part of the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Program and they are equipped to assist underinsured and uninsured people. For more information
and directions please visit:

(Note-which I just looked up and is located at 1151 Taylor Street Detroit, MI 48202 and the number is 313 876-4826)
Also, Henry Ford Hospital is affiliated with the CHASS Center which operates three locations throughout the downtown area. According to their website, they are not a "free" clinic and do bill for services, but no one is denied medical care because of an inability to pay. For more information on CHASS:
I hope this information helps you out in your community work.
Take care,”

It sure does!! Thank you very much!!
(Note- the contact for the 3 CHASS places is;
CHASS Southwest Center & Administrative Offices 5635 W.Fort Street, Detroit, Michigan 48209 (313) 849-3920 Fax (313) 849-0824
CHASS MidTown Center 7436 Woodward Ave., Detroit, Michigan 48202
(313) 556-9907 Fax (313) 556-9711
CHASS Western International Health Center1500 Scotten, Detroit, MI 48209
(313) 849-5504 Fax (313) 849-5744

Labels: ,

A trip to the hospital, my least favorite place ever! thank god for billiards!

So Sunday just after 2pm I took a book and like I said I would I went to find Stefan to see if he wanted to go to hospital and have his feet tended to. Albert told me he tried to leave twice but he convinced him to stay as he knew I would come back. (thank you) .

Stefan had got up that morning and went to church before I got there and much to his surprise Albert went with him! Stefan told me he prayed to God to ask for help and to explain to God that he knew he had to do this and hoped he would be taken for.

I told him I had called around to a bunch of places, that were ultimately closed but that Henry Ford told me to just bring him in and they would take care of him.

He told me he was ready to do whatever they told him had to be done as he understood he had to get this attended to. He smoked a cig before getting in the jeep and at this time Albert decided and asked if he could come along as well. Of course!

I dropped them off at the emergency entrance, which by the way is off the side street on the far west side of the building Not off of the Blvd. I parked the jeep and went in through security and buzzed like 2 times of course until I got all my metal loot off of me. Then I looked for them and could not find them. I asked security if they has seen two homeless men. They told me they were outside smoking across the road as the hospital now has a 50 feet of the premises rule…about time!! Duh!! Hello!

So I found them and apparently we were not far enough off as a security guard tried to yell at them and I told him calmly were finished and walking back. Wonder if he was so ruff with better dressed folks?

As we are about to enter I tell them we are about to enter a metal detector and Albert’s eyes get a little big, which by the way are the most beautiful color of blue I have ever seen in a set of eyes and am even more intrigued as he is the first African American I have seen with such naturally colored eyes. I tell him he best go for a walk and get rid of it. He tells me what it was and goes to do just that.

Stefan and I get in line, I breeze through this time as I know were all my metal is. Stefan he takes some time as he has like 3 jackets on with numerous pockets and needs to get the wand treatment for like 5 minutes. Albert gets it for a minute as well. They both deposit empty pint bottles into the garbage can near the station.

I go to information and explain that I had called and talked to Yolanda and she told me I could come here for help for my friend who was homeless. They took us right to the check in the desk and then they registered him immediately and he was gone. Which is probably good as I suspect he would have gotten nervous in the waiting room.

Much to our surprise it was not busy, which might explain why he was taken so quickly. Albert asked me if as I followed him to the waiting room if I wanted to watch billiards or football. Not football. We watched the Championship Billiards competition, damn!! They are good! Learned some tricks I wanna try next time I play (Cue!?)

About an hour after the took him I inquired. The nurse told the doctor was with him them. An hour later after Albert napped and stared at the tv with my frontal lobe completely numb I checked again. She knew nothing but said a social worker was called in for him. Albert said I didn’t have to stay that they both had bus passes. I told him Stefan may stay and did he want to wait. He said yes but asked that I ask them to tell him if so. I did that and the nurse said he could inquire in another hour. So about 5;30 I unloaded the big phat peanut butter cookie in my pocket to Albert even though he said he didn’t want it then changed his mind immediately, and I headed home. I was exhausted but from what. All we did was veg out and wait. But somehow hospitals totally have that effect on me…not a big fan of them at all.

I was not able to go see Albert last night as I was out of town on business but plan to go check on him tonight after work to see if he knows anything. I suspect Stefan will be in the hospital still. I wish I would have written Stefans last name down as I only have a partial last name. friends suggested if so that I go to the church he attends and talk to the priest who most likely knows him to inform of him where he is so he can go visit! Great idea!!

These are the places I called : good resources and will hopefully be part of the info sheet I want to make to give out to homeless.

Neighborhood Services Organization first but they were closed ( 800. 241.4949) from their message I got a number to the Wayne County Crisis Center (313.224.7000 ) who told me about the called around to some places for me but they were all closed and them gave me the direct number to Waller Center (see below)

These were also places I found online;

Health Care for the homeless at 20548 Fenkell in Detroit 313.255.3333 or 8665.

Advantage Health Centers/Detroit Health Care for the Homeless they have number facilities some are for people who just cannot afford health care, I had friends who used the Thea Bowman Community Health Center when we were all in school and even more broke. But this one is specifically for homeless care;
Waller Health Care for the Homeless Center
2395 W. Grand Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48208
Phone: 313-897-2061
Fax: 313-897-7320

This site is the Directory of HRSA Health care for the Homeless Grantees and offers a list of places all over the state of Michigan for people who are homeless as well as for people who can not afford full care due to poverty or what ever economic conditions they are in. I used one of the places listed when I was in graduate school to get a broken tooth fixed. It was at a teaching school for dentistry in Detroit. I saved a boat load of money.

This is just a wonderful resource for when you have a medical question as well as a link to their library which I have yet to visit but will the next time I am there!!

Henry Ford Ask The Medical Librarian

Sladen Library & Center for Health Information Resources

Labels: ,

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Snow-nami- when to be even more thankful

January 10, 2009

Oh my god…it is so incredibly cold outside tonight. I just got in from being out for I don’t know 2.5 hours and I think today and yesterday have made me even more thankful for everything I have.

The first man I met this night was George he was hustling a corner for money. I asked if he was hungry he said he was not I asked if he wanted some food for later when he might be, he said he would. I loaded up his bag with some canned food, apple sauce and water. He thanked me and I wished him a good night.

Next I went to see Victor as I had a really good bag for him. I tried to pull into the area but there was another SUV in the area and I didn’t exactly want to get busted for going were I didn’t belong so I called Gregg and ran to his place to give him some stuff I had in the jeep for him and Ang.

Now on the way over there I had a weird feeling and a song was on the radio about disappointment which I tried to listen to but had to turn off. After I saw Gregg I turned the radio back on and a song by David Grey came on ..and his music is always very soothing to me, so that helped.

When I returned the suv was still there but parked where I get past so I took the chance and did, someone was in the suv but I just ignored them and I hoped they would do the same to me.

I pulled in and saw a few guys hanging out. I saw Stefan and Albert and the gentleman who sleeping the last time I was there but I could not tell if anyone was asleep behind them. I got out of the jeep and said hi to everyone and headed over but could not see victor. I chatted for a bit before I asked where he was, trying not to sound like that was the only reason I stopped by as it was not but it was part of goal I cant lie.

Albert told me that he was gone and I asked for how long? He told me he was gone a few days after my last visit. He went on to tell me about how bad his health was and with the two strokes this was the last place he needed to be but didn’t offer where he went. I didn’t pry.

the rest of us started to talk about stuff and even the gentleman who was sleeping before was engaged a bit! After awhile I asked them if they were hungry but Alex said no, I was not sure if he spoke for all of them so I asked if they wanted food for later
(david grey just came on the radio!!...sail away!) they all said they did so I went to the jeep and got two armfuls of food and water and took it back to them and handed it all out. Alex and Stefan just set it aside the third gentleman started to eat and thanked me profusely for the water, I gave him extra.

Alex Stefan and I talked about life and family and how there was absolutely no reason to leave where they were as it was bad outside. They asked why I was. I told them I wanted cuz I was either brave or stupid Albert told me most likely a little bit of both. I had to agree as we all laughed. When the third gentleman was done eating he engaged on and off in the conversation as he was cleaning up the area and picking up trash and putting somewhere behind me..i thought that was odd considering how I had the interaction the other day about how its really doesn’t matter if homeless men litter to me anymore and then I watched this man tidy there living quarters. It was interesting.

I finally said hello to him and reminded of who I was and he remembered and I apologized for not introducing myself the last I was there but he looked like he wanted to sleep. I told him my name and he told me his. His name is Nate.

Stefan told me Albert and Nate had been teasing him. I looked at Albert with a sly smile. He told me that Stefan needs to go to the hospital due to the fact that he is deep pain and his toes are in bad shape. And Nate agreed that they were just trying to tell him how serious it was that he got help and go to the hospital. It was like a nagging family member watched them all. Stefan admitted that some of the toes on each of his feet were black. I asked him if he thought it was serious, he did and Albert who you can tell cares about him told him he needs to go.

Stefan started to tear up and said he was scared and did want to lose his feet. Nate said it may only be his toes. Stefan was upset and said he did not want to spend the rest of his life in a wheel chair Albert said he may not have to and explained stories of other guys he knew who had lost toes and were not in chairs. Stefan looked at me with is big sad eyes almost expecting me to scold him. I offered him a ride if he wanted one to the hospital.

Albert said he needed to think about it over night and deal with what could happen. And he told Stefan that he can not leave in the middle of the night and go walking or it would get worse. I told him it was so bad out there that none of the roads were plowed and the sidewalks were covered too. Stefan said he never thought it would come to this.

I could hear a car behind me at this time and the guys looked up but said to ignore it but I could tell it was not going away and it was weird to have my back to it for sure. I evidently looked back and it drove away after awhile. How odd it must be to be so completely ignored as a homeless man but then stared at ever so often as well.

About this time I had been squatting for about a half hour to 45 minutes and Albert invited me to sit down and that it was ok. I took his invitation.

We talked about how Albert does not have to live on the streets but can only take some much of his family. That he spent Christmas with his brother and New Years. And that his daughter will come there to get him some times but she always nags too much and he wonders why she didn’t leave him. I told him she cares about him but it comes across wrong and he said he knew and he loves her too but can only take so much. I told him I knew exactly what he meant. He told me was an adult and she had to understand that. Oh yea!

He told stories about taking Stefan home a few years ago for Christmas and how they ate like kings. Stefan said it was wonderful. He spoke of his mother too in a few stories as he remembered how it was growing up.

Soon Albert Stefan and i started to talk about services that these men use, Nate had settled down under some covers. They told me about St Margarets in St Clair Shores where if you get yourself out there they will feed, cloth and let you shower but offer no shelter but they will give you a bus ticket back to where ever! They were telling me about shelters out that way which were really nice and usually run by churches as people out that was seem to be very involved in church even if they don’t have much to give. Right! Some shelters will even give you two bus tickets once you get to go wherever and one to get back.!! Wow! They each shared stories about

We talked about the book that was next Albert. He told me it was good and so did Nate he was still awake! He told me it was called Trail of Temptation. Albert told me all about it. It was a cowboy love story! The picture on the front of the book was just like a Harliquen, which made me think of my Auntie Mary Ann! He told me skipped a lot of the book as it was good he wanted to get the end and then planned to get the filler! He said he was about two people, the woman who had to be escorted by the man to her father. And they hated each other which Albert said is exactly why you know they will end up together in the end. We laughed at how the story line was so obvious at least in the book world.

Stefan told me about a book by Goethe he had read and I had a feeling he was educated as he had spoke about some stories of being on the road and situations he had been in and they were not situations most homeless or shit even myself would be in. and he knew about wines, why that made me feel that way is just a hunch but not like it matters either way I try to treat them all the same, with dignity and respect. (not always good at this in my life I know this but I am trying)

I heard someone behind and asked who it was. Then some very tall man showed up on my right and he was very cold you could tell. He moved some stuff around to sit next to Albert and did so as he tried to warm up. We were introduced to each other his name is Lump. I said Lump? And he explained his last name is Lumpkin! Made perfect since.
I asked if he was hungry after he seemed to un-thaw he told me no I asked he if wanted stuff for the next time he was he said he would. I got him a bunch of stuff and we loaded his bag.

Albert then brought up to remind me and Stefan about going to the hospital and Lump told him it could just be bad frost bite and that he needed to take his shoes off every night to dry out his feet. And I remembering having seen Nate just do that before he got under his blankets. Lump then told them about his scare a few years and that he did not lose his fingers but they were compromised for a while but doing better. Now they just real cold real fast and at like 40 degrees. And he told Stefan it was important to go and not go into the snow during the night.

I told Stefan I would be back the next day with No pressure but just to offer a ride if he needed it. That I would not try to force him to do anything he did not want to but that I would take him somewhere where they could help him if he wanted.

Albert told me he really liked my coat and told me story about a coat he bought his wife once kind of like it with his gambling money. Stefan liked it too. They liked how it feels too, as they touched just the very edges of the sleeve. Albert told me he thinks I am a ray of sunshine every time I come visit. I thanked him. he went to say that when they all sit around and talk all they do is smoke, talk about what they scored in the way of pints and cuss. But when I visit we talk about family and books and life and he really liked that. I told him I did too. He told me he loved me, I told I loved him too!

We started to say our goodbyes and I said I would be back the next day to see if they needed anything and I shot Stefan a little look of support, he shyly smiled back. Albert said he wouldn’t let him go. And told me how much these two guys meant to him as he sat there flanked by Stefan and Lump. He said they argue a lot but they always get over it. That no matter what none of the arguments mattered. Lump said most the time he would wake up and just forget it all. They know that they are family and have to support each other even if they do fight cuz no matter what there are always disputes you just have to get over it.

Sound advice, now I just need to really listen to it and incorporate it into my own life and a deep and real level. Thank you gentlemen!

Labels: ,

COTS- SOUPS ON!!!! charity event!!

Coalition On Temporary Shelter (COTS).
is hosting a Special Benefit to Help the Homeless Help Themselves!"

January 19, 2009 for "Soup City 2009"

Metro Detroit's most popular restaurants will put their best spoons forward at the eigth annual Soup City fund raiser in 2008. More than 500 supporters will attend the event in January. The event is a great show of support for the Coalition On Temporary Shelter (COTS).

The night's crowd-pleasers will include tempting soups and treats from some of Metro Detroit's best restaurants (see the list below), plus delicious breads from some of the area's best restaurants..

Restaurants, Cash Bar, Breads, Raffle and Entertainment on three levels are all part of the evening's event! No one will go hungry!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Can you be homeless and Green at the same time?

Who the fuck cares right? …

so on the way home from the tent..i run into two guys on a corner and as I pull up they are arguing but I don’t really notice it until I stop and notice it is Bryan and I say hello! By this time its too late as I am out of the jeep and saying hi when I realize they are in a heated discussion and the other man is trying to get his point across. When he finally notices me, even though he had looked he me..i think it dawned on him that I was not going away as I was out of the jeep and standing near him he quickly got one more point of his in and then addressed me. I asked the guys if they were hungry and told them I had some food and went got some.

I gave them food from my new pile of loot both given and scored the two days before! I gave Bryan some food and the new gentleman who was not hungry but put the stuff in his bag. I asked him if he needed any clothes or a blanket. He said he needed a blanket for sure as he was living in the back of a truck with a cab. I asked bryan if he needed a Back Pack and he said yes but later declined explaining he had enough bags to carry around.

I opened the jeep as he directed traffic around and I dug out a green coleman sleeping bag someone had donated! He was very happy with it. We tried to cover it with two garbage bags as the snow was starting to fall fast now and it would not stay dry otherwise. He told me his last blanket got wet but could not dry in the cold so this would really help! About this time I heard what sounded like a cop siren but looked back and didn’t see a copper only an svu speed past and a black car behind the jeep backing up, so I paid no more mind. I got a bag out for him as well and he chose which one he wanted and we loaded it with his other stuff. He wanted the bigger of the bag but took the can opener from the smaller bag, which Lib donated and the food was split between him and Bryan who wanted the pop corn! Smart food white cheddar cheese!! ymmm

I asked him his name and I told him mine. His name was George. By this time Bryan was almost done with one of the cans of sardines I gave him and when he was he just threw the fork in the street toward the jeep and wheeled back and tossed the can away from us. And there was no even one tiny bit of me that wanted to tell him not to litter. Mind you, if you know me you know how much I HATE littering, LNT (leave no trace) It is my number one biggest pet peeve about people, the second being people who do not use there damn blinkers.

So here for the first time in years is a situation where someone litters in front of me and I was not even bothered by it, cuz like my lecture would be the stupidest fucking thing he would hear all day if I did. Survival is all that is important not my dumb as green mission on this planet. But I admit I did think to myself that next time I will buy biodegradable forks and then I wont care one bit, problem solved!

Again I heard the siren go off and looked back to see the black car that had been backing up was still there and the light in my brain went one that it was an unmarked cop car. Shite I think, oh yea he was running my plates, (mental note get your tabs asap) and this was the second time today this had happened. The other was when I was heading toward the shack and had a copper tailing me way too close for way to long that I had to pass where I was going and go way out my way so as not to draw attention to where some dumb white girl with out of city plates was heading….grrr.

This time as the last the cop just speeds around the jeep and disappears without so much as a word! Thank you, have a good day.!

About this time Bryan says my name, and I like how he says my name as he drags out the ‘a’ a bit and the first ‘e’ sounds like a ‘y’, he makes it sound very southern with a Midwest accent if you will. He asks me if this is something I just do on my own is drive around. I told him yes but that I don’t do it on my own, well the driving around meeting homeless part yes, except for when he met 19. But that is the only alone part of this endeavor. I explained to him how I hit up my family and friends and co-workers and even strangers to gather the items I give out. He told me that was something else. George was very thankful. I told him without all the other people who care and donate I would not be able to do this. All three of us were grateful.

We said our goodbyes after I told them of the big storm coming, they knew as Bryan said he was trying to get some money to get to the shelter. I told him I would get out of his way so that he could.

by this time i am frozen solid, i can not feel any of the fingers on my right hand my right boot is soaked and my feet are cold and wet and i am again humbled by how these men survive...i truly do not think i could do what they do...i am amazed at the human spirit and thankful for the repeated lessons of gratitude these men are teaching me. and to think they keep thanking me...ahh no.

Labels: ,

Worked up the courage.

Yesterday Friday January 9, I went out after work cruising. Hit up some of regular spots but didn’t have any luck, then I headed to go see if Manual was around his shack. I have not seen him in person since around Christmas but there is movement around his place.

I left him some food and then bucked up the rest of my courage that I had been trying to build throughout the day to go to the tent. The tent is by the way the one I have written about before that I have been leaving food by which had been disappearing but where I have never meet anyone near. And a bike should up some time back but has not moved for a few weeks and some food I had left out was still there the other day so I am fearful that well….someone is in the tent that may not ever come out…if ya get me drift.

Since I figured it snowed the night before and there was new snow on the ground this seemed like a good day to work up the courage to near the tent as I would be able to see if there were tracks. And since there was a big snow storm coming I felt I had to do this before it hit.

I pulled my jeep up and could immediately see that the bike was gone. I followed the path in toward the tent and could see the food I had left was also gone. Good sign? I don’t know anyone could have taken them right?

When I approached the tent I could see the brick was still on the flap outside, which made me think before that it had been arranged that way from the outside to protect the opening. As I got closer I heard a big ‘bang’ in the abandoned building not to far away, the noise rattled my cage I have to say as I have never heard a noise come from there before. I moved closer knowing full well I am not exactly liking any bit of what I am about to do and now I feel like a thief who may be being watched. I hear the noise again, damn it..i look toward my jeep but erased the fear to bolt for it and get the fuck out there.

Earlier in the afternoon I had called a police officer from the city of Detroit that I have as a contact at work. I told him what I am up too, well sort of! He was surprised by what I do and said it was nice but didn’t give me a hard time..which makes me think that no other cops will so that was good!! I asked him if there were any divisions that are compassionate to the homeless in case I came across anything that needed handling. He told me to call 911 if I was in danger, of course, then gave me a number to contact one of the precincts.

I always keep my cell phone on my body and my keys in my pocket, well like 98.47% of time anyways. But I didn’t want to tell him this wasn’t about my safety or about what I was planning to do, I just don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to this area. I thanked him for the information.

Now I know some people are concerned about what I am doing and my safety while I do, and I am grateful. But, there is always a but, to be honest I don’t feel that I am in harms way. Yes this may be me being naïve but I just don’t. Sure this could also be me bring Brave or Stupid too or a little bit of both! But I just cant be fearful doing this or these men will know. I am very fortunate that I have not had any issues and that I have only had good encounters on the street with men who are polite and gracious and thankful.

Maybe I do have a guardian angel, and if that is the case I think I have two..and they know who they are!! (wink) who knows..i told someone yesterday or the day before that its quite possible that I may be gaining back some of the Faith I had glimpsed at a year ago but had feared I had lost forever…who knows right. In any case I do not put myself in situations that are unsafe..well any more than normal, I trust my intuition but this does not give me a false sense of protection. I am not stupid I know some of the places I go are not safe and that the potential for harm is there, but its everywhere not just in these places, (read the paper). So for me its just that I can not and will not operate from the place of fear..i just cant do it. I feel if that were the case my experience would not be as positive as it has been.

And up until this very second my experiences have been good and I have gained more than a little humility from doing this. I’m not even sure if someone is in mixed company allowed to say something like that but I have, if anything this is teaching me even more about how to become a graceful passenger. Which is something I have been really thinking about since summer, mind you I have not been completely successful but goals are good to have and that one is my biggest one.

Back at the tent I start to pull the brick off of the tent as it is frozen to the material and I hear the noise again, damn it I think to myself again! I am really getting my nerve tested by that noise and there are a few cars that have passed by the area, part of me is comforted by that for some reason.

I finally get the brick away from the fabric and am able to lift the fly up a bit in order to find the zipper to the door. I scan the area to see if anyone is around because I am totally about to do some B&E and I feel really bad about this ..mixed with a good amount of fucking fear about what I may find inside of this tent.

Ok …deep breathe..i unzip the tent but the fly Is not all the way off,,just enough for what will be a space big enough to stick my head under and look into the unzipped zipper. I know I could have moved the other two bricks and got the fly all the way off so I didn’t have to place my face in a situation that was kind of scary but that would have taken more time and by this time I am kneeling in the snow and my boots are soaked and my gloves are off and I am freezing and totally freaked out by that damn noise and just want this whole thing to be over with. I take a deeper breathe and I stick my head under the tent fly and look in…its messy and I can see blankets in the middle and they are lumpy and stuff is strewn all over the sides, kinda my tent at burning man, but I cant really see the whole lump to know what it is. I unzip the zipper a bit more and I figure that the lump is just the way the blankets are laying and that there is in fact no one in the tent. I extract my head and exhale with relief. I try to zip the tent back up but I cant get it all the way. Not sure if its frozen or because I can not feel the fingers on my right hand and they are not operating in any manner that I am trying to get them to. I cover up the tent with the fly and put the brick back in place and leave more food.

I scurry back through the ankle deep snow back to the jeep and pray it will heat up soon and am so thankful that I am it to do just that. I leave the area and head toward the highway ramps wondering if I will run into any other men.

And I did …

Labels: ,

More food donations!

Wednesday January 7

On Wednesday I am home doing who knows what and I get a text message from Dan that he has food for me and wonders how and when to do the drop off. I text back that I am home if he is out and about. He is and he comes over. I meet him out at the jeep and he has a big box of food, some of which he has sorted out as it has to be cooked and that is not really an option on the streets for most guys.

I go through the box and load up the box in my car with all the stuff I think will work, which was everything except a few cans of tomato sauce. He even brought me cans of fruit; apricots and peaches and pears!!! Yea!

I asked him where he got all this stuff from and he told me his parents donated it! I told him thank them for me!! Thank you so very much!!

The next day Thursday January 8, I was planning to go to the burbs to pick up a back pack on my way to a sweat lodge and figured I would take a d-tour to Big Lots to get some more canned food. And right next to Big Lots was a dollar store…duh I thought to myself I live in a city with a million dollar stores but not until now did I think to go to one! I go in and they have a lot of food geared toward the Middle eastern pallate which I thought was interesting considering I was on the east side..but cool too!! But I was thinking more like chili, beef stew and stuff like that and I found it!! There was tons of stuff and much of it under a dollar!. I scored a ton of cans of sardines and more Vienna sausages and pork and beans and chili and cookies (everyone needs cookies so hush) I had a basket filled to the top and over flowing. And the whole thing was like 26 bucks..Score!!!

I took it all out to the jeep and filled the box of food from last night with more food, it was overflowing! Then I went next door to Big Lots and found even more stuff and the damn sardines were even cheaper there…I got them for 87cents and at BL they were like 78. Dah! But I didn’t got return the first ones..i mean I am frugal and all but I was running close on time. I got 100% juice juice boxes tuna in Starkist tuna in vacuum sealed bags, no can openers needed! I got more sardines and tuna and individual cracker packs and stuff apple sauces, all for under 14 bucks.

So bags and bags of food were scored for a mad silly price! I felt like such a bargin hunter! And then I got a myspace message from cookie later that night or the next day telling me she has more food for me! Yea!! Cuz as I come across more and more of the same guys often they don’t need new clothes though the still do esp when they get wet, it is always helpful to have food!!

Even though I was running tight on time I ran into the resale in the shopping strip and scoured the bag section looking for a sling bag that Victor to carry easily due to the stroke. I found one really nice bag but it had no strap so I found it one but then it had no price tag and the bag I got the strap from that was not nearly as nice was $9.99 and mind you I could afford this one if it was that price but I grabbed anyways and another canvas one for $3.99.

At the register the cashier could not find a price either and I looked at her and asked her to please strike me a deal as I give them to the homeless, she looked at me. And gave me both for $4.75. I had a 5 dollar bill. Amen, Thank you mam!

I then went to the jeep and could not even fill the box I had to stash the stuff under the clothes in the far back so when I run out! Yea!! I headed over to libertines after that and picked up a Back Pack from here which she loaded with some food and a can opener!

So thank you to all of three of you…no all five of you have donated food this week…I am very grateful to have a jeep full of food to offer to people on the streets and look forward to doing just that!


Labels: ,

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ho Ho Ho Trader Joe!!

Ho Ho Ho Trader Joe!!
January 4, 2009

For the holiday I found a package on my desk at work from my old boss! God I miss her every single day! Well in the bag were a variety of things, including a gift certificate to Trader Joes! But more on that in a second!

This past Saturday I went on to the Dime Store, yes there is a Dime Store in my neighborhood, not a ubiquitous Chain Dollar Store and anytime I can I give this small store my money instead of say CVS or any other big box! And the guy and his family who run it are really nice and he and I chat about all the odd things I am up to as he is always interested! He asked me if I went to any crazy parties on for New Years and I told him no that I did a sweat lodge to which he was very confused so I explained to him the Native American tradition and he was just fascinated and wondered how I find about all the stuff I get into. I just told him I am curious then I asked him what his nationality is as I had assumed he was Mexican which if he was he would have understood the lodge but he was not, he is from Pakistan. So much for me being able to tell anything about a person from their skin or accent, and its not like I care as long as someone is nice, that’s all that matters and he is very nice! I buy the aspirin, 325mm and I head out but not before I noticed a 24 pack of water single bottles on sale so I grab those too!

I head down to Eastern Market do my recycling and head to go see if can find Victor to give him the aspirin. But he is not there so I go do the rest of my errands and hang out with my cousins knowing I will fit that in later when I head back to the area.

So after dark I head to a bon fire down town but I go to see if can find Victor first and yea! He is there as is Albert and another gentleman. I hop out of the jeep grab a handful of waters and head over to them. I show victor that I have the pills but have not opened the foil; I already recycled the cardboard in the afternoon! So I opened it up for him and asked him how many he needed. I gave him what he requested.

The three of sat around and chatted for a while, the fourth gentleman was not involved with us and was trying to sleep. I did say hello to him and give him some water and I told him my name!

Alex and I talked mostly, he told me about his gambling addiction and how he tries to stay away from the casino, which cant be easy considering where were sitting you could practically hear the machines if you tried hard enough, guess that is anywhere in city now. He also confessed to me about having started to drink again even though he knows he should not and that he needs to get his stuff in order and go get an ID so he can get some help and disability and that he wants to do this and plans to. I asked him if there were agencies around to help him with this goal, he told me there were. That made me happy to hear that.

I didn’t have any food to give them as I had given it all them on News Years day. But I promised them I would be back the next day around late afternoon with some food as I planned to head out to the burbs! They thanked me!

Well last night after Stitch and Bitch hosted by Ms. Faith….and no I don’t stitch but I do bitch..and after the gym..I went to Trader Joes to spend my gift card.

Oh boy… I get cans of tuna, and plastic jars of creamy peanut butter and cans of beef chili and single serving apple sauces 6 to a package and some cereal bars! Then I got myself a few things like cereal as I pretty much live on it and it so cheap there!

The gift card covered everything I got for the guys! Thank you Pat!! I head back to where the guys are staying and hope they are there..and they are!

Alex and Victor are there with another gentleman whom I introduce myself to and he tells me his name is Stefan! And has an elegant accent!

I asked him if he needed anything in the way of clothes and he told me needed gloves and I said I may have some, he was surprised and I told him I had a jeep full of stuff. He was even more surprised! I went and found a pair of gloves and a scarf in the box from R&R and the gloves fit him. He was totally surprised, I asked him if he needed any sweaters, he told me no and said he already had two scarves so he would not the one I had!

The guys told me they had almost given up on seeing me. I explained to them I had had a busy day and with just one person being late to meet me for coffee it put my whole day off a bit but I was making it all up and getting to everything!!

I give them all equal amounts of the loot and we chatted for a bit. Albert told me he found the can opener in his backpack that we could not find on New Years Day, Yea! I didn’t stay too long this time, as I too was getting hungry. I did though as Victor if he would be interested in a multi vitamin and he said yes and Albert told me he would even make sure he takes them! Those two were sharing a cigarette and at this moment it was hanging out of victors mouth as such an angle that is was just hilarious it was like parallel with his face instead of sticking out straight, I giggled at him and told him he looked cute!

We all said our goodbyes and blessed each other!

Labels: ,

This past weekend….

This past weekend….
January 4, 2009

Sunday I was meeting up with two different people for two totally different engagements at Avalon in the morning. Upon getting there I saw two men sitting outside, mind it was not too cold nor was it wet outside, but I thought still kinda out to be sitting outside and at first glance I could not tell if they were homeless or not.

As I walked by there was only one there as the other had walked away and that man asked me kindly if I could spare some change on my way out. I turned to him and asked if he needed any clothes. He said yes and asked if I had any! I told him I had some just for him!

We went to the back of my jeep which for some odd reason I had backed into the spot, which was very good for what I was about to do. So I opened it up and I knew I had a brand new bag of items given to me just the night before at Fire Dome by Mary Jane and Amaretto!

As I am opening this big garbage bag at first all is see is pink and think “oh shit” and then as I ask him what size he is I pick through the bag and as he tells me ‘Extra large’ just as I pull out this awesome big black winter coat, Carhart feeling, sized what? Extra Large!! “Score! “ I yell as I hand it to him and dive back into the bag for more goodies.

I ask him if he is living on the streets or staying in shelters he tells me on the streets as I pull out a rolled up stadium blanket that even has a handle to carry it! I tell him this is his lucky day. And as I turn to hand it to him he already has the jacket on over the one he already was wearing! He is very thankful. I even found a pair of gloves in the bag and help him put them on and wrap a scraf around his neck! I asked him his name it was Sydney and I told him mine!

I ask him if he needs any sweaters but he said no that with the extra coat he would be ok. We said our goodbyes and he walked away then I covered up the items in the back of my jeep to make them less noticeable to anyone thinking of breaking in. As I walk to the door of Avalon Sydney is back on the bench and turn and go back and ask him if he would like a cup of coffee. He tells me he doesn’t like coffee and I told him ‘me neither!’ and he thanked me again!

Thank you MJ and Amaretto!

Labels: ,

New Years Day part 3

New Years Day part 3

Around this time 19 got in the jeep but I didn’t stop listening and she didn’t either. We talked about the streets more and how the system is just fucked (my words not his..come to think of it I have never heard a homeless man swear in front of me) He told about the prison system and how they will help you on the outside if you meet certain criteria but if you mess up or max out (something I didn’t totally understand but didn’t want to interrupt him) then you are on your own and many of these guys were. While were listening to him I heard Bryan yell at us and he was flagging us down I asked 19 to go check on him, she did. She came back and told us he had offered her a dollar to go get him a drink, he refused his money but got directions to the gas station.

We went and she got him his vanilla coffee and Conan an orange juice. After dropping off the coffee we followed Conans direction to where he sleeps. On the way there I see another man in a wheel chair and like a tart pull up on the corner of the street like..ON the corner of the like other cars could pass me so I am on an angle if you can imagine that. I hop, flag the cars behind me around and yell hello to the gentleman and ask him how is. He says he remembers me and I do him too…and how could I not he had a smoke hanging his mouth with an inch long ash. On Christmas Eve it was even longer and I totally ashed it for him cuz I was scared he would catch on fire. (his ash reminded me of my grandmother and her never dropping ash, I swear she slipped wire in them trick us all as I would follow her ash waiting for it to drop as she aged but it never did..miracle I swear) I did have to ask him his name though, he reminded me it was Keith and I reminded him of mine. He said to me “you were supposed to be on Friday” doh!! I told him I was but that no one was around and I was like 20 minutes later and I had wanted to be. I was happy though in a way that he held me accountable and I had wondered if anyone remembered I told them I would be there…uh yup!

I happened to look up at this time and see two older women dressed in full-length minks coats and they looked right at me and I smiled and nodded but quickly went back to asking Keith what he needed. 19 started to talk to him as I went to get him clothes and a copper pulled up with his lights. I jumped in and pulled over, as that is what he told me to do with his bullhorn. I stayed in the car and waited for him and Conan told me he was not an nice guy. I told him we were all good and that no cop would really give someone a ticket for clothing homeless would they….and then I wondered if it was illegal.

The cop pulled in front of me and I told 19 to get in the jeep and she did and the cop got out and didn’t even acknowledge us but went right over Keith and was telling him to move along. And I just stayed there in case he was coming over to me and he got back in the car and drove away. Uh…well all right!!

19 asks us if we saw that the ladies in the fur had come back and gave him money, like a few bills with a $5 on the outside! And she said that while we were talking to Bryan another woman who had stopped at the sign gave him money to which he told 19 he suspected the only reason she did it was cuz she saw us helping. Part of me was bummed by the idea that it was a guilt push but then again it encourages me to keep doing this during daylight hours where people can see the presence of other people helping.

We continue on our way following Conans’ direction. And I am so surprised but really happy too. I wont tell where they are staying cuz I do not wish to draw attention to the area but it is warm and safe!

We pull up and I can see someone sleeping I stop he tells me to go farther but I don’t to disturb anyone he tells me I am not. I do not pull all the way in but partial. We all get out and he is yelling at the person sleeping. Well it is actually two men you could not tell.

He tells them they have company! We go over and I introduce myself to them, they are Alex and Victor. I had one backpack left and gave it Alex and he was not able to find his can opener but Conan lent him his charging by the minute!!

I gave them each a sweater and found three round up blankets with velcro closures! I asked Victor what sized pants he wore he told me size 38, score! As I have like 3 or 4 pairs size 40! I gave him two and he figured he would wear them over his other pants!
Alex helped Victor put his cans away as he was not able to eat and I asked him if he was ok.

He told me he had had two strokes and we talked about it. He admitted he had been a drinker and that contributed to the strokes and was told that last time in the hospital that another one might either paralyze him or kill him. He hopes it won’t kill him. I asked him if he was partially paralyzed now and he showed me his left hand which has the characteristic results of stroke. He said that he was having a hard time eating right now as any food was causing him to have the runs. I cannot imagine being homeless, much less having bowel issues. I asked him if there was anything he needs to make ease his discomfort. He told me aspirins would be helpful as he was told he needs them daily. I asked what milligram and totally guessed 325mg and he said that was exactly it!

While he and I were talking, Alex was eating and Conan was playing blanket football with 19! It was fun to watch them and I told him she was a big football fan!

We hang out for who knows how long but during that time 19 calls her parents at least twice to try to tell them she is going to be late but they are not answering. We decide after awhile that we really should go as we are way past the time she was planning to leave and its way past dark by now.

On the way home we chatted about the day and I thanked her so much for going with me as it was an amazingly successful day!!!

Labels: ,

New Years Day part 2

New Years Day part 2

After getting gas I decided to take 19 on my regular route. As we were driving I was thinking to myself how odd it was that the two men we just saw we both obviously mentally ill when I have only really had one other experience "tell me 'say it isn't so'") and just as I was wondering how 19 might be reacting to this and if she really wanted to go any farther she asked me if I see a lot of mental illness! Good mind reader! We talked about that topic for awhile as I drove to the first place.

I wanted to go see if Manual was home. He was not but I showed her where he lives and we left some food for him. I also drove by the tent and the bike was still there and has fallen down and the food I left has not been moved. Part of me wants to look in the tent, and a bigger part of me is scared I have to admit but shouldn’t someone do this? How I feel if it was a loved one of my own. I just don’t know if I have what it takes but I don’t want to call the authorities either as it may bring negative attention to Manual and his living arrangements. Uh. I will try to see if I have what it takes to work up courage to do this.

After that we head down to near the service drives and I see a man in a wheel chair so we stop to inquire if he is hungry. I recognize him. its Bryan and he remembers me too. I knelt down next to him to ask him how he was and I could tell something was wrong, the look on his face made me want to cry. He told me he was just not doing good and was in a bad place. I asked him if he had eaten and he told me he was hungry. I asked 19 to get him some food and he and I chatted for a bit. 19 came back and I started to put he food in the bags behind his chair and she started to talk to him. I asked him if there was anything he needed, he told me he likes canned fruit! Well hell I never thought of that, I told him and he told me fruit would be nice! Here I was thinking protein and hearty, hell I have the biggest sweet tooth on the planet why the hell would I not think about sweets. I told him I had some chocolate covered cherries and asked him he wanted them, he said yes! I went to get them. They were in the big bag 19 had brought that her father had given her for donations! Yea dad!

About this time another man walked up and I said hello, I recognized him and asked him if we had met on Christmas Eve, he said we did. I told him my name and he told me his, Conan. I asked him if was hungry or needed any more clothes. He told me was hungry so we went to the jeep which was still open and I got him some canned food. I asked him if there were specific things that were needed on the streets. He told me drinks are hard to come by! Ding..again! I asked if pop was something he would want and he told me No! I asked what then, juice? Water? He told me that is exactly the things he needs. He has a condition where he needs to drink liquids and pop just dehydrates him! I told him I would start asking people for those items and would try to carry them and thanked him for the advice.

I asked him if he needed anything and he told me a sweater so I got him one of 19’s bag and then I asked him if he could use a back pack and he really liked the idea and said that would be really helpful for homeless guys! I helped him adjust it and put it on and told him about the contents; (read the blog from January 5.2009 “Burner Back Packs” for more about this!! Thanks again R&R)

I asked him if he was staying on the streets or in shelters he told me on the streets and I asked if there was a system of knowing what resources were out there. He started to tell me about the rounds he does from each facility he knows of during the week. I so wish I had a pen and paper on me cuz he knew the rounds. I asked if he learned from just word of mouth and the said yes. Imagine if it were possible to have a list of places with addresses, services and number (there are still some pay phones on the streets of Detroit, though not many) laminated with this info on one side and bus routes on the other…totally do able!!

He told me about how people look after each other on the streets, and if anyone messes with others they are not welcomed in certain areas. I had wondered about this especially when on Christmas Eve I had about a dozen men around the jeep and there were no issues, mind you not everyone was mingling and singing carols but..

He was telling about how you can’t leave anything anywhere or a homeless man will find it. He said nothing can be hidden even if you were to bury it. He told me he has some street cred and no one messes with him. He said he can leave his bike (bingo) anywhere on the streets and no one will be take it.

I asked where he was staying, if it was under the highways or elsewhere cuz I don’t see many men in those places anymore. He told me not many stay there cuz they are pushed out, but some still do. He told me where he stays and I was totally baffled and asked him if others did too and he said yea a group of them do. I asked him for directions and from where we were standing it was rather confusing.

Now mind you I don’t normally do what I am about to tell you but I asked him if he would show me, if he would take me there. He said yes, I told him to get the back seat of the jeep and wait for me, he did. I went back to 19 and Bryan and gave him the chocolate covered cherries and told her what I was about to do and that I was not rushing her as the two of them were in a deep conversation.

I got in the jeep and turned it on to get us warm as we waited for 19. We started to talk and again I so wish I had paper and pen. (I do now!!) we talked about a lot of things as 19 was gone awhile. And we talked about his prison time on and off for like 24 years, he listed the family that he lost while in prison and since and that he is just alone. He told me he tried to commit suicide recently due to how hard it is on streets and mind you my bullshit detector did not go up once, I totally 100% believed this man. He told me if he had a gun or a knife he would do it again right then. I didn’t do anything but listen to him, who am I to tell him. (that’s sound heartless but that is another blog I am working on about this whole experience) He told me when he was in recovering they diagnosed him with schizophrenia.

to be continued in part 3

Labels: ,

News Years Day 2009 (part 1)

News Years Day 2009

While 19 was home from med school she told me that she wanted to go with me out to distribute clothes and food to the poor. Awesome I thought, as people have told me but no one has actually set a day with me and of course I will not pressure anyone or guilt them. But she was determined!

I got up late on new years day…like most people I am sure. I called her and she told me she was on her way, no messing around I tell you. She got her and we decided to go for food as neither of us had eaten. We went for brunch at Toast (mm) with Faith and Brick but on the way to pick them up I saw a man crossing Woodward at 7 mile as I was heading north. He was heading kind of southwest so I turned around and kind of paused at the northwest corner to see where he would weave too as he was very not direct in his walking.

He ended up south of 7 mile so I drove up in front of him and grabbed some food and hopped out, 19 followed suit. I walked up to this man and could instantly tell he was having a very rough time. He was barely coherent and I am not sure if he could understand me or not but I told him I had some food and that I was going to put it in his bags, of which he was carrying two. And the way he was carrying them was in such a way that he was putting out way more energy than he needed to but once I tried to look into his eyes I figured it was taking him everything in his power just to keep them with him.

We said good-bye to him as he continued on south in the far right lane of Woodward struggling with his bags.

After brunch we headed to get fuel so I hit a gas station on 6 mile, ghetto gas is always cheaper! Pulling into the station I spotted a man in front of the door with a sign asking for money. I walked up to him and it looked like he might have Tourette's syndrome due to some visible ticks and a slight rocking back and forth. (purely a guess on my part but I have a cousin with this disorder- who by the way as a child I was jealous of cuz he got to sit on top of cars And swear..i was not allowed to do either. Parents should just try to explain to kids about disorders and that would have helped me understand! Hello!)

I asked him he if he was hungry or needed some clothes and he said yes. I told him to follow me to the back of the jeep. I opened it up and that is when I thought of the back Pack and asked him if he would find it useful. He told me it would. I told him about the contents of the backpack and put more food in it. I asked him name, it was John and I told him mine.

As we started to drive away he was back in the same spot as when we arrived with his sign up and ready. I didn’t see the backpack at first and then I noticed it about 8 feet away hung over the handlebars of his bike!

BIKE!!!!! Oh how the brain started to work at that thought… giving homeless men who can ride them bikes!! It would help in getting to shelters without needing bus fair! This idea would come up again very soon!!

Labels: ,

Monday, January 05, 2009

Burner Back Packs

A week ago today, December 29, 2008, I met up Rosey, the Garage Sale Diva and Rachel, yes that is her name…even if no one can remember it!!.
I met them in a parking lot behind the Magic Bag as they were going to see Spike and Mikes Twisted Animation. They also had a truck of goodies for me!

They gave me a box full of hats, scarves and gloves and three Back Packs full of items like; canned tuna, socks, hats, umbrellas, toothbrushes and paste, Gold Bond power, soap and most importantly …can openers! And all of them had enough room for tons of other items for the men to put in themselves!

These backpacks are bar none the best idea of I can think to give a homeless man. And the men who I gave them to agreed. (That’s the next blog)

What a great idea to have a sturdy place to put all your loot and be able to easily carry it around with you!

R&R call them “Burner Back Packs” and I totally think this will be the project I work on all year to prepare for next winter!! So I will for sure be hitting up the community for old pack backs and stuff to put in them. Cuz I seriously think if you get an old backpack or get one resale they can be stuffed for under $20.00 and make a great difference to men on the streets!

R&R even wrote a letter to their family telling them what these packs were and to inform them that it was a family gift to makes someone else’s holiday a little warmer by what they were doing!

Thank you ladies sooo much!!


(click on the image to read what they wrote and get an idea of what was in the backpacks!)

Labels: ,