Sunday December 30th
My friend Ronnie Parrish set up to go hit the streets with me. I have known him since high school and we really have not talked until facebook reconnected us. He and his family have been helping with BWB for two years now.
Khaaliq Thomas also went with us. He is a documentary photographer who has been photographing our project for just over a year now. He is very stealthy and very respectful of the people we help and you hardly even know he is there and I am aware esp on the streets and because I have been shooting for more than half my life..he is good!
So we load up and head directly to where I have gotten facebook notifications by Avanti H (a friend and donor to BWB- thank you) about a group of people living under the Springwell ramp off I75 in southwest Detroit.
As we pull off the highway we see a person all bundled up and we pull up and ask her if she wants a backpack. She says yes. We get out and start to talk to her. Her name is Christine and she is young. 22. she is from downriver and not using just trying to make ends meet.
I tell her people have told her about us and some other folks living under the bridge and if she can direct us there. I ask if we need to get on the highway and back track or what. She tells me no and points for me to pull over past the light and there is a break in the fence we can go through. We give her a backpack with a pink ribbon it and tell her there are feminine products in there for her as well. She thanks us.
We follow her directions and head under the bridge knowing Mike and Butch who live there too are not there but we still want to drop off bags on the beds she told us about our theirs.
We get under and it is a pretty evolved living space. With a variety of beds and the three she described where all pretty neat and tidy. We looked around and I have to admit I felt bad as we were in someone’s home. As we were looking I saw feet coming toward us. I walked to meet them, they belonged to Mike. We explained to why we there and that Christine gave us directions here and about the packs. He was pleasant and nice, and as we all walked out Butch showed up. He didn’t have a good coat on and I asked if he wanted one from the car. They both came up with us. I gave Butch a warm green coat I have carrying around for months now, meaning to give to Mr Thomas but I have yet to see him since I got it. The coat fit him really well. He told me he could use size 36 pants. I told him I would search some out.
We cruise a few under passes where you can people are but find no one. We do however find someone has been killing time writing down the names of bands on the walls and poetry and notes the next person to live there.
This poem is my favorite;
When your down and out and feeling sad.
Just keep saying to yourself its not that bad.
If that don’t work and your still feeling blue.
Try to find someone happy and stick to them like glue
After trying everything you can think of and it still don’t work
You might as well forget about it, you must be a jerk.
We saw evidence of life on all levels from cloths, books, photos, bedding and food and needles. A slice of the existence of people on the streets. The guys were surprised as they didn’t really think about the fact that homeless are people too and they read and have needs and wants. And that illustrates how we are able to ignore them so easily in our society. They are not seen as people who have feelings and needs and wants..just like you!
Christine also told us about a family she has seen around the Clark exit. We decide to go look for them. We have no luck but as we pass a gas station I see a guy sitting with a sign. Ronnie is amazing I can spot folks so fast.
His name is Timmy and he is a bit hesitant of me as I get out and walk over. I tell him what we are doing. He warms up and I go to get him a backpack and explain why Khaaliq is taking pictures. He lets us take his and asks if we want to see his space around back. I ask him how they let him hang out in front and stay in the back and explains to us he does odd jobs for them.
He needs a sleeping bag he tells us as he shows us his space around back the station. Its next to the heating/cooling unit but offers not warm air. He has sheets of boards he pulls over himself to shield from the wind.
He told us he has never seen a family. We never saw them either.
After that we ran into Miss Kim at Livernois and the service drive. She didn’t want her face seen in the pictures but was ok to be photographed. She was staying in an abandoned building near by. Her boots and snow pants were tattered. I asked her what size boot she wore and I gave my boots. She told me not too but I had too she was so bundled up I just could not imagine her having wet feet. Miss Gypsy gave me those boots like 2 or 3 years ago and told me to not give them away. I promised her I would not. I broke my promise.
and I admit I have missed those boots since that day as they were the warmest boots I have ever worn. Then I think of Miss Kim and I hope they are keeping her warm and dry. She needs a pair of snow pants size sixteen!
ext we ran into Monica at service drive at Junction. She is a young prostitute with a major snotty nose and so not dressed for the weather. She is super skinny and not happy with camera. Khaaliq respects her and we tell her what we are doing. We give her a backpack with a pink ribbon. She is quick to move along.
We run into Jean at Congress and Beaubian needs blankets as he is too big to fit in a sleeping bag luckily he is on the heat vents.
At Michigan and Washington we find a gentleman in a box and wool blankets. Ronnie hops out and gives him a backpack. He is too bundled to get his name as he is half in one box and half in another box. Literally!
By the Stadiums we run into Nate. He is holding the door open to underground parking for the lions game fans leaving the stadium. Some folks get pissy and honk at us..oh well!
We decide to call it a day and head back to where Ronnie is parked and we see Miss Sandra at CVS on Warren and Brush. Her right eye was dead. I asked her straight up which one do I look at so I know which to look at as we talk. I don’t want to disrespect her by having wandering eyes. I do this to anyone with a dead eye.
We pretty much emptied my car of bags.. I have one left as I drop Khaaliq off. Then on Monday I run into Jason at Eight and 75. He got the last bag in my car.