Hit the streets Saturday, March 9th, with Tony, his son Sando and Anthony. We cruised for about 4 hours all over the city and met some really nice people while doing so. In no particular order and this is for sure not all the folks we meet but this is sampling of our day on the streets of Detroit.
The first place we stopped was an underpass that Tony often sees someone at. We all got out and approached slowly. A gentleman was sitting down with a small fire between his legs to stay warm. I greeted him and told him we had a backpack he if wanted. He did not want the backpack but he took the gift card to get a meal! His place is really tucked. I had never even noticed. It’s perfectly covered unless you are looking.
We saw a gentleman sleeping on the street near the big heat vents in Greektown. Anthony went up to him to leave a pack, I told him to leave it by his feet in case he woke us he didnt want to startle him. They chatted for a bit, Anthony said he was really thankful.
We also ran into Leon on the edge of Greektown on Beaubian near the huge street vents. He was wearing one of the Coats that turns into a sleeping bag designed by Veronica Scott and made my previously homeless women.
He really likes the coat and let me spin him around to have a look. He had it all undone and was dragging the sleeping bag part but I didnt ask him why. He was wearing one of the new ones that are made of black..which makes wayy more sense then the white ones they used to produce. The black blends in better and hides the dirt too! He was really jovial and had a great smile!!
As we drove away we saw the first guy who Anthony never got the name of sorting through his pack!.
I stayed in the car a bunch this day after getting out lots of times to give the guys a feel for how I approach folks. They quickly felt confident doing it on their own.
They talked to Mike on the edge of Mexican town , he is not yet homeless, but he is under housed and about to lose apt and just lost job so he is hustling to see if he can make rent.
We ran into Milton just sitting on the side of the road over east of the Renaissance Center. He is from Detroit, born and raised, been on streets since February 2012, and is a real gentle soul. Last year he spent 68 days in jail. He seemed a little touched as he went off on tangent to tangent. He says he goes to AA from time to time and has elderly family but cant ask them if he can stay as it would be too much on them. He seemed to be in his early 50s.
Milton had been a surprise when we were really on our way to see Jose but we had to kill time by driving around the block because we saw another guy by a dumpster going the bathroom, so I figured he deserved some privacy. We caught up with him a few minutes later. His name was Jose, he has been on the streets a while and wanted to know if Anthony and Tony, who got out to chat with him, wanted to go extreme kiting!! sounds fun!
We gave a pack to a guy named Norm who is local and been on the streets over a year.
Over by Springwell we ran into Al and Barney on the brige we gave them backpacks. They look out for each another they are a solid team.
At the end of the bridge we talked to Dan for a bit.38 from downriver i think he said. He actually has been to Florida five years in a row instead of hustling..he says he goes to Coco beach. Not allowed to hustle there.. you can not even have a backpack or they will get you for being a Vagrants.
He talks to Al and Barney but not many other folks, he doesn’t trust anyone else..but says those two are good people.
We went under the bridge and Tony was in front of me and moving too fast and could not hear me above the traffic..We could both see the feet of two folks on the other side..but what Tony was not able to gather from their stance is that they were about to do a deal or taste the score.. by time i got to him he was already engaged and talking to them. he was oblivious to the way they were huddled and the needles in there hands. We gave them packs them headed to the car..on the way i asked Anthony and Sando if the noticed anything..Anthony totally saw what i saw. so i kindly talked to Tony about looking and then looking..reading body language and knowing when to back off.
We are all naive at times..and this is not something most folks do daily.. we were all safe so that was good.
Over by lawndale we gave out a pack, then we met Cyless he is local been on the streets about 5 yr used to drive trucks, but no jobs now.
We meet Dr. John..who is from Detroit and told us he has been on streets for “Too Long!”
I am thankful to the crew who went out that day and wanted to leave on a final note.. its from a tag i saw that day by one of the places we gave out packs.. it said “Anticipate your Needs”
it was written not so traffic could see it but guys on the edge of the highway hustling.. its something one of my uncles would have said to me and it just struck me.. and made me pause.
Needs for food, warmth, survival, next fix, all of the above. I can not imagine what it would be like to be on the streets, I can only hope I would have the streets smarts to anticipate what i would need to survive.