Faces by Kaze
Faces haunt me. I see glimpses of children being protected by a mother or an older child. Sometimes I see them search for food in grocery store bins. I see them huddled in blankets against dirty walls. I see them running from Police who don’t chase them very fast. Occasionally I sit with at soup kitchens and try to make them laugh.
An estimated two million children and youth run away from or are forced out of their homes each year in the U.S.
At last count, 2,000 children under the age of six were counted in Albuquerque. Some are in shelters, or cars, or temporarily in grandparents’ homes. Too many live without shelter, barely surviving.
I smile at them and hand out children size hats and large size spam and maybe some bite size snacks.
The eyes draw me. I drown in compassion. Looking at faces and beyond has become my calling.
What to Do Next? By Kaze Gadway
“So, what are you going to do next?” I ask a really young couple still wrapped up in blankets on the sidewalk.
They look like they should be entering their first day of college. The young man is sunburned. The young lady peers at me through elfin shaped eyes. She is tiny.
This is our second time to just talk.
“I’m visiting my kids today,” she says faintly. “When I started living on the streets, my mother took my six month old boy and now he is four and my youngest is sixteen months. I can’t take care of them on the streets but I try to see them every week.”
After some more discussion she says “I’m on the list for an apartment. Then I can get cleaned up and get a job and get them back. I don’t know how I am going to work and take care of them so I am still thinking about that.”
The young man tells me “My shoes are too small and so I take them off whenever I can to let the blisters heal.”
They are coping. That’s about it. Getting an apartment will be one step but it has its own problems. I am glad she is thinking about her future. I hope to stay in touch so she doesn’t falter if the lack of shelter, job or kids does not work out. She has all the contacts. She is waiting for the next thing. And she is taking steps herself. This gives me hope.
For the young man, I am going to look around for large shoes. That is something I can do even if I have to buy shoes on sale at Wal-Mart or a thrift shop.
Poverty is real. There are multiple issues. I am so glad when someone on the street tells me about how they are working at it.
When it rains ( for a moment), you can smell the grass. The city sparkles. Then items turn soggy and
musty, especially in homeless camps. Lone people sit by themselves with sodden blankets, like decaying
stalks of grain. Their demeanor fixes on their eyes, radiating misery.
I bring my folding chair over and sit with them, silently handing them socks and snacks of peanut butter
crackers. One young man just stares ahead. He never looks at me.
Coughing doubles me over until I can slip a cough drop down my throat.
One of men looks at me. Finally, he says “I remember when I first lost my job and found myself on the
street. I found a burned out apartment building with the screen torn away and flapping. As it began
raining, I crept to the doorway with no door and looked out. I didn’t want to go onto the streets. It was
scary inside and out. The police came and made me move. When it rains, I get that feeling again. I just
We sat in silence a long time. I think about rain when I am safe inside and rain when I am unprotected.
Resolve by Kaze
I notice the cat first. “I like your cat. Does she hunt mice?”
The man picks up his cat and softly strokes her. “Yeah, she works hard but I still feed her
stuff I get from people.”
“She’s beautiful,” I say “You look like you have everything she needs to be comfortable.”
“Well, after about a year on the street, I made a resolve to live with just enough to be as
comfortable as I can be. It works. I don’t collect clutter. I know it doesn’t look like much but it’s
He grins and continues to pet his cat.
I leave thinking about my own clutter.
Every Morning the Same
He sleeps on the same spot on the curb every day. I bring him a cup of coffee loaded with cream and sugar. He opens his eyes and sits up.
“Is it morning? I hate mornings. Every morning is the same. Nothing changes. I go stand in line for food. Then I walk a long way to stand in line for lunch. Then I walk another mile to find supper. Then I play cards with some of my friends and walk back here. Getting coffee in bed is definitely something new.”
“I’m sorry about that. Your day sounds terrible.” We sip our coffee together silently. I sit on my red folding chair that I bring in my car.
“Do you ever see the sunrise?” I ask.
“Not really. I just turn over when the light gets in my eyes. I do see the sunset. I like the colors.”
“What is one thing you like about your days?” I ask.
“I like it when the food is good. Sometimes we get chicken. Usually, it is just oatmeal or sandwiches. I guess it is not all bad.” He sighs over his cup.
“What kind of cards do you play? Poker?” I uncross my legs.
“Yeah,” he says. “But we don’t bet. Nothing to bet with. We just play for fun.”
“I’m glad you have some fun during the day.” I stand and fold up my chair.
He hands me his empty cup and sighs. “Maybe some days are different.” He rolls over and pulls the blanket over him.
On my way home I mutter over and over, “Thank you for new days and not just other days.”
All I want by Kaze
Silently I put some socks and a peanut butter sandwich beside him. He opens his eyes.
“Thank you,” he says. “Who are you?”
“No one in particular,” I say. “My name is Kaze and I am retired. People give me stuff to
hand out and I hand it out.”
“I’m Edger. Are you with some religious group? Are you going to talk about Jesus?”
I shake my head. “Don’t worry. I don’t lecture. I’m just here.”
“That’s a relief. I hate people who want something for me. All I want is a warm place to
sleep and enough food. I gave up dreams a long time ago.”
I nod. As I drive home, I consider his words. When people are desperate they often reduce
their world down to the most simplistic wishes.
I try to keep my options open but some times I also just close down. Sometimes that’s a good
thing. I need to clear my head.
Options by Kaze
Two young girls tell me, “Yeah, we have a pimp. We weren’t going to do that but men kept picking us up and beating us up so we go with a pimp now. It gets us a bed and some food.” They are sixteen and ran away a year ago.
“We went to a shelter when we first got here.” She flings her hair back but doesn’t look at me.
One whispers, “I was raped there and we both left during the night. I’m never going back to one. It’s better on the street.”
The other young girl tells me, “I keep a knife with me now. I’m not going to be messed with again. At least, we get money now and protected from the bad guys.”
Again and again I hear of abuse to women and children on the street. We all know about this. I am more aware of it since it is in my face.
These problems are not solved just with money but by people with the desire to change the system. Yes they need food and safe shelter and better clothes. What they need most is someone who pays attention.