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Pope Francis visited Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. It was a historic occasion. I even got a glimpse of the papal icon as he zipped by me in his little Fiat on my way to work. You can barely make him out in the far backside of the car.
I thought that was pretty cool. When I told Anthony, he said, “I got to meet the Pope. He’s got soft and warm hands.” Yep, Anthony met the Pope at a luncheon that several homeless and formerly homeless men and women were invited to attend. Check out the photo he snapped from his phone and the article he wrote for Street Sense about the experience.
Always on time, Anthony was waiting for me outside the Starbucks at 22nd and K. Wearing his black and gold Steelers hat and matching backpack, he greeted me with a giant bearhug. We stepped inside, grabbed a coffee and took over a table in the corner. We had about 40 minutes until he needed to be at his doctor’s appointment.
We made two bets. The first one was whether he weighed more or less than the last time he and I went to see his doctor which was last July. If he weighed less than his previous 276 pound weigh-in I would pay him a dollar. If he was more, he owed me a dollar. The second bet was about smoking. Anthony had quit for about a month, but admitted this morning that he had started up again. I bet him that the doctor would tell him that the number one thing he could to positively affect his health was to quit smoking.
Overall the doctor said Anthony was doing ok. His blood pressure was high, then again it always is, but his other lab work looked ok. Except for his sugar. Anthony has been diagnosed with Type II diabetes. He’s been on medicine now for two weeks and is working on avoiding foods that spike his sugar levels.
As we walked out we both had the same amount of money as we did when we walked in. Anthony had lost weight – he was down to 263 pounds. But the doctor in fact did tell him that quitting smoking would have the largest positive impact on his health.
We made another bet for his check-up in August. If Antony loses 8 pounds to reach 255 pounds, I will pay him $2. If he’s above 255 he owes me $2. But, I wanted to make it a little more interesting. I agreed that if he loses 15 pounds by the August check-up, then I’ll make it $100. That would be money well spent in that it would be a solid start on getting his weight under control.
Happy New Year! Time seems to go by so fast. I realized it had been an embarrassingly long time since I have updated the blog – not because Anthony & Me are not still meeting and working on things, but I just have been busy with other projects.
It is hypothermic here today, starting out at a painful 8 degrees this morning. I gave Anthony a call to make sure he was ok. “I ain’t going out in all that today,” he assured me. That’s probably wise. He ventured out yesterday though which wasn’t much better.
2015 is starting off pretty good for Anthony – check out this beautiful news story that was done about him and his journey to get housing. It ran today on the ABC Family Channel. Thanks to reporter John Jessup and videographer Denis Pacuraru of CBN News who did a terrific job with the story!
Looking back, 2014 was a decent year – a great year for Anthony. He celebrated one year of housing which is tremendous. I on the other hand have made some progress on my book, but not near where I had hoped.
As we look forward, Anthony and I are sitting down next Tuesday to talk about what we want to accomplish for 2015. I will post our goals after we meet – but I am pretty sure one of Anthony’s new goals is to try to visit his sister in Seattle this year! Not sure how we’ll do that financially at this point, but we’ll find a way. Oh, and he told me today that he has quit smoking?!!? Wow….that is HUGE! He hasn’t had a cigarette he said since Jan 2nd. “I’ve been chewing lots of nicotine gum – it helps.” I hope he can keep that up.
Anthony’s life changed on July 15, 2013 when he received the keys to an apartment in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC. And while we celebrated that moment, we both knew that a hard road, possibly harder than the one we had just traveled, awaited us.
Recent numbers reported by David Berns of DC’s Department of Human Services show that 91% of people who were experiencing homelessness in the district and were rehoused remained in housing after one year. This gave me hope, but Anthony had been on and off the street for nearly 20 years. I was worried that he might be that one person out of ten that doesn’t make it.
My worrying though was for nothing. Anthony worked hard to stay housed and we celebrated his one year anniversary on July 14th at Rumors – a restaurant across the street from where he has sold the Street Sense newspaper for the past nine years. About 40 people – friends, supporters, employees of local businesses, etc – showed up to celebrate with him. He didn’t stop smiling all night.
Today, July 29th, is Anthony’s 57th birthday. My wish for him today is that he stays housed and celebrates many more birthdays. Happy birthday Anthony!
Last week Anthony and I got together to talk with a reporter from Street Sense. They’re doing a story on the one-year anniversary of Anthony being housed. Pretty cool.
I got to Anthony’s corner at 19th and M earlier than we had agreed that day. We often meet at the Au Bon Pain next door, so I walked over there to see if he had slipped inside to escape the blistering sun. My intuition was right.
Sporting a broad smile and walking slightly better than the last time I saw him, Anthony was in good spirits. We boarded the 42 bus toward Metro Center and got off at 13th and H.
Stepping off the bus I saw some deep purple clouds forming above. “Did you bring an umbrella,” I asked Anthony. He smiled and not missing a beat quipped back, “Nope. Just a towel and a bar of soap.” Now we were both smiling.
We sat down with Sophie from Street Sense for the interview. We talked about how we got connected and a bit about the challenges of finding Anthony housing. I learned something new in the interview. No it wasn’t a new recipe from Anthony’s cooking repertoire, it was that he had been thinking about trying to finish his education and get his GED. I think that would be great if he wants to do that. He’ll need to work on his reading and writing (and probably arithmetic as well) though.
I’m taking him to the doctor on Wednesday, so I’ll have an update later this week. For those of you in DC, please join us on Monday, July 14th at 5:30pm at Rumors to celebrate Anthony’s one-year anniversary of securing housing.
It was a little more than 18 months ago that Anthony and I were meeting at Au Bon Pain on 19th Street. It was one of our regular biweekly meetings that we have. I had asked him during the previous get-together to think about where he wanted to be in one year or five years. “Don’t answer me now,” I told him. “Think about it and we’ll talk about it when we meet next time.”
Two weeks went by. We sat down at our usual table; Anthony carefully accommodating the multiple bags of personal items that lugged around with him all day long. Before we had even taken the first bite of our lunch, Anthony said that he had been thinking about what we talked about the previous week.
It’s been months since I’ve updated Anthony & Me. I’m sorry, I’ve been busy…but Anthony and me still find time to meet up on a regular basis.
Anthony is doing well, despite a swollen knee that looks more like a watermelon. Helped by a cane, he hobbles downtown to his corner almost every morning though. Last Thursday he took the day off because it hurt too much to walk. I’m working on helping him get to a doctor but frankly I don’t think they will do much for this other than order bed rest.
Today we had a guest at our usual bi-weekly meeting: Elizabeth from Pathways to Housing. She’s the amazing young woman who helped Anthony find his current room. She joined us to help Anthony fill out applications for new housing – he hopes to get into an improved, more independent housing arrangement. We also learned that Elizabeth has taken a new job at Pathways and will no longer be doing outreach in the Golden Triangle but has moved over to Development.
I’ve been making progress, albeit slow, on the book. Anthony never lets me forget that I need to be writing and I truly appreciate it.
We’re about 45 days from the one year anniversary of Anthony finding housing. We’re planning a little celebration on Monday, July 14th – if you are in DC please join us. More details to come on this!
In my last post I shared a recipe from Anthony…I thought I would continue with that tradition and list another one here.
Ingredients: fish, butter, green peppers, onions, eggs, milk, cheese
“I take the original fish and debone it. Sometimes I buy fish sticks instead which I debread and use. Then I sauté the fish in butter with green peppers and onions. I take my eggs and beat’em up, and add just a pinch of milk to make them fluffy. Then I take a slice of cheese, split it in half, and spread it on half of the omelet. And after that is melted, you take the sautéed onions and fish and lay it on top. Then you take the half of the omelette you haven’t used yet and put it on top of everything else.”
I asked Anthony if he ate this like a sandwich. He said, “No. You just eat it as it is. I mean, if you want to eat it as a sandwich that is ok too.”
So I told you on Tuesday that I learned that Anthony holds a weekly fish fry with his neighbors. Their housing complex has a very nice shared kitchen on the ground floor where the guys get together on Saturday afternoon to fry some fish.
“My neighbor Dennis catches the fish and brings it home, cleans it and individually bags and freezes them.” But once a week Anthony, Dennis and another neighbor, Mr. Hoyer, come together to cook.
“He catches crappies…or whatever he can get really,” Anthony tells me. “The bottom of fridge is literally full of fish come Saturday.” While Anthony doesn’t participate in the fishing, his friends are quite the avid fisherman. “Sometimes they even enter tournaments,” he explains.
Now I know Anthony has a hearty appepite and appreciates a good fish fry as much as the next person, but I was curious if he wasn’t fishing then what was he contributing to the fish fry. When I asked, he grinned and told me, “I cook the potatoes. Home fried potatoes.”
He went into detail about the process. “I slice them like potato chips, wash them off, put butter in the pan and let it get hot and then dump the potatoes in and go back and cut up the onion and throw them on top of the potatoes and put the top on after I put a little more butter on them.” He let’s them cook for a while but you can’t just let them sit. “You got to keep moving them so they don’t get stuck to the pan. That’s the way you get golden home fried potatoes.”
As for seasoning – Anthony doesn’t add anything other than the butter. “I let the guys put on their own salt and pepper or whatever, you know, make it the way they like it.”
It sounds like a nice event…everyone brings something to the table. “You know, maybe Mr. Hoyer brings the oil. There’s another guy too, a Russian guy we call ‘the governor’, he might buy the oil or some seasoning. We all pitch in.”
“And you bring the potatoes,” I asked him.
“Yep, I take care of the potatoes. I love potatoes – I always keep a bag up in my bedroom.”
Check out Anthony&Me next week for another of Anthony’s kitchen favorites: Fish Omelets.
While the turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes tend to gobble up most of our focus for the Thanksgiving holiday – it’s really about reflecting on what we are thankful for. It’s about family, community, giving and so much more. And there’s no pressure to buy anyone a gift or find a clever costume. Just family, friends, food and fellowship.
I wasn’t in DC for Thanksgiving so I didn’t get to have turkey with Anthony – but I did meet up with him today to see how his Thanksgiving was and get caught up on some other items. We decided to check out a new spot a block from Anthony’s “office” at 19th and M. “They’ve got fresh carved turkey sandwiches there – real sandwiches!” Anthony professed.
Capriotti’s was started in Delaware more than 30 years ago and is now approaching 100 shops around the country. We’re slated to get about a dozen here in the Greater DC area. The sandwiches are rolled in butcher’s paper and sealed with masking tape – like the place you used to get them when you were a kid. Yep, it’s got a little bit of that kind of feel.
I ordered a 9 inch turkey sub with hot peppers. Anthony, who is already a return customer since they opened 12 days ago, ordered the chicken cheese steak.
Half way through my sandwich, Anthony reaches out to stop a gentleman walking by. “Reed, this is the owner,” he whispers as he introduces me to George Vincent Jr. – a third generation Washingtonian who is leading the expansion here in the nation’s capital. I was so impressed with how busy the store was with less than two weeks under its belt that I had to know the secret. It’s rather simple according to George – he credits fresh ingredients and genuine customer service.
If the line that wraps nearly out the door isn’t enough of an indicator of the success to come to this DC newcomer, they might get a little help from Delaware’s number one son. “Joe Biden came in on our first day and got the Italian sub,” George told me.” He even took another back for the president!” Well, Anthony sure is in good company with his new favorite sandwich shop!
Anthony and I stuck around for a little while after we finished our lunch. I asked him if he had thought about any goals for 2014. “In fact I have,” he told me. He wants to focus on getting a second job and saving money to visit his sister Jackie in Seattle. “I also need to start thinking about a new apartment,” he said. His place is fine for now, don’t get me wrong, he’s extremely thankful to have housing, but he’d like to have a private bathroom and his own kitchen.
And speaking of the kitchen – I learned something new today. Anthony and I share a love of cooking! Check back on Thursday to find out about the fish fry that Anthony and his neighbors do every Saturday!
It seems like last week we skipped straight to winter – at least you would have thought that based on last Thursday here in DC. The high just made it over 50 degrees and the wind chill canceled out any relief the occasional sun provided. I’m glad that my friend Anthony has a warm, secure place to sleep indoors this winter. Thank you for your help in helping him achieve his goal.
I met Anthony over lunch. Joining us this time was another friend Steve who lives two blocks from Anthony’s apartment. They’ve met a couple of times and I thought I’d extend an invitation to him to join us.