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.
“I’ve been out on the streets for too long. I’m 55 years old.” He paused, “When you asked me where I want to be in a year I gave that a lot of thought. I want to have my own place – it doesn’t need to be big or anything like that, but just a small place where I can sleep in my own bed, keep my things and feel safe.”
Everyone should have that I thought. And I didn’t think it would be all that hard to find someone housing who is willing to contribute to the rent and work hard at improving their situation. I was a bit naive about that. The system to get housing is completely crazy. Thankfully we got some help from a group called Pathways to Housing and one of their amazing outreach workers named Elizabeth.
Last July Elizabeth found an apartment run by Catholic Charities that we thought Anthony might qualify for. Thanks to the income and sense of community he gets from Street Sense, he was able to afford a small 12 foot by 14 foot room. The apartment, subsidized by Catholic Charities, is clean and well located. He would share the bathroom and kitchen with two dozen other men – but Anthony said he would be fine with that.
On July 15th of last year Anthony and I went to pick up the keys to his apartment. It was a day I will never forget. The excitement, anxiety and uncertainty charged the air around him. Hope, with responsibility neatly disguised under it, was pouring out of his eyes. Today things were different. Tomorrow would be different.
It’s been nearly a year. Anthony has worked hard to manage his finances so that he can pay his rent on time every month. There have been some challenges though, especially getting him some of the basic things to furnish his room, but most of that we secured through your kindness of gifts and donated items.
“I want to celebrate,” Anthony told me a few weeks back. “I’m so happy and thankful to have my apartment.” I told him to think about where he’d like to hold the party. I wasn’t surprised that he decided on restaurant that is across the street from the corner where Anthony sells the paper. Anthony is an immovable part of the community around 19th and M. He knows everyone and of course he knew the people at Rumors – a restaurant and bar right there across the street from his spot.
So that’s where we’ll be on July 14th to celebrate one year since he proudly clutched the key to his apartment and started to build a home. I hope you’ll join us. Even if you’ve never met Anthony, come by and say hello. It’s through building a stronger community around him that we help ensure that Anthony continues the successful journey that he has embarked on.
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.
It’s been two weeks since I have seen Anthony – that’s probably the longest I have gone this year without seeing him. He said he wanted to go to the Street Sense 10th Anniversary Gala event which was October 10th, but that he wasn’t one of the handful of vendors who were invited to be part of the event. I offered to pay the $150 for him to go and he seemed very happy.
I visited Anthony on October 9th – just a normal check-in. He was in good spirits. Several people stopped by to say hello to him. One of them, a young lady with a foreign accent that I couldn’t quite place Continue reading →
I hadn’t heard from Anthony for three or four days. I had tried to reach him but just got his voice mail. Worried that something might have happened to him, I wandered down to 19th and M on Tuesday morning.
Leaning up against the brightly colored newspaper boxes that anchor the corner there, Anthony was talking with a parking enforcement employee. “You are just the person that I need to see my friend,” he belted out when I dropped my backpack on the curb next to his own bag.
It turns out four days earlier Anthony accidentally dropped his phone into a toilet. “Oh man…it’s dead. Continue reading →
There’s been an autumn chill in the air recently in DC. Normally that brings with it mixed emotions. While I enjoy the fall very much, it serves as a reminder that colder weather is coming and that my friends who sleep on the streets will begin preparing themselves to endure the elements.
Thanks to his new apartment, I will not worry so much about Anthony when it drops below freezing. Sure, he still spends exponentially more time outdoors than I do since he sells the newspaper on the street corner Continue reading →
It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on Anthony and me. Anthony is doing great. He’s so happy to have his very own living space. Thank you to all of you who helped him in some way. From the financial donations to the care-packages to this amazing quilt that Joyce from Texas made especially for Anthony! It’s beautiful! He has it spread over his bed and uses it to cover up at night if he gets cool while watching tv.
Right now we are working on two new things for Anthony. First, we are looking for an adult literacy class for him to join. As a result of dropping out of Continue reading →