Homeless For The Holidays – A Man and His Companion – Part IV
Photo by John Zangas
Anthony, 47 years old, is friendly as he greets me as I pass through McPherson, on Christmas. “What have you got for me,” he asks? His companion, ‘Chico’, is an obedient mixed Pit Bull and looks up suspiciously as I go through my bag to find something for him to eat. Chico stands close to him, eyeing me with a worried look and afraid to leave Anthony’s side.
The street has been harsh to Both Anthony and Chico, who has a human like quality and wears his master’s suffering on his face. Anthony agrees to let me take his picture but only if I’ll give him something other than food. “Everyone is giving out food but I need money and clothes,” he says. I have no clothing with me, I tell him. He adjusts his brown leather cowboy hat and smiles after I take his picture.
He wears worn shoes and drapes himself with a torn calico mover’s blanket, much too thin to ward off the gathering cold wind, now howling through the tree trunks. He carries a few items in a tattered plastic bag.
An SUV pulls up to the curb on 15th and the entire park converges on it. Anthony drops his blanket, revealing a thin frame with pajama bottoms, and gallops towards the SUV, Chico close behind. Chico obediently waits on the sidewalk as Anthony jostles in line. The driver hands out blankets and hot chicken vegetable soup in styrofoam containers with Cornish hens and cup cakes. He takes two meals and sets one on the sidewalk for Chico, tossing aside the cup cake, and leaving the hen and vegetables. As Chico licks the hen, I ask him if it is safe for him to eat chicken bones. “He’s a descendent of a wolf and it won’t bother him,” he admonishes.
A few minutes later Anthony and Chico leave McPherson towards the D Street shelter. He says he can stay the night there.We talk about his living arrangement, and he tells me he has a room someone lets to him. “I spent 16 years on drugs,” Anthony confides, “But got cleaned up five years ago.” Another person hands him a Christmas gift bag with a thin rolled blanket, too limp to ward of the cold wind. He throws the torn blanket on the sidewalk and unrolls the new one over his shoulders.