by Michael Boyd
Every time I come to work at the West Side Market something always reminds me of the days when I used to be homeless. When I look up from the hustle and bustle of the people walking around and shopping I can see downtown. And as I briefly gaze on the city, I’m filled with warmth and joy that downtown is no longer a place I have to sleep, but a place that I can visit. Having the opportunity to write and sell for the Cleveland Street Chronicle at the West Side Market has enabled me to make enough money to afford an efficiency apartment. But I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without the help of all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. And for them I am very grateful.
The day I met Pete and his wife, I was selling papers on a bitterly cold day at the West Side Market. Pete was curious to know more about the paper and where he could donate some of his own clothing. I told him he could donate them to St. Augustine and West Side Catholic two places I knew very well. But then Pete asked if I actually needed the clothes even though he was a couple of sizes bigger than me. That winter I was in desperate need of warm clothing as I was living at the men’s shelter in downtown Cleveland. He brought me hats, shirts, socks and hygiene products. I felt that there were some really great people here in Cleveland who really care a lot about other people. That little bit of kindness and compassion that they showed me that winter warmed my soul and gave me hope.
Pete and his wife’s act of kindness reminded me of my first time being homeless in the middle of a brutally cold winter. I didn’t sleep all night because there were no more mats and not enough room on the floor to even put a mat down if I had one. So I sat on the concrete floor with my head against the wall, trying to catch little bits of sleep here and there, I wondered what the next day would bring. That next morning came very quickly and I was exhausted from not sleeping much at all. The wake up call began at 5:30 with the shelter workers yelling and tearing blankets off of the people staying there. I felt like I was being treated like less than a human being and even worse than a prison inmate. When I stepped out into the bitter cold darkness of the early winter morning I stopped one of the guys who had just come out of the shelter and asked him where I could go for shelter from the cold. He suggested I go to St. Augustine because I could get food, coffee, warmth, and clothing until after lunch time. That’s when I met Sister Corita.
That first morning I stayed in the shelter was one of the darkest and coldest mornings I’ve ever experienced. But once I met Sister Corita, that darkness turned into light and for a moment I felt loved. I was so thankful for the boots she gave me that day because mine had holes in them that would let snow and water in and my feet became so cold that I couldn’t feel them. She gave me what I needed with no hesitation and she still that way for many needy people. Her loving kindness has and always will stay with me forever. I am very thankful her.
I also want to take a moment to give thanks and honor those who have helped me along my journey. These are all people (in no particular order) that I’ve met at the West Side Market while selling the Cleveland Street Chronicle: Carmel and her friend, John and Anna, Gregg, Smiley, Tattoo J, Mary, St. Malachi, Gary, John Appling, Ted, and St.Patrick’s for helping me out during the holiday season. I couldn’t have made it without all of their help! Thank you!!!
Copyright NEOCH and Street Chronicle May 2013, Cleveland, Ohio