It was 1999 or 2000 when I met Brian Davis and his band of VISTA workers. Quite a young group of volunteers, but they cared about the rights of the homeless people. I was there mainly because my days of panhandling were at an end.
I had become quite an accomplished panhandler in those days. Not the aggressive kind that became the down fall of panhandling in Cleveland, but a panhandler with manners. I had a couple of nice spots that I was well established at, the Flats and the Westside Market. However, my gig at the Market was soon to become a thing of the past due to a newspaper called The Homeless Grapevine and a vendor named Angelo.
From the very beginning I liked Brian. He seemed courteous, intelligent, and much more. Also, he has a good sense of humor even though some of the vendors don’t like his humor. He tries to be light-hearted with everyone.
As I became more involved with selling the Grapevine, I became more involved with NEOCH. One of the most important things I appreciated about Brian was the trust that he had in me. At one time NEOCH was given the change from the various wishing wells around Cleveland and Brian entrusted me to count it and do the wrapping which I thought was very cool.
Each year we had a picnic for all who worked at NEOCH including us Homeless Grapevine vendors. This was the first time I was introduced to Brian’s family. I was taken aback that a guy in his position cared enough to let his family be around what society looked upon as the lowest of lows in the hierarchy of our society. From there on I got involved more with participating in what NEOCH was all about.
On the run from the law for five years, one day I walked into the NEOCH office and announced I was turning myself in. I thank Brian for sending a couple of VISTAs to say a good word for me, at my Parole Board hearing. It was one of the most caring things that someone has ever done for me.
While working at NEOCH, I’ve been invited to go on speaking engagements to different venues. I have even talked to lawyers and congressmen, giving them an up-close-and-personal view of homelessness since I was actually living that life. I will miss Brian because he has a very caring and giving personality.
I wish you well Brian in all your future endeavors. Thank you for making me a better human being.
Keep the Faith!!