The Homeless Have Names Too: Meet Karen and Frank!

Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014

What an amazing holiday season!  Here is the recap thus far!

Stage 1: Week before Thanksgiving.

I can honestly say this Thanksgiving has been one I will never ever forget!  Let me set the stage… Every year I feed the less fortunate, mainly those who are homeless and cannot make it to a shelter for food.  This was my first time doing it in San Antonio, TX.  I reached out to my boss Mrs. Rocha who used to be San Antonio PD and knew the streets. I grabbed her and my co-worker India H. and the three of us headed downtown. We found the majority of the homeless bunkered down in areas near the prison. The area was known for high crime and viewed as a bad part of town. We needed to gauge how many required food on Thanksgiving so India stepped out of the vehicle while, I stood outside the driver’s door watching like a secret service agent, and Mrs. Rocha was on standby ready to call for backup just in case. I watched as India introduced herself and remained vigilant. Then, she called me over. The man reached out his hand and said, “You must be the Sergeant? I was in the United States Marine Corps.” I shook his cold dry hand and said, “Sir, thank you for your service, I am in the US Air Force, what’s your name?” He replied, “Frank and this is my wife Karen.” I shook her hand as well and introduced myself as India continued to ask them about their plans for Thanksgiving. Frank explained they would probably be sitting in the same spot on Thanksgiving (which was the following week). We asked them if we prepared food for them would they take it? Frank and Karen both said they would love that. We noticed they had minimal belongings and India asked if they needed anything. They both declined and said they had each other and that was all they needed. India asked “Are you sure you don’t need socks or gloves? Frank replied, “It does get cold in the evenings…gloves would be great.” We shook hands, told them we would see them the following week, gave them a hug and blessings, then departed the area. During the visit Frank told us we would find more homeless around the corner by the “PIC NIK” gas station. When we arrived, there was only one older gentleman sitting on the corner. India and I walked up and introduced ourselves, the man said his name was Mark and smiled. We explained we wanted to prepare food for him and asked if he needed anything. He said that would be nice. He would probably be sitting in the same spot next week. India asked him if he needed socks, shoes, or anything else. Mark explained, “Nope, I think I am okay…I got new shoes and two pairs of socks.” (Note: The shoes were not new. Maybe new to him but the soles were tattered and he had four mismatched socks on his feet and each had holes.) Prior to leaving Mark, India asked him what size shoe he wore. Mark replied, “I am a size 10”. She explained she planned on bringing him back a new pair of shoes. He said thank you, we shook his hand, sent him blessings, and when India and I were walking back to the vehicle we noticed a patrol car. We waved him down, identified ourselves, leaned into his passenger window of his patrol car, and asked Officer Perez if there would be more homeless on the street during Thanksgiving. We planned to prepare meals for the homeless and needed a head count. The officer looked puzzled and said…”Why?” (Pause: a What happened to us? Since when do we ask why do we want to feed the poor? It’s about humanity, kindness, love, a helping hand, and just the right thing to do. Ugh! From time to time people need a little help and often many people are too proud to ask for help.) I responded by simply stating it’s about giving back and helping out. As we continued to speak with Officer Perez, I couldn’t help but notice the sounds on the street. I already categorized the number of roaming homeless in the immediate area and specifically noticed a Hispanic male about 50 ft to the left of where we were standing. The man was yelling siren style calls, “Whoop, Whooooop!” which echoed down the street and was imitated by probably three other unidentified people. I told Officer Perez, “You hear that? They are calling you out. Probably warning each other to hide their stash.” He said, “Yeah, I know.” We asked him if this was his normal beat (aka patrol route). He said yes and he would be around on Thanksgiving. He confirmed this was an extremely bad neighborhood, warned us not to be there after hours or before sunrise, and come with backup. He reassured us the area was in constant surveillance and if we needed LE support we would be available. We thanked the officer and headed back to Mrs. Rocha who was watching our back and the vehicle. As we drove back to base I explained this is what I needed. My 2015 plan is to try and get as many homeless off the street as possible, feed them during the holidays and throughout the year since I know they are hungry every day and not just on the days everyone is programed for the “time of giving.” We decided I would purchase toiletries for our new friends, Mark, Frank, and Karen, then India would find a new pair of shoes for Mark. Mrs. Rocha and her daughter would prepare 100 cookie/candy packs as India and I would prepare food for 100 homeless to distribute on Thanksgiving morning.

Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014

Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014

Stage 2: The weekend before Thanksgiving.

Okay, so I went a little crazy! I am an avid Ross Dress For Less, Marshalls, and TJMaxx shopper and thought these are my one stop shops for bargains. I found the last two AXE men’s toiletry kits which included a full size shampoo, body wash, body spray, and deodorant for only $12.99 each from Ross. SCORE! I also, hooked up Mrs. Karen with a female coconut lime shower set, brush and hair ties.

Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014

They all received socks, Isotoner gloves, and Jason helped too with blankets, towels/washcloths, and three duffle bags to put all their new things in. Then, I went to the Dollar Tree and hooked them up with: toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, to-go coffee mug/thermos, Vitamin C cough drops, can openers, Tupperware, silverware, laundry detergent, shakers filled with salt/pepper, and Chapstick.

Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014

Stage 3: Day before Thanksgiving.

What a week…. Between finishing up things for my full-time job (forensics science agent) and prepping my Thanksgiving festivities, I think by now I was only running on 4 hours of sleep over a two day period, but man it is worth it. Without my military job I couldn’t do all these wonderful things for people. Yes, I do this all out of my own pocket (military salary). I don’t make much but the bills are always paid, we have a roof over our head, clothes on our back, and food on the table every day.

I thank God for always providing and ensuring we are never in need. I promised myself and our God as long as he allows and I am healthy enough to do his work, I will always give back! Jason arrived two days before Thanksgiving and we did the shopping we needed to prepare the meals.

Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014

The night before Thanksgiving, India and her family were hard at work preparing 50 brown sacks of meals…

Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014IMG_1476 Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014

While Jason and I continued cooking (until 3am) to prepare our meals for the less fortunate, then I was able to finish cooking the food I planned on bringing to my best friend, Latina’s house where Jason and I were invited to spend Thanksgiving.

Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014

Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014

Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014

Our meet up time with India and her family was 10:30 a.m. and man did it come quick. We headed to the downtown area with two cars loaded with people and food and got there around 11:00 a.m. We found a little corner store that seemed to be the prime location for the homeless to gravitate towards. We popped the trunks and got our plan together and before we could really get settled, the folks started coming. After the initial surge Jason took to the streets and alleys to find more needy folks. Little did he know he sent over Mark who we greeted with open arms, food, and one of those bags. He was more than grateful but unfortunately the shoes did not fit. We will hook him up on our next trip around Christmas time. Not long after Mark walked off her came Karen and Frank. We talked, prayed, and provided them with their bags and they were so excited and thankful. I asked them about their story, how they ended up on the street and if they would be interested in some help. They said they did not trust the government programs but we stopped them there and said this was Jason and Anna helping them, not any government program. They said yes! It was then that I hit my near breaking point. Frank made the comment, “If you help me get a job you won’t have to worry about anything. I will make you proud!” Jason and I were both done! What an impact statement. After we exchanged contact information, we prayed and they left, heading back into the cold brick alleys of the city.

Ink inside out-anna castillo-Wellness -The Homeless Have Names Too Meet Karen and Frank-December 2014

Meet Frank and Karen!

One thing I can tell you is we were able to provide all 100 meals with waters and cookies to some needy folks and it felt amazing. The smiles on their faces and the gratitude they shared provided us with all the thanks we needed.  I told Frank and Karen I was on a mission.  They exchanged information with us so we can use it to try to assist them with any occupational leads.  We explained we couldn’t promise them anything.  We only promised we would try our best to get them off the street.  All we needed was their faith and promise to meet us half way… (more to come)

So we headed off to my bestie, Latina’s house for our Thanksgiving lunch and man what a spread. She had the house full of friends and family and we just felt so blessed to have this type of friendship and thankful for the meal that was provided.  Unfortunately, duty called in mid-bite.  I was called off to an operational response for my forensics job.  Never seems to fail.  I was still grateful for the day I had, and know God watches over me.  I am extremely grateful for Mrs. Rocha, Mrs, India and her family, Latina for taking care of us so we could take care of others, and for Jason for always being my sidekick in this crazy world.

My goal was to feed the homeless during Christmas but we had a change of plans.  I will do this again during the New Year weekend.  While on scene at my op response I thought how the homeless are always hungry, not just during the holidays.  So, I want to off set the times we try to help our homeless so they can be taken care of over a longer period of time (more to come).  We want to thank you for following our journey and wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season.  We hope you to will pay if forward and remember those less fortunate.  If you can help…HELP!

XOXO Besos,
Anna Castillo

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