Our friend Michael Mancuso went out bright and early the other morning to photograph Chalia Perry and Jose Caraballo in The Mission’s Outreach van as they gave to people living on the streets hats that were hand-knitted by Anita Brady and her family and friends. Each of the nearly 200 hats, Anita shared, are created as a unique expression of love – to let their receiver know how valued they are. Some of the more intricate designs take days for talented knitters to create.
Describing what it is like traveling with Chalia and Jose, who are both Certified Peer Recovery Specialists, Micheal, who previously photographed and wrote a feature story about The Mission’s Outreach Program, said, “It was business as usual for them. Except their ‘usual’ is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. They navigate through the city, knowing where people living on the streets who are struggling with addiction are known to go. Then they’ll see someone, pull over, and offer a cup of coffee. And what happens next is amazing to see. Other people start to gather. They call out each other’s names. They all know each other, hug each other, and love each other. There is total trust. And lots of gratitude. You hear lots of people saying, ‘Thank you, very much.’
Shown here is someone who goes by the name of Coffee. “Coffee had such an uncanny sense of humor,” Michael said, “She could host a television show. She was teasing Jose, hitting on him, saying, ‘I’m going to get cleaned up by Wednesday and marry him.’ Then Coffee called out to other people, ‘You stay away from him. He’s going to be my husband.’ Meanwhile, Jose was just sitting with a huge grin on his face.”
Laughing, Chalia found Coffee a hat that matched the coat she was wearing.
Through such deep connections, in the past year, The Mission’s Outreach initiative has provided coffee and food 4,342 times, 742 items of clothing, 580 Narcan kits, addiction treatment for 50 individuals, medical treatment for 24 individuals, and brought 21 homeless individuals to The Shelter.
And behind each of those numbers is a personal story – like Coffee’s.