The other day, I was scrolling through some of the columns I have written, and I came across the story that in all likelihood, was responsible for the publication of my writings ever since in the Advocate.
This, of course, brought to mind so many of the people who stood out in the course of my time at The Kitchen.
The first one was a young, healthy native fellow, who we often had to remind that the street in front of The Kitchen was not his football field.
An excellent guitarist, he nonetheless chose addictions and their results as a way of life.
After 20 years, a man who was half my age, now appears older than me, by far!
Then came Reed, a tall, lanky fellow who could just as easily sleep outside in winter, as me in a nice, warm bed at home.
He gave me a story he wrote, which I used in an article (on the website at that time) that went viral, leading to the Advocate starting to publish my stories.
A mother and her two boys were some of the crack addicts who would shoot up right outside our front door. She had been the queen of the street with a mean streak a mile long.
After some time in prison, where a chaplain helped her, she threw away all drugs. She then came back to Red Deer to be baptized in the river, and now leads a drug-free life with her reformed boys in another city.
Next was a fellow named Saint, which he definitely was not. He was the only fellow to be permanently barred from The Kitchen.
When he tried to come back in, he judo chopped me in the throat while I was escorting him out the door. A very abusive drug dealer, he hung around with a girl who herself was very abusive; to any and everyone.
This young woman would come into The Kitchen wrapped in layers of blankets, and demand food. She would become verbally abusive, almost violent, if she did not get her way.
She was the only person at The Kitchen I had a dream about. I published a story about her and the dream, and as a result, we became friends. Plus, she also stopped her hard drug habits.
Then there was a woman who thought we were nuts feeding everybody, and then also speaking to her about love and forgiveness — both from us, and most of all, herself.
She had no use for God at that time, but that has changed. Other than a couple of blips, Cinderella has just celebrated seven years totally clean.
An alcoholic who was a self-proclaimed Rotary Park Warrior could not escape his love for the bottle. Although mostly jovial, his pursuit of toonies would drive people nuts.
Rather than being labelled a beggar, he would refer to himself as a public relations professional.
Then there was the master dumpster diver, Richard, whose generous nature with what he found in dumpsters would feed, clothe and bring a smile of gratitude to many on the street.
He became a close friend, so his OD death hit us all really hard.
A short little redhead came into our lives when she entered the “destroy the addiction phase.” After a couple of hiccups, she succeeded and became an integral part of The Kitchen.
Periodically, we would be taken in by a smooth talker, something we would chalk up to a growing experience. But overall, we felt blessed for being available to these folks in their struggles.
This look back makes me realize that there were, and are, so many more who came through the doors of The Kitchen, that it made my life richer meeting all these characters.
Chris Salomons is a retired Red Deer resident with a concern for the downtrodden.