“We got by”

Deirek Smith pushes a tattered stroller down West Lancaster Avenue on a sunny spring day in Old North Milwaukee. The stroller is filled to capacity with a mound of scrap metal — mostly an air conditioner he had the fortune of coming across. Smith, 57, walks with a leisurely gait toward a scrap yard on Mill Road.

“I was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I been here since 1964. And, my life took some real [turns], after one lady I was with for, what, 20 years, she died of cancer. And, then, after her, I met another lady and she died of cancer after 8 years,” he says.

“So, I’ve been just doin’ this.”

Continue reading ““We got by””

“If I could write a book”

Calvin Young saunters down the steps of a porch near 37th and Roberts in Washington Park. The 55-year-old, distinguished by his fully grey, mid-length beard and two-tone skin color, walks into the empty, sunlit street to ask for a dollar or two.

“I’m trying to change my life around. [The] only thing, right now, is I’m just an alcoholic — that’s it, that’s all,” says Young, who admits he was once addicted to crack cocaine, as well.

Continue reading ““If I could write a book””

“I don’t have a whole lot of money”

Preston Jones smokes a cigarette outside the Milwaukee Rescue Mission on W. Wells Street in the Marquette neighborhood. Expelling the smoke seems like a sacred ritual for Jones — he opens his mouth in a long “o” shape, exposing his slender, yellow-stained teeth, before breathing out.

Jones was “born and raised right here in Milwaukee” and, for the most part, hasn’t left. “I done been to Chicago before, I done been to Holly Springs, Mississippi, before — only one time to each one of them,” he says, though you wouldn’t know from hearing him talk — his voice is loud with a hint of southern drawl.

Continue reading ““I don’t have a whole lot of money””