On the Streets

Reporting by Meredith Wagner | Photos by Corrie Coleman | Videos by Collin Slowey

Wacoans, waiting for breakfast outside the Salvation Army, briefly share some thoughts and stories. Here’s a glimpse into their lives.

From the Reporter Initially, there was a slight hesitation when I approached these interviews, mostly out of fear that my questions may not be welcome or that my intentions may not be understood. Perched across from four strangers on a sunny Sunday morning, I found just the opposite. It was simple. They wore their hearts on their sleeves. We spoke of family and childhood, love and death, dreams of living in luxurious castles. We pondered some of life’s biggest questions. We laughed and cried.

We had just met.

I may never understand what it feels like to lose everything or to be in a position of heightened vulnerability as many in Waco experience every day. But our dissimilarities didn’t seem to inhibit our ability to connect or respect one another in the least. However different, we found common ground in our curiosity for life, our hope for a better future and our desire to live in a less divided city. As Waco continues to grow, my hope is that its residents feel unafraid to integrate, to ask questions, to sit still and listen to their neighbor.

Dwayne Good was born in Waco. At one point in his life, he traveled to California to get a general education and learn how to weld. After receiving his degree, Good returned to Waco and worked in construction for much of his life. He is now retired and trying to fix up his house and feed the birds. When asked why he feeds the birds, he said — “Respect for life. People lost a respect for life.”

Photo by Corrie Coleman

“People get caught up in religion. When a person does religious things, they’ll feel religious, but that’s not salvation. [The churches] have a ‘do it yourself’ system, which is basically what religion is — a ‘do it yourself’ system — but with Christ, you have to wait on Him. I’m trying to give you some Scriptures. I should give you something.”

See Dwayne’s full interview below

Lanette Farmer attended McLennan Community College to be a nursing assistant after graduating from high school in Waco. Farmer worked at various nursing homes as a nursing assistant until the commute became too difficult without proper transportation. She returned to Waco to work in a hanger factory.

Photo by Corrie Coleman

“It kind of started when my grandfather passed away. It’s been going for three years — I’ve been struggling for three years. I pay child support, so my checks will go to them; and I have about a hundred bucks left. It’s not enough to pay bills. I was raising them for 10 years until, well, it’s a long story… Their dad went to prison, and so his mom has the kids. I can’t even really talk about it. It’s been really tough.”

See Lanette’s full interview below

Khaliliah Ivree Mitchell has been a mother since she was 14 years old. She has about 10 children, some of which are her godchildren. Mitchell volunteers at church for 10 hours each week and plays the guitar, keyboard, piano and trombone. Her favorite book is the Bible, which she says she has memorized. She wasn’t able to graduate high school and hasn’t had a consistent place to live — “A few weeks, I had been outside. I had tried to rent two apartments from someone to stay there, but it all didn’t go well. I had found the Salvation Army for the Sally’s House… I was staying outside for a few days.”

Photo by Corrie Coleman

“I wouldn’t mind staying in a castle. There’s an empty castle I found with 100 bedrooms, but it’s supposed to be haunted. If somebody would please let me stay in the castle, I would stay there by myself. I would sleep in all the rooms each day. I want that castle so bad.”

See Khaliliah’s full interview below

Don Joslin sandblasted and painted water towers for 10 years. Recently released from prison, he now spends his days looking out for his friends, trying to avoid the “fast life,” and staying at the Salvation Army.

“I help out here. I try to give back, ‘cause you know, it’s a blessing to get what we get.”

“If there’s one thing that Waco needs, they need some place other than the Meyer Center to get IDs and stuff. They won’t let me use their services. That’s the only thing keeping me from being able to get a job — I don’t have my ID. I lost it along the way. If Waco had one or two places that would just do that, I think a few more of these people wouldn’t be [on the streets]. I would say probably 40 percent of them don’t have IDs. I don’t know who to go to talk to about that…”

“I have two little girls. I raised them by myself for 10 years. Three years ago, I lost them to Child Protection Services. I got a letter when I was in jail saying that they ask about me everyday, and they want written contact with me, so I got to write them a letter. Their mom is chasing dope — whatever — one of us had to be responsible.”

See Don’s full interview below