The first stop is Peace Mennonite, where they drop off recycling and excess food from the house for the Saturday “shower” service. Inside, wearing tool belts and a couple of layers of drywall dust, stand two of Anawim’s true success stories: Ankles and Brian. When the pipes at Peace burst in December, the water took out walls and ceilings throughout the structure. The church was looking at a massive repair bill until the two men, homeless for years, offered their construction experience in exchange for housing and a small stipend. The solution saves Peace around $5,000 in labor, gives Brian and Ankles some dough and a place to stay for a few months, and buys Kimes some goodwill from the more conservative members of Peace, who still view the street ministry as a handout. “This is what I’m talking about,” Kimes says. “All Brian and Ankles needed was a hand up. People who say the homeless are lazy have never met one before.”
From Peace, he heads to a nearby apartment complex, where leftover frozen entrées are donated from the back of a Maria’s Catering truck. Then it’s over to the Zarephath pantry (where Kimes will have to break up a knife fight over a dog the next week) to pick up bread before switching to stealth mode for some Dumpster diving.
An aficionado by repetition, he hits the usual hot spots. He even finds a couple of floor mats in a Rite Aid Dumpster. “Diver introduced me to the diving thing,” Kimes says, leaning over the lip of a smaller metal bin to scoop out discarded dog food with a Taco Bell cup. “It’s almost mystical with him—you need it, he can find it. But it’s also a Mennonite trait. We’re known to be really frugal people. I talk to older men and they’re happy that I’m continuing the tradition.”
The van filled with whatever he can salvage, he heads toward St. Johns. Skirting the edge of Forest Park, Kimes points to paths notched into the woods where a rarely seen subset of the homeless are known to venture in and out under cover of darkness. “Regular street people are scared of the ones who live in Forest Park,” he says. “It’s weird.”
Since the Wesleyan Church in St. Johns serves more kids, and since Kimes caters mostly to adults, he swaps out children’s books and clothes for another box full of bread, bags of vegetables, and even tubs of ice cream donated by Baskin-Robbins. The brown Toyota with the broken back door is now fully loaded down with food from four Dumpsters, three pantries, and one stop at the grocery store. Kimes checks his watch. Five o’clock. One hour until the doors open for the Friday meal at Sunnyside Methodist. He flips on the Alan Parsons Project’s “Eye in the Sky” and revs the dusty old van. It starts to shimmy just a bit.
One hundred and thirty people with empty bellies are counting on him to be on time.
“We’ve already passed five camps on our route,” Kimes says. He’s midway through another Friday food run, exhaling the information. “They’re just really well hidden. It’s like The Matrix.”
“No,” Hammer says, “it’s like when Han Solo was in the asteroid belt but he was actually inside that giant space worm so nobody knew he was in the asteroid belt.”