As proof, he points to himself. When he needs food he goes diving—and finds fifty pounds of frozen meat. When he needs a van, a family moves to England and donates theirs. When the electric is about to get shut off at his house, the charity box fills up. People he hasn’t seen in years show up at his door to hand him $200.
Anawim’s next amazing feat will be to try and get a grant from the Mennonite Central Committee. The money would go toward setting up a business in which employers could hire street people for landscaping or recycling jobs, allowing them to earn their keep and take care of themselves. Considering Kimes’s worldview, such an operation would truly be a miracle. He sees street people as being closer in spirit to the life of Christ. In his world, the line in Jesus’s Sermon on the Plain that says “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God” is far more than an allusion, it’s a mandate: “To me it means people with a high income have to give it away to get into heaven.”
How this goes over with the Central Committee, an organization that has never committed large funds to homeless outreach, depends on its members’ reaction to Kimes. “I am a hornet,” he says, stifling a giggle. “I’m stinging people in the right direction.”
A steady flow of name-brand foot traffic on a Tuesday night on a suddenly popular block of N Williams Avenue. Ten years ago, this was as close as Portland got to a “slum.” Crack deals went down on the corner. Busted-out glass littered the pavement. But for now, this strip is breaking out with the kinds of businesses that make the spines of the city’s upwardly mobile tingle: two new restaurants, a minimalist coffee shop, a yoga studio, a home-interior store.
In the shadows of a Victorian house, there is something else: a sign that looks like an abandoned historical marker. “Stop Hobophobia,” it reads. Inside the six-bedroom home lies the chaotic heart of Anawim.
Technically, Kimes is only a part owner of the house. His father bought it through the family trust at a ridiculously reduced price (the former owner was equally enamored of altruism). Inside, Kimes’s wife, Diane, fights a Sisyphean battle to maintain order in a home that has become more of a weigh station for Anawim’s do-goodery. This being Tuesday, Kimes is gearing up for Anawim’s weekly service at the dingy gymnasium inside the Cathedral of Praise just off SE Hawthorne, which he’s dubbed the “Yellow Church.” In addition to offering a meal and boxes of clothing, tonight they’re showing a movie, Horton Hears a Who. All of this has turned the family’s kitchen into a loading dock of bagged fruits and vegetables, tins of coffee, boxes of frozen apple fries, and dozens of loaves of bread piled into pyramids.
Often, though, the clutter inside the Kimes house is of the living and breathing variety. Kimes asked that the official number of residents not be printed, but with two converted toolsheds out back, extra bedrooms in the basement, a spare room on the main floor, various couches, and (during the summer) the front porch all in use, the house better resembles a commune. There is the occasional lice outbreak, but usually the close-quarters cohabitation runs smoothly.
Kimes’s children live here, too, of course. Diane and Steve split home-schooling duties for Ian, sixteen; Nikki, thirteen; and Mercy, eight. In turn, the kids help with the cleaning and general spirit of all-for-oneness that comes from sharing your home with a rotating cast of strangers. There are fringe benefits: Nikki and Mercy get first dibs on Dumpster hauls, which sometimes turn up off-brand Mexican Twinkies.
All non-family residents are homeless, and all stay for free. But there are rules. No visitors. No drugs or alcohol, and boarders must volunteer at least ten hours a week for Anawim.