by Richard Haden
Francisco chose to live in a lot, across the street from me– On NE 4th Ave above NE 82nd terrace. He cooked on a camp fire. Slept in found blankets and eventually an old sleeping bag I gave him. He would drop by to visit, just about every day. If I had something for him to do, like rake up leaves, he woud do it. If no work, I would give him some change when I had it. Francisco was homeless, but did have a nearby relative or family that he avoided. Francisco was also on Haldol (…) He has issues. Francisco was over 30 and was like a child.
As time passed, I had no work for him anymore. And I got tired of giving him money for nothing. So I wanted to change this situation in a positive way. I tried an experiment. I asked him to draw pictures for me. He resisted at first and said that he had a cousin who was an artist. But I said,
“Your cousin is not looking for change today.”
He agreed to draw for me. At first I gave him pencils and paper and told him to go out in the street and draw things that he saw everyday. Later as he returned each day, I gave him more paper and pencils plus Sharpie markers – since I knew he would bring them back each day.
This went on for about a year (not every day though), I ended up with a stack of drawings. And as I had hoped and anticipated, when people saw him drawing on the sidewalk people did not look through him, anymore, as people do to avoid looking at homeless people. This time, he had an identity. He became an artist. People started giving him cloths and food. Eventually, I moved away and lost track of Franicsco. But I have his work.