It is 4:30 a.m. –Daniel Chrever arrives at his usual spot nestled in a corner at The University Town Center. Garbed in his all-time straw western hat and washed-out leather jacket, he gets off from the van and drops off all his boothing supplies. Chrever sets up the table, puts the scratched donation box on top, and hangs down a sign. The sign reads, “Help homeless men and women with all types of donations God bless. 2 cor 9:7 God loves a cheerful giver.” He tapes a photo of his grandson, Charlie, and himself on the donation box, cautiously wrapped with a clear cover. From a red nylon bag, he takes out an album of wolf photography, an umbrella, and a pair of glasses. He places all the items from the bag next to the donation box.
The sign–”Help homeless men and women with all types of donations God bless.”– is Chrever’s way of raising public awareness and funds for a beautiful cause known as the “Homeless Shelter” program based in Compton, California, which provides the homeless with a variety of resources including transitional housing, food pantries, free medical and dental clinics. All collected funds help with payments of rent, gas, water and utility for transitional housing.
Homelessness is pervasive and entrenched in our society; it exists among adolescents and adults alike. The “Homeless Shelter” program is a national organization that exists to alleviate the issue and provide a stable shelter for the needy. Homelessness is relevant to the downtowns of nearly every city; this is due in part to the fact that most homeless folk are not willing to relocate to new areas.
The program recruits volunteers all year long, most of whom are originally homeless, to set up booths for fundraising. The program applies street collection permits and places the volunteers throughout Southern California. A handful of these booths are located in Irvine: Wholesome Choice Market on Culver Drive, Trader Joe’s at Walnut Village Center, CVS pharmacy on Alton parkway, etc. Chrever, featured at the beginning, who is garbed in his straw hat and leather ensemble, has been with the program for nearly thirty-five years. He spends the majority of his time sitting adjacent to the Trader Joe’s located in the University Town Center in Irvine (UTC).
Chrever meets many folks as he disseminates public awareness of the cause. He makes eye contact with the clusters of college students who get their daily dose of caffeine from Peet’s Coffee. Tender Greens and Veggie Grill are packed nearly everyday during the lunch time hour; he smiles and waves them down. At any time of the day, locals walk out from the Trader’s Joe after grocery shopping. Locals spot the booth within seconds and stare at the sign. As the locals pass by, Chrever says, “Donation for the homeless.” They look at him smiling and continue walking. Seconds later, Chrever takes down his straw hat and says, “Thanks, have a good day.” People are still walking back and forth. Chrever continues, “Donation for the homeless.” Soon a young lady walks over, draws out a handful of coins, and inserts them into the donation box.
“How are you doing?” Chrever asks.
“I’m doing well. How about yourself?” The young lady responds.
“I can’t complain another beautiful day,” Chrever smiles.
“Yeah,” the young lady says. “It’s gorgeous out.”
“I thought it’s gonna rain, but hey…”
“Nah, it wouldn’t do that to you.”
“Have a blessed day,” Chrever says.
Chrever is a devout Christian who firmly believes that “God has plans” for everything. His belief in a higher power was the original impetus for his affiliation with the program and always has been. In the red nylon bag that he carries to booth everyday, he slides in a notepad with a few copies of the poem he wrote, a bible, and an album of wolf photography. It is the little things that keep Chrever going. “Hope” is the only poem that he didn’t lose during countless times of relocating:
“He is always near to lend an ear, so we have no need to fear.
Open the door of your heart and Christ will enter your heart and set you free as he did on the cross of Calvaryo.
Put your trust in him and you will always win. You must remember to give him all of the praise and glory.
Every time you pray a prayer, Christ will prepare to give you a blessing. So now he can show you how to forgive others so your heart can become tough as leather.”
Coming from a fragmented family, where his father passed away in 1987 and mother in 1997, Chrever does not have the opportunity to see his sister and children often. His sister is homeless; she resides in a park. She has witnessed two of her homeless friends get killed because of the lack of a settled shelter. Stories like this, that happened around Chrever’s daily life, always strike him hard. In addition, his youngest daughter, Danielle, disappeared leaving him Charlie. Life has thrown him countless curveballs that caused challenge and fear. Chrever has confronted all obstacles with optimism and resilience. Even at the worst times, he remains on top of life, heartfelt, relentlessly believing in God, and dedicated to “Homeless Shelter” program to help the needy.
Chrever has a genuine enthusiasm for living animals, especially wolves. His daughter bought him an album of wolf photography for Christmas present and he carries it to booth everyday. During down times, he likes to take out the album and flip it over in his lap. As Chrever stares at the photography, he remarks, “Wolves are part of the circle of life.” He continues. “Like the lion king, everything has a purpose to be here.” Animal Planet is the television show and reality programming that he often relates to. He says, “Wolves have parental instincts like human.” Chrever raises his voice. “All animals I’ve seen are fascinating.” In living animals like wolves, lion king, and American eagles, he finds the most vigorous energy, vivacity and power, something that is difficult and rare for him to attain due to his living environment and disadvantaged conditions.
On the first Friday of May, the gloomy sky shed beams of dim lights across the meadow and ashen clouds were filled with rain. It is the week when Chrever has scheduled to visit his two-year-old grandson, Charlie, at the Serenity Infant Care Homes in Covina. Chrever hears a tapping on the window and it becomes a pitter-patter. With the tik tok of the rain striking on the window, Chrever is getting more impatient about seeing his grandson.
In the afternoon, Chrever gets a ride from his friend and arrives at the homecare center. The Serenity Infant Care Homes is a non-profit foster care and adoption agency established to provide specialized homes and comprehensive programming to abused, abandoned and neglected children. It also serves as an office for adopted children and their biological family to meet up. In general, children who are separated from their biological family because of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional mistreatment or neglect are in need of a safe nurturing home. Charlie was sent to an adopted family when his mother, Chrever’s youngest daughter, ran away. The adopted family drops off Charlie at the home care center every other Friday for family to visit. Chrever is the only family member ever present.
Inside the home care center, there are two separate rooms intended for different appointments. Chrever is scheduled for a one-hour appointment with a social worker to visit Charlie. After checking in with Chrever, the social worker carries Charlie and leads him to a room. The rainfall is much heavier now than before. The murmuring of the rain can be heard through the window. Dusky light passes through the glass window and is cast over the floor where toys and wooden building blocks lie. Charlie keeps jumping up and down, running around the room, and tries to climb the stairs.
Chrever stares at Charlie and yells in his raspy voice, “Get to watch out where you’re going.”
Charlie continues to be immersed in his little world, throwing the building blocks all over the place and rolling his eyes to the directions. Suddenly, the rain outside the window catches his beautiful blue eyes. He stares at the puddle where raindrops hit the ground and have created bubbles. He raises his right hands and starts to draw circles in the air.
“Bubble, bubble…” Charlie mumbled. He then runs over to the windowsill and rolls his eyes on the bubbles.
“No, no, you can’t. You’re gonna get sick.” Daniel bursts out at Charlie and holds on to him.
Chrever tries to lead Charlie by the hand and walk him back to the toy area. Charlie pulls his hands back, attempting to walk back to the windowsill. “No, no, you can’t. You’re gonna get sick,” Chrever repeats. He slightly tugs Charlie over with one hand and picks up two balls with another hand. Chrever tries to juggle balls to distract Charlie from the rain. He puts a ball in each hand and throws the first one to the right at head height in an arc. Before the ball reaches his right hand, he releases the second one towards the left. Chrever moves his arms in a gentle circular movement, as the balls go. This trick does draw Charlie’s attention and he starts to follow the balls and draw circles in the air again. Looking at Charlie’s enthusiasm and curiosity, Chrever is fueled with his energy, beaming with smiles of joy.
Chrever lives in a shared room with a member of the homeless shelter. They share the kitchen, living room, a garage, and two bathrooms with other people. Because of the hectic schedule with the program, Chrever arises at 2:30 a.m. for pickup, and comes back around dinnertime. During his spare time at the apartment, he usually rests in bed. In a few hours, he gets up, walks to a corner store and buys a pack of cigarette. Everyday, it just repeats: wake up, booth, come home, sleep, and cigarettes.
Chrever intends to read bible and write poems, but it is extremely difficult for him to concentrate at this bustled environment. Neighbors a block away always play music at a maximum volume. He can hear roaring engines at any hour of the night. People talk at all hours in the apartment complex. His roommate plays Candyman on the television in the room. Regardless, Chrever has written a few poems that are mostly represent in deep religious convictions.
Chrever finds solace in spending time alone. However, as a witticism he says he does not have preference for being alone in all aspects, especially when it comes to relationships. Chrever enjoys talking to his girlfriend from San Luis Obispo; he really loves her. The two of them met on an online dating site. They have not met in person yet, but Chrever is hoping to meet up with her as soon as she gets her paperwork done for her family business. The entire process requires about two hundred dollars, which Chrever is not able to afford. He has thought about selling his old camera to trade for cash to help his girl out. He has also tried to earn money from some odd jobs: lawn work, landscaping work, construction; but has had no luck. Chrever hopes that he will meet his girlfriend soon. He would like to move to Montana or Colorado with her. He could go anywhere in the world, but he makes it quite clear that he wants to relocate to one of these states for one purpose; he mumbles, “Not Florida with the alligators, Montana or Colorado with the wolf.”