The Angels of Skid Row
Motorcycles roar through Fifth and Towne as the rest of the Beauty 2 The Streetz team pack tables and empty boxes into their cars. The line that had stretched down the block just hours ago has dissipated, but dozens of Skid Row's residents remain on the corner. For now, this is home.
Raines returns to her SUV, and a small group of volunteers joins her as she drives down a maze of side streets to make a special delivery.
Behind a warehouse on a lonely street lives Q, a transgender woman whose makeshift home is held up by broken pallets, crates and metal piping. She immediately perks up when she sees Raines and the volunteers, who have come with supplies and three red roses.
"My heart is just in tears right now, I love them so much," Q says from behind her lavender-colored face mask. "They know exactly what I need and they make sure I have it. They are all my angels."
Halfway down the block, Raines sees a man and his young son eating pizza beside a pile of clothes and a wall filled with graffiti. Raines walks over and asks the boy, who looks to be around 5 years old, if he wants some candy.
"We're going to get you a little sucker!" Raines calls to the boy, who casts an excited smile as he hides behind his father's leg. "Hey, Cute King! Come get your candy, baby!"
Casey, the biker from Chosen Few, then walks over to the boy with a handful of sweets. At that instant, the pandemic and so much else seems to melt away, if only for a moment. It's indeed a happy Saturday.
The boy and his father have just become part of what Raines calls her "bonus family," her name for the hundreds who have sought her help on Skid Row. It's this family, the one she adopted three years ago, that led Raines to embrace life's beauty once again.
"All of my pain has brought me to a place where I can be a mother to other people's children, and not just to my own. I'm not a savior, I'm a mother, and the love I want to give my son, he's not here to receive. So I take all the love for the people I've had to bury and give it to the homeless," Raines says as she fights back tears.
"Dealing with the death of my son has taught me many things. But I think what the homeless have given me is a sense of gratitude," she adds, before taking a moment to reflect. "And you know what else? They've taught me it's not where you are that makes you happy. It's who you are that makes you happy."
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