Diana: My name is Diana Cooper, my daughter’s the oldest; her name’s Crystal Conway. She’s seven years old, and I got…the second one is Michael Conway Jr., and he’s five and a half, he’ll be six March 23rd. And I got Jonathan Conway, he’s three years old. I lived here all my life, I mean I’m thirty-four, and I lived here all my life.
JS: Can you tell me a little bit about what it’s like raising three kids here in Kensington?
Diana: It’s horrible…It’s easy when I’m inside the house, because they ain’t gotta see what goes on outside, on the corners. When I take them to school, they go to visitation school, it’s a catholic school on the other side, it’s like, on Lehigh, B and Lehigh, and every morning I walk them to school I see them, them ladies do prostitution on the corners, and I don’t…my kids always ask, “Mom, what are they doing?” and they see them jumping in and out of cars, I mean I…and like, you can see them smoking their dope on the side streets and everything. I mean, no matter where I go, if I try to take another way, they’re everywhere. And on the way home, the same thing. You know? And I’d seen a couple of them fighting because one got the john before the other one I guess. I mean it’s horrible, and I see a lot of drunks around here…
JS: How do you explain that to your kids?
Diana: I don’t know what to tell you…I said “I don’t wanna ever…” I don’t, I don’t want my kids turning out to be like that. I don’t know what to say to them because, I mean, that’s not a job, that’s not a good way to make money. You need to go through school, get your GED or high school diploma, and get a real job. That ain’t…I told my daughter, “that ain’t what kinda job you wanna get.” I mean, that’s not even a job, I told her. I said “don’t…”, I don’t…that’s why I wanna move out of the city, move away from here, ‘cause that’s not really a job, I mean, it’s nasty, they got bad drug problems, why don’t they just get help, you know? Then they sleep on the streets and they wonder why they’re on the streets because they money they get they, they drug it up. You know? It’s because they ain’t got nowhere to go, and I said…and I tell them but there’s shelters they could go to and get cleaned up, there’s rehabs…why do they gotta do that? I mean, it’s horrible. And you tell your kids not to talk to strangers or jump in cars with strangers, but you got these ladies, I mean, they’re setting a bad example for these young girls, they say “oh, they can jump in cars with strangers…” and the kids don’t know why they do that, but…they’re supposed to be setting…and no matter who you are, you’re grown up, you’re supposed to be setting good examples for these kids, like, not to jump in cars with strangers. And they’re doing it, you know? It’s horrible. She don’t even…they don’t…my daughter said, “she don’t even know that guy, he just pulled over and picked her up.” And they look horrible too, them ladies on the ave. They look bad, very bad. And they found… did you hear about that… they found prostitutes murdered, from this one guy…some people say they deserve it because they’re out there desperate to make a buck. There’s jobs out there that you can get through welfare; they don’t need to do that, you know? And if they got a bad drug problem, there’s rehabs. I mean, they don’t care about their lives, it seems to me. And every time I see ‘em, I get depressed, cos I’m saying, why are they gonna ruin their lives like that? It makes me depressed. I’m like, there’s too much in life to do that, you know?
Audio Recording took place during dinner at Cast Your Cares down the block.
Scott: I’m staying at the last stop, um, I came out from California. I just came out here, I was born and raised here, but uh, I came out here about seven months ago, and got wrapped up on the streets out here. I came out here on a freight train. But yeah, I got wrapped up down here and didn’t wanna jump the train in the wintertime.
Volunteer: Would anyone…excuse me; would anybody like one?
Scott: Yes, thank you, appreciate it.
JS: Thank you.
Scott: Thank you very much.
Volunteer: You’re very welcome.
Scott: And uh, I’m the cook there at the Last Stop actually, I’m the guy who’s got the Irish flag hanging out the window, have you seen that?
Scott: Yeah, that’s me, that’s my window.
Scott: It was the legal system I was leaving behind, and um…
JS: What do you mean?
Scott: Like, uh, I was getting in trouble for drugs, to support the drug habit, here in Philadelphia. And I’m thirty-eight years old; this was when I was in my early twenties. So I left and went down to Florida and um, the crimes I had would’ve gotten me in trouble here, but they weren’t extraditable offenses, so they wouldn’t extradite me back here, so it was basically ‘stay out of Philadelphia’. And then, um, 911 hit…in Florida, everything’s flown in in Florida, so I left Florida and started just drifting. I had a really good time doing it.
Volunteer: Would you like another sticky bun?
Scott: Uh, no thanks.
Volunteer: You sure?
Scott: Yeah, I’ll take one, okay.
Volunteer: I got one with nuts…
Scott: Yeah, that one’s good.
Volunteer: Here, have one with raisins…
Volunteer: …And this one has raisins and nuts.
Scott: Okay, we’ll take em to the kids.
[To JS]: But yeah, you would love taking pictures of the, of the freight trains. You see some beautiful things.
Scott: Through the cascades, from Roseville to uh, to Klamath Falls, from Klamath all the way up to Seattle, Arizona… beautiful places in America. People don’t get to see them; the only thing that runs down these lines are freight trains, you know, so only the guys driving the train. Usually there’s a road that follows the train, but not everywhere, especially in the national forests, when it cuts through there. The only up there on them mountains is freight trains and animals.
JS: So how did you find the Last Stop?
Scott: Actually, I heard about it in California.
Scott: Uh huh. A friend of mine was out here, and uh, he got in a jam out here, same thing, got wrapped up with drugs, and went to the Last Stop, and then, um, he only stayed there for a small time, and then he went back to California, but he told me about it. Cause I was born and raised over here, uh, Frankford and Tioga, so, so it worked out. I got…went to the Last…The Last Stop saved me. Y’know? I’ve been there, like, fifty-nine days, and there’s only like four people from when I walked in through the door. Most of them couldn’t make it, y’know? A lot of them left on good terms, don’t get me wrong, but um, y’know, look at the neighborhood: you got drugs right out front there, you know what I mean? I mean, it’s not for the people who uh, need it, it’s for the people who want it. But Eddie always tries with almost everybody. He’ll give anybody a chance. In fact I think the harder the case is the more he likes to try to help them. Y’know, the people that nobody else wants? He wants those people.
Nobody wanted me! I went to Cooper hospital, OD’d, they said I was, because I’d stopped breathing, I was thirty seconds away from brain damage and minutes away from death. And as soon as I started breathing, they gave me a meal and told me to have a good day, get out. And I was like ‘man, I almost died! You were just telling me I almost died!’. Eddie took me with nothing, no ID, no nothing. Then I got my own room, y’know what I mean, and I’m good. I haven’t used drugs or alcohol in uh, fifty-nine days. Yknow, and alls he asks you to do is help out, just don’t sit around and take it for a free ride. He doesn’t ask you for any money, if you can give, you give; if you can’t, at least get up off your behind and try to pitch in and help out. A lot of guys come in and help out that have a lot of time, clean and sober, like, guys that have been in my position and are now, y’know, living, uh, life. And um, they come and give back. The guys who live there, with less days, I mean there’s only about four or five of those guys who really help out, like regularly, there every day. And then we got guys that are there that are kicking dope, you know, they’re withdrawing from Heroin, and uh, they’re…some of them don’t know, you know, some of those people never had a job, or if they do, they’ve always been told what to do; to move on their own initiative is uh, is very hard for them. And um, some of them are depressed because of what’s happened, uh, their situation or their family or whatever, y’know what I mean? And some of them are suffering from different types of mental problems, y’know? He doesn’t just take drug addicts and alcoholics; he’ll take anybody if they, if they have a desire to do something with themselves, y’know. He used to go up and down the Ave at night and look for addicts, to bring em in here, to comb the avenue…