Death of a Poverty Hero- Mikey Chapman
Born to rough Texas parents with a disciplinary attitude, Mikey left Texas under mutual agreement between himself and the state. He worked as a roustabout, and on one occasion he taped his own broken ribs with duct tape after falling off a ride he was setting up.
Mikey also had a stint with the military industrial complex as a private in boot camp. He received a honorable medical discharge. After that he went up to northern California where he re-collected himself. Then, he came to San Francisco, where he met a great friend, Paul Boden. As they were setting up the Coalition for the Homeless he became Paul Boden’s chief assistant, volunteering his time to help out the poor community that he became a part of.
Mikey lived for a time in an SRO called the Senator, where most of the other residents considered him a ‘nice guy.’ Then he went to Hawaii to live with his brother. By then, he was great with children, and children always loved him, including Tiny’s son Tibucio.
When he returned from Hawaii, he volunteered again with San Francisco’s Coalition for the Homeless where he began to live. In one sense he was the face of the coalition as he served at the front desk, which is where I met him. When I first saw him I was frightened of his façade. His rough mannerisms made me think he hated me, but he did that to everyone he didn’t know. I later learned this came from his childhood and other unpleasant experiences growing up.
As a Volunteer, I was invited to work with the coalition. We went into the shelters, told the people who we are and tried to find out if the residents are being treated well. We took complaints from the residents and helped them get a response.
Two weeks later I was invited into the iner sanctum of the coalition where Mikey greeted me with a beer and a toke. His façade quickly came down and I saw a different person for the first time. He was more of a teddy bear with a gorilla face.
His love for children allowed him to relate to kids and could work with all children, maybe because he was himself a kid. He loved video games, adventure and science fiction movies. But he was no wimp. It took a lot to get under his skin. I only saw him throw out one guy who finally pushed him too far.
Once, someone stole from the coalition, where we had a similar attitude to that of POOR magazine of never call the po-lice. So Mikey chased the guy two blocks and brought him back bodily and had him apologize to everyone at the coalition. Later on he became an integral part of Paul Boden’s Western Regional Advocacy Project, and returned to the Senator hotel where he was warmly greeted.
Mikey was a Sports afficianado with a special passion for the Green Bay packers, the San Francisco Giants and professional wrestling.
The night he passed, I got a call from a friend who was crying. She told me Mikey was in the hospital with a stroke. I didn’t believe her because to get Mikey to go to the hospital, would require his head falling off, which he would have reattached himself with duct tape. I left Poor magazine and went over to Paul Boden’s office, where I overheard him relating the news on the phone.. I asked Paul, Is it true? About Mikey?
Paul said, “you can say you’re good byes at the hospital.”
When I got to the hospital with Tiny, Tony and Tibucio, I found Garf, Paul Boden and his wife sitting around with a person I didn’t recognize as Mikey. They had shaved his beard to insert tubes, and 90% of his mind was gone. He was a shell. He courageously had a living will, and I knew he did not want to live that way, slowly being tortured to death.
He will be missed in the city. You may not have seen any footage of him… he was more a behind the scenes kind of guy. He loathed politicians and he was a good friend of mine. As I write this report his friends are also planning a memorial. In my mind he was a poverty hero who went out with honor and dignity and was a blessing to the community he served till he passed that midnight.