On the first day of the new year, Aaron Kearson, a 37-year-old Desert Storm veteran, found himself fighting an old war on the streets of Baltimore -- hunger among the homeless.
Wearing his desert camouflage pants, Kearson and members of his family gave homeless people bologna sandwiches, hot bean soup and hot chocolate Wednesday afternoon at a small park at Guilford Avenue and Baltimore Street.
"We shouldn't have to do this," said Kearson, who recently was discharged from the Army. He served nine months in the Persian Gulf.
Now that he's a civilian, Kearson said, his personal goal for 1992 is finding a job. But he also wants to continue feeding the homeless.
Kearson family members passed out food to a homeless man who was sleeping under a blue blanket on the sidewalk and who was warmed by steam from a manhole.
"It almost makes me want to cry," said Lynknight McCray, 43, Aaron Kearson's sister. "People shouldn't have to live like this."
This marked the second year that the Kearson family has provided food to the needy through the In Between Fellowship Ministries of St. James United Methodist Church.
Larry Johnson, 32, who has been homeless for two years, was grateful for the help. "I think it's very nice that people help," he said. "At least somebody cares."
Johnson said he wants to do better financially this year, but he's not optimistic because the battered state of the economy has resulted in a flood of layoffs. "It's getting worse on the streets and not better," he said.
But Hattie Woodson, 49, another volunteer, believes that conditions will improve this year. "I feel there are going to be miracles for a lot of people in 1992," Woodson said. "We're going to learn how to hold on to God's hands."
Elsewhere in the area in the first days of 1992, there was a mixture of cautious hopes and muted fears and maybe some optimistic dreams for the new year.
On Calvert Street, Torando Rose, an unemployed electrician from East Baltimore, said he wants 1992 to be a better year for him.
"1991 was probably my worst year," Rose said.
He said he lost his job as an electrician, had a slight heart attack and two aunts and an uncle died.
"I hope things will get better," he said.
Rose said he made a resolution to find a job in 1992.
Meanwhile, he wants the city's housing police to tackle the drug problem at the Flag House Courts public housing project where he lives.
He said drug dealers, many armed, sell their wares in the open, in stairways and in front of children.
"They don't walk around with guns in their pockets anymore, they walk around with guns in their hands," Rose said. "I don't understand."
On Druid Hill Avenue, Jehovah's Witnesses Catherine Hopper, 76, and Beatrice Gause, 78, were going door to door to spread the gospel.
Hopper said she didn't know what 1992 would bring, but "We're living in the last days now."
"We will keep on preaching and teaching God's word, the Bible," she said.
Around the corner, several children at a group home on McCulloh Street expressed simple wishes for 1992.
Joanne Brown, a sixth-grader at Dunbar Middle School, said with enthusiasm, "In 1992, I want to get good grades and pass to the seventh grade."
LaShell Simmons, 11, had different concerns. "I think 1992 should be a drug-free year. There should be less people getting killed and less drunk people driving."
After a pause, LaShell added, "Children should let their parents take care of them."
Minutes later, inside a fish and chicken carryout on Reisterstown Road, Alfred Wallace, 39, a truck driver, said 1991 wasn't so bad for him. It would be OK, he said, if 1992 could just be a repeat.
However, Wallace said he is concerned about the nation's economy, and the government's ability to provide jobs and health care to the needy. Still, he spoke optimistically about his own future.
"Every year is a good year for me," he said. "I really don't depend on man for anything. I depend on God."