en o’clock and no sign of Angel.

“He’s late today,” said Joyce Nielsen, leaning back on her living room couch.

“He’ll pop up in a minute,” Pete Johnson said in his Mississippi drawl while sitting across from Joyce in an easy chair, looking out the window at the sunny street. “He ain’t had nothing to eat.”

7 short stories about Corktown

It was a fall morning and Angel Suarez, their guest of honor for breakfast, had not yet arrived.

Joyce, 79, a former social worker, and Pete, 70, a retired factory worker, live together in a very clean, small house in Corktown. Angel, 60, lives nowhere and everywhere. He’s homeless. And just about every morning, he comes to their home to eat breakfast.



Angel Suarez, 60, watches an old cowboy movie with Pete Johnson, 70, of Detroit while warming up inside Johnson's home in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood on Tuesday Nov. 20, 2018.


Angel is a Cuban refugee who's lived on the streets of Corktown for years. Joyce and Pete can’t remember when his daily visits first began. One day, seeing him hustling around the neighborhood, they offered him something to eat. Since then, Angel has enthusiastically adopted the friendly couple as his parents. And they treat him as a lost, wandering son.

“We’re ‘Mom and Pop,’” Joyce said, smiling. “He’ll say ‘You’re my mom! I love you!’ ”

He lived for a while with a mentally ill woman in the neighborhood who took him in, until she was sent to a group home. Then he squatted in one of the many empty houses in the area, until someone bought it and started renovations. By day, Angel hustles odd jobs for pocket cash. At night, he sleeps in people’s garages — with their permission. Some people look out for Angel here.

But some don’t.

“He hasn’t got disability (benefits). He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He doesn’t get any benefits and he doesn’t have a car, so he will do anything to help you out,” Joyce said. “But he’s harmless.”

Ford’s arrival promises change in Corktown
Long ago, Corktown was split in two by a freeway. Now that Ford is moving in, both halves are about to see big changes.

Thirteen years ago, the longtime couple bought a quaint little house in south Corktown, two streets over from the Michigan Central Station. “You can’t get a better block than the one we’re on, as far as people looking out for each other,” Joyce said. “It’s the best.”

But this summer, Ford Motor Co. bought the train station and promised to bring thousands of people to the area. And this couple, who moved here because it seemed like a low-key place to retire, now find themselves at the epicenter of the city’s latest hot spot.