He dons a red suit trimmed with white, sports a gray beard and hollers “Merry Christmas,” to people passing by. However, take a closer look and the man found daily in west El Paso isn’t the man you’d expect when you hear the name Kris Kringle.
“It’s not the 25th, buddy!” yells the man, after the driver of a pickup truck asks isn’t Santa supposed to be handing out gifts.
The man says his name is Santa Claus, and declines to discuss his background. If you pry a little deeper he’ll tell stories of a past where he was an engineer, a furniture manufacturer and at one time a millionaire. Whether any of it is true, is as good as anyone’s guess. One thing seems certain though, this Santa has fallen on hard times.
“I’ve been living off,” begins the Santa before his voice trails off. “I got a bed made of pallets I picked up at Home Depot. They gave it to me.”
This Claus seems far displaced from the North Pole fairy tales we all grew up with. On the contrary, he currently resides at North Desert Street and the intersection of Mesa Street near the offramp of Mesa Street.
As cars drive by, Claus turns on his hand radio and dances to songs ranging from Bruno Mars to L.M.F.A.O. He frequently stops as people roll down their windows offering up crisp dollar bills and occasionally coins.
Those who don’t give him money, he refers to as “Scrooges.”
“We don’t want the Grinch in this town!” yells Santa multiple times over the course of one day.
The man told ABC-7 that he is homeless, and lives at a nearby camp. He described the place as “a dump,” and said it smelled from urine and human feces. But he quickly forgets his current dilemma when another patron hands him a dollar.
He claims the money will eventually go to St. Jude’s. However, he admits there is no affiliation. When asked what he’ll do for himself, he says this is how he makes his living.
Panhandling is nothing new in the city of El Paso. In fact, earlier this year city representative’s passed a new law pertaining to collecting money within city limits.
An “aggressive solicitation” ordinance was passed which stops panhandling within 15 feet of ATMs, banks, schools and medians among other things.
Homeless people typically ask for money more during this time of year according to Pastor Julius Martin, the Director of the El Paso Rescue Mission. According to Martin, homeless people realize there is a bigger push for giving between Thanksgiving and Christmas, hence the number of people on the streets.
“I’ve always advised people that the best way to help them is to help some organization that is reputable,” said Martin. “You know the money is going to help people that need it.”
When told about the Santa gimmick the man was running in west El Paso, Martin didn’t seem surprised.
“Homeless people can really be savvy, they know people have a tendency to give more between Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
As for the Mr. Claus in west El Paso, he seemed content doing his own thing. Dancing, cursing and flirting with women throughout the day. Even telling one woman, “Mrs. Claus is dead, didn’t you know?”
The Claus character told ABC-7 he intended on cleaning up the area he’s currently spending his days in, and had already begun designing a picture of the sun with stones.
Pastor Martin said they don’t have a Santa Claus, but homeless men and women will get gifts and a warm meal this year. He also added, there would be room for Santa Claus if he decided to make his way to the Mission, too.