[Hpn] Essay on a street person

HOBOMATT@aol.com HOBOMATT@aol.com
Mon, 25 Jun 2001 14:57:17 -0400 (EDT)


This is an interesting take on one of our local columnist's  interaction with 
a homeless man. This gentleman was tossed from the local shelter for 
drinking. But, it was a while ago and it was his first offence. So, under the 
Shelter rules, after thirty days he's elegable to be readmitted.  
Unfortunately, he feels he can't go back. Under an earlier administrator, 
lots of folks really were "barred for life" for alcohol use and other 
offences. Many on the street, including this fellow, haven't gotten the word 
that things are a little "kinder and gentler". Too bad, the shelter has a 
very good "medical respite program" which is exactly what this man needs 
right now.
Matt Parkhouse,
Colorado Springs, CO

<<Lou Gonazles:
Sam's actions leave no options -- except to sit in park 
Sam Phillips admits he's no poster boy --not even to illustrate the plight of 
the homeless in Colorado Springs.

"They ain't never gonna put my mug in some brochure," he said.

And it's not because of his bad teeth, or what's left of them. Or the scars 
on his face.

Sam says he's not the type of homeless person Colorado Springs wants to help.

"If I was a single mom with five kids, I'd get all the help I'd need," he 
said.

We talked in Acacia Park near Uncle Wilber, the new downtown fountain that 
attracts hordes of children each day to play in the water.

He said he likes to watch them play. And he can't do much else right now -- 
certainly not the day labor he normally works to earn money.

That's because Sam has a broken knee and fractured hip. He thinks he was hit 
by a car but doesn't remember how it happened.

But Sam, a chronic alcoholic, doesn't remember much.

"I think I might have Alzheimer's," he said, even though he's only 44. He can 
tell I don't believe him and shrugs his shoulders.

"I ain't had a drink in two weeks," he offers up next -- always telling you 
what he thinks you want to hear.

He said he needs a place to stay -- just until his hip heals. It keeps 
collapsing, and he's scared and vulnerable.

"There's some real nuts out here," he said, pointing to other men in the park 
who look a lot like him.

As he talks, he constantly looks over each shoulder.

"I'm like an injured deer in a herd," he said. "They can smell me."

Sam has nowhere to go because he's been "red-carded." He broke local shelter 
rules -- the booze rule, he said -- and isn't allowed in.

One drinking incident and you can't stay for 30 days. Two and you're barred 
for life, said Jeannine Holt, the shelter's director.

Other options for people like Sam are scarce. He can't get into detox; it's 
full. The Bijou House isn't even taking names for the waiting list.

While we talk, other men in the park call out to him.

"How's God treating you today, Sam?" a cheerful man asks as he glides by. Sam 
waves, then tells me street preachers like that guy outnumber the homeless 
10-to-1.

But none has found him a place to stay or offered him something to eat, he 
said.

"This town's supposed to be Christian," he said.

"Tell me. What's wrong with this picture?"

He said he worked most of last year as a concrete finisher. He even had an 
apartment for a while.

I asked him if I could call somebody for him, a friend, maybe.

"Yeah, right," he said. "You don't have any friends when you're on the 
street."

Unfortunately, Holt said, Sam's right.

"We virtually have no drug and alcohol facility, no inpatient care," she 
said. "There's no place for a man like Sam."

Except Acacia and other city parks.

Watching our children play.>>