I heard it’s your birthday today!
Yep. I’m 61. But I flip it over to be 19. [laughs]
What have you learned in your 61 years?
Stay off of drugs, exercise — even if it’s walking, have a good attitude toward life, have a lot of religious education — most definitely religion, obey the laws, have common respect and decency toward others — that’s a big plus, pay attention to your surroundings, treat everybody like you would want them to treat you, be compassionate, have empathy.
That’s a pretty good list. What has changed since your last spotlight interview in 2012?
I was selling at Whole Foods in Franklin. The main reason I changed from there was that the traffic light changed and it’s twice as fast, which I don’t understand. I was there three, almost four years, and all of the sudden, the light was changed. Now I’m at 96 and Royal Oaks Boulevard.
I like it quite well. The people of Franklin are nice, polite, and giving. Not only do the customers get to know you, their children get to know you and their pets get to know you.
Do you have any pets?
No, I don’t. I can’t have any pets where I live. I just got into housing six months ago. Before that I was staying and working at the Salvation Army. They have what they call Life Skills program, a 10-week program. People pay $50 a week in rent and go out and look for a job and save their money so they can get into housing.
What was it like moving into your own place after not having a place for so long?
Actually, I got bored! I was so accustomed to being around people, going out and having a routine to my regular businesses and stuff like that. So, the first month it was great and then I was going, OK what do I do now? But, yeah, I love it. Actually I’ve been very blessed. My favorite word is perseverance. Regardless of what comes your way, keep on going. I am a believer, guaranteed.
What keeps your faith so strong?
Knowing that there’s someone there — the good Lord and Savior — who regardless of what I do and what downfalls I have is always there for me.
When were you homeless for the first time?
The first time I was actually homeless was when the bottom dropped out in 2008. I spent 2-3 years in the woods off Trinity Lane. We had nice tents, a latrine, and an area for fresh water because it was right by a creek. It was set up more like a state park camp site basically.
What are your hopes for the future?
To live to be about 95 years of age, have a long life, and to help whoever I can. Even if it’s just sitting down talking with them, or giving them a ride, or giving them a place to lay their head for a couple of days. Give back, pay forward what was given to me.
Did you have a lot of people helping you along the way?
Oh yes. If it wasn’t for the people in Franklin, I would probably still be living underneath the bridge. Another person who has helped me out a whole lot is Lori Green. She’s the one who put me in rehab at Room In The Inn.
When it comes to being homeless, you have two options: you either have the determination to get back on your feet and stay on your feet and make an effort, or you’re going to live that way for the rest of your life. Don’t ever give up. To me that’s just the way it is. Don’t ever give up. We have a lot of services that are doing good for us, but at the same time, you can only help someone so long.
I was in an outreach training and we were talking about how the only way people will change is if they decide to change, so we aren’t changing or “fixing” people, we are encouraging them to figure out how they can change things.
I call it self respect.
Did you ever lose your self respect?
Oh yeah I lost it. Guaranteed.
How’d you get it back?
When I got divorced, I totally went on a bad drinking binge. What happened was I was mad at a lot of people and I kept on acting out, venting, and finally someone just sat me down and told me I lost respect for myself and that hit me hard. I guess, too, you call that growing up.