I’m originally from Wichita Kansas. My oldest son is what brought me to Springfield. He moved out here to his mom’s and she had been wanting me to come down here for six years before that. I decided the time was right, and that was 12 years this 4th of July, 2016.
I have been homeless for four years and living in the cold is the hardest part of being homeless. This is my fourth winter, and whew, it's been hard. Summer’s not too bad, but I can’t do the winters no more. The cold gets to you and the city just don't seem to care about the homeless. I hope that changes. It’s going to take a lot of people to stand up against the city. Anywhere the homeless can stay, they’re taking it out - taking the woods out so that we cannot camp anymore. I was out there in a camp off and on and it was right in the middle of a flood zone, though. I’ve been flooded out four times this year already. We’ve still got the rainy months coming up!
One of the little things I can enjoy at my camp is there’s plenty of deer. I see about five or six every morning. I’ve got close to three of them. I just lay on my stomach, making no sounds. I ain't seen any bucks out there - I see a lot of does. I come out of my tent one night and there was one standing there not 100 yards away, staring at me.
The problem with the resources around here is there’s really no homeless shelters that take pets. Victory Mission is the only place you can stay for men. There’s lots of places for females around here. That’s one thing I can say around here - if you go hungry, there’s something wrong. The Kettle feeds every night, Grace Methodist on Wednesdays, VA every day at noon, Sally’s every day at noon, and the VA has breakfast sometimes. If you go hungry, there’s something wrong. There’s someplace that feeds every night.
What lessons have I learned? Don’t become homeless. Losing my job led to my homelessness. I lost my apartment - but that’s fixing to change. I think Monday I’ll go to Branson to look. Regardless of whether I have any money or not, I’ll just have to continue to camp out in the woods above the lake. I am trying hard to get me a job. I was offered a job the first of March - I’m going to go see if it's still available. If not, there’s plenty of work in Branson. I hope to be working within a week.
My dream is to be close to my three-year-old son, Thunder, in Branson. I’ll be 12 miles away instead of 40. I can hop on my bike and be there in an hour. I can take my extra tent with me, pitch it on the river, spend the weekend with him. It's just the little things you want when you are homeless that I think people who aren't forget about. And, people forget you are a human being.
Pop's story is part of the significant project "The Road I Call Home" which aims to bring new awareness, action, resources and love to the many, many special homeless people that call the road their home. It features over 45 individuals and includes an art exhibition of portraits, written stories, short-films and a planned future release of a corresponding coffee table art book. The project is in partnership with Gathering Friends for the Homeless.