(by Randy Bacon)
I'll never forget that Tuesday evening in March - 60 degrees, sunny and surrounded by many, many interesting people. I was at a homeless outreach at The Crimson House. While there, I was introduced to Danny and with his first words, I knew he was special. He immediately welcomed me into his life and likewise. He introduced me to his "camp buddies", Tim and Chuck - all were incredibly polite and loving homeless men. Danny and his best buds lived in a secret camp together, not to be separated. They were like brothers.
A few days after this first meeting, we had the honor of photographing and interviewing "the camp boys". There was laughing, good conversation and even tears. Danny was especially excited to share his story on the street and to send his daughters photos of himself, as he hadn't seen them in years. I will never forget the ending of the photo shoot with Danny. He looked at me and said, "thank you for doing this because I feel like I am not going to be alive for much longer." At that point, I told Danny to quit that kind of talk...you'll be around for a long time. After the shoot, Danny called me that evening and we talked for quite a long time and I realized I now had a new, unexpected friend. I thank God we were able to create a very special and honoring shoot of him, as we received the crushing news, just days after we photographed him. The news? Danny unexpectedly passed away in his sleep.
My hope is that Danny's story will open your eyes, mind and heart to what homeless people are really about. They have a name, want many of the same things you and I do, and most of all, the majority just want love and respect. May you rest in peace sweet Danny, and may we all be as kind and loving as you were.
"I was born in Greeley, CO.I got two daughters that go to college in Boulder and one in the Navy. And you know what? I am so proud of them, they paid for it themselves.
I moved to Springfield because my mom got sick and was living here. I go wherever my mom goes. Period. And I don’t ask my Mom for nothing. She’s on a fixed income, so, you know. She’s 79 now. Healthy as can be. She did smoke for years and got that COPD. She quit smoking - you should see her now. She’s healthy, she’s not as skinny as she used to be, she can walk places. I adore her.
The hardest thing about being out on the streets is watching your friends die. That’s hard ‘cause there’s been four of my friends die this year already. Friends that freeze to death - how miserable can that be? Kevin (aka. Dirty), well his lady Petra died, got hit by a car this year. You know, that’s the hardest part for me.
The cold is also really rough. And in the summer, the mosquitos. But you know, one of my advocates, Whitney, though, she hooks us up with bug spray, she’s awesome. It only takes one person to make a difference in a homeless life, and for me, it is Whitney. She’s so special. You know what, I want to do something for her. Even if it’s just a card, a great big card. Nobody’s ever done that. I’ve been thinking about that for a long time, but sometimes you know, you ain’t got the money, you know? I’ll come up with it.
What else is very hard about being homeless is like the other day I got ran off of the highway as I was flying a sign which is very embarrassing - it is hard enough having to beg for money. A lot of times I’ll just sit somewhere and not beg - there are good folks out there that help. But there are some that are really mean to the homeless, call us trash and much worse.
One good thing is we haven’t had to move our camp at all. I love our camp, and we have a cat named CiCi. Two years ago she came in meowing, skinny as can be. We adopted her, and this is her third litter - we just had a new litter on Easter. There’s never been one police officer, not one thing stole from us because we keep our camp's location a secret. But the bad thing keeping it secret is, what if one of us would freeze to death? Me and my bros freeze, because no one’s going to find you. Sarah? My friend that just died? She knew where our camp was and the lady that runs Bill’s Place. So, when it froze and the roads were frozen, well, they came looking for us and jumped out of the car with tears in their eyes when they found us. They just wanted to make sure we were all okay.
If there was something I could share with people, it would be to have a lot of love in your heart. That’s it. ‘Cause I do. There’s been people that’s stole money from me over here - I ain’t going after them with a baseball bat, you know. Like one, he was my bro, I said “Man, if you don’t want to pay me, give me a pocket knife, something.” He still just avoids me. Oh well - if a friendship is worth $50, you can have it.
It’s been a long road. It’s going to be even longer, I hear. I’ve been homeless on and off for 12 years, but now I’m going on six years straight outside. You know, another thing is - you go some places here, there’s a certain place, I don't want to say the name though - they force some kind of religion down you and beat you down before they will give you a meal. You know what? Ain’t going to work for me. It’s no big deal. I’ll eat somewhere else. I don't think Jesus would have done that. Other than that? I love the people who help us and if anybody ever tried to hurt them, I would make sure and protect them.
I just want people to know the homeless are not all bad. There is good and bad in ALL people, rich and poor. Just like weapons - I don’t have no weapons, I ain’t scared. I don’t have no weapons ’cause I don’t have no enemies. All of these years I’ve been homeless in Springfield, I ain’t never pissed anybody off. Actually I just want to love people - all kinds of people and especially I love my street friends, Tim and Chuck. We’re brothers...forever."
Danny's story, portrait and short film will be featured as part of "The Road I Call Home", a major project on the special lives and important stories of the homeless. The unveiling is set for September 2016. The project is in conjunction with Gathering Friends for the Homeless