“Homeless” in Walker County looks different from “homeless” almost anywhere else. He lacks the cardboard signs with requests for work or transportation; as seen along the interstates of Birmingham. The clothes homeless wears are not as ragged and he lacks the smell of urine and bourbon that characterizes homeless in a big city. He is not supported within a community of blue tents stretching along Skid Row in Southern California. Walker County’s Homeless is on his own. He works occasionally. He cleans up in the restroom at Wal-Mart. He sleeps in his truck – when he has a truck. Homeless is invisible. Hidden.
Homeless in Walker County has a rural look and a country drawl. His hair is a little long. His hands are rough and stained. Homeless wears a white t-shirt that is a little dirty from sleeping on the floor – or, in less fortunate cases, on the ground beneath a tarp. Homeless smells of stale cigarettes and sweat. His boots - worn - covered with mud.Homeless is long-term poor – long-term unstable. Two families of kids. Two baby-mommas. All of them struggling. All of them poor. Poor is not new. Homeless comes from poor. Parents – poor. Grandparents – poor. This life is just another degree of the misery that Homeless now takes for granted.
The once-lovely face of Homeless is now scarred from sores and scabs. “Meth teeth” mar her smile. Homeless has badly drawn tattoos. She is loaded down with legal issues and the outcomes of bad decisions. There is a felony, or two, in her background. Homeless has little education and few marketable skills or certifications. She became pregnant early on and dropped out of school. She seems to have lost her way around eighth-grade – or ninth or tenth. By age twenty, she has three children, by as many partners, none of whom are helping her feed the hungry mouths. Homeless is so discouraged and stressed she cannot recall what she wanted to be when she grew up. She knows all she wants now is a soft bed and security for her family. Oh, yeah. She wants a car. A car will change everything.
Homeless child bears an agitated, frantic expression. Sometimes she is withdrawn and quiet. She is not sure where she will sleep tonight and she knows not to ask again. She lost her favorite stuffed animal at the last place she stayed. Homeless mom says they won’t go back there. She cries when she says it. Homeless child is not sure why. Homeless child expresses his desire to work at Wal-Mart when he grows up so he can help his mom pay rent. Homeless child ages quickly and sees more than his or her innocence can process. Life is stressful and confusing. People come and go. Schools come and go. Grades – just don’t matter. Food matters. Money matters.
Homeless female recently admitted to sleeping in the tube-slide on a school playground. Homeless couple claimed to have hidden in a fast food restaurant overnight and sneaked out as the early shift began the opening routine. Homeless mental patient hid under the stairs in a professional office building, managing to stay huddled there, hungry and scared, for several days. Homeless has lived in the woods in tents, battling daily with mosquitoes, ticks, and briers. Homeless frequently camps under the train trestle. Homeless needs help. That’s where we come in. WCCH – Helping the Homeless. Mon. - Thurs. 8-2. Fri. 8 - 12 Phone 205-387-7408