What do you think a homeless person’s day consist of?
Photos by Bria Granville, Western Kentucky University
Interview by Farhin Lilywala, Georgia Perimeter College
I see a scattered group of people. Most of them sit in furniture and wheelchairs alongside the fence. Some people slowly wander by. At first, the residents are wary. But once a few of them get talking, they don’t stop.
One woman, Fran, says she feels safe as long as no one comes by with a gun. Eventually she gets out of her wheelchair and talks. There’s another resident, Carlos, who listens with a smile. Some people keep their distance. They seem hostile, or maybe indifferent. One of them, who never shared his name, said the shelter at night was “pretty gay.” Joe, the security guard, sits opposite the residents with a walkie talkie. At first he’s dozing, but his face brightens when someone says hello. He says, “I do like to help people, and this place help me.” He’ll be here all night.
3 words to describe the shelter at midnight? “Git ‘er done,” Joe, a COSAC resident. #wwff14
— Ally Krupinsky (@AllyKrupinsky) September 1, 2014
“I do like to help people, and this place help me,” Joe, the security guard on his night watch. #wwff14
— Ally Krupinsky (@AllyKrupinsky) September 1, 2014
By Jordan Gass-Poorè, Texas State University
The pigeons will eat David DeRosa’s dead foot skin and he fears his disease will cripple them. Like him.
DeRosa has peripheral artery disease, a circulatory problem that puts him in a wheelchair. He also has an attitude problem, and he’s not sure which is worse.
His thick and torn toenails, yellow and taloned, lay like a tree’s bark on DeRosa’s toes.
Shreds of dead skin hung from the soles of his purple feet as they hovered inches from the concrete at the homeless shelter.
DeRosa picked at this skin with dirty fingernails and flicked it on the concrete, much to the dismay of the shelter’s founder, Sean Cononie.
A few pigeons cooed softly around DeRosa’s wheelchair, looking for their next meal.
Within a week, DeRosa’s ankles will be even more swollen, Cononie predicted.
The shelter spends about $2,000 a month on bleach pads, equipment and staff to save DeRosa’s lower legs and feet from the chopping block, he said.
If DeRosa had money to pay for health insurance — he’s in the Medicaid program — he would probably be placed in a private healthcare facility because of his mobility issues, Cononie said.
“I like him; everybody in the shelter hates him. The hospitals say that want him out,” he added.
Two male shelter employees hosed DeRose down in an open-spaced lounge area as he sat hunched over in his wheelchair.
He recently returned to the shelter after another brief stint in the hospital because of peripheral artery disease.
A growing number of gawkers gathered around DeRosa, who more closely resembled a wet cat than a man.
Water droplets dripped from his long, stringy salt-and-pepper hair. His pasty back faced the crowd until a shelter employee turned his wheelchair.
It didn’t matter that the crowd could see his penis because his legs and feet attracted more attention.
“Cover up your little peepee,” Cononie said.
The exhibitionist in DeRosa came out when the soiled towel on his lap was stripped away and dumped in a nearby plastic trash can.
He wasn’t ashamed of his penis or his legs and feet, the open sores of which were formerly home to writhing maggots.
DeRosa wanted his lighter.
His soiled clothes were fished out of the trash can and shaken by a shelter employee until a yellow lighter plopped on the concrete floor.
Personal hygiene played second fiddle to DeRosa’s nicotine habit — this is a man who’s known for wiping himself with a rag of feces.
“Do you have any smokes?” he asked Cononie gruffly.
The habit’s been a tough one for DeRosa to kick and is partially the reason why he’s lost feeling in his lower legs and feet.
He’s overweight, has poor circulation and doesn’t try as hard as he should, Cononie said.
It’s a very complex case, he added.
In preparation for a healthcare employee’s visit to wrap his wounds in gauze, DeRosa was helped into a pair of Cononie’s oversized Fruit of the Looms. Cononie joked that his underwear contained the “essence of ball sweat.”
The spandex band in DeRosa’s donated gym shorts sat below his sagging breasts.
He grinned, happy to be back in the shelter smoking cigarettes.
White gauze circled his lower legs and lime green socks snuggled his war torn feet.
His clean, dry hair contrasted starkly from his appearance before he saw the wound care specialist.
“He’s a miracle worker,” said DeRosa, pointing at Cononie, who sat in a golf cart a few feet away.
“I believe God gives you what you can handle, and right now I can’t handle it.”
— Sean Cononie, Coalition of Service and Community (COSAC) homeless shelter founder
All the worries and rules
Of this world
I left them way behind
Don’t ask me to go back there
My demons still want me
They tell me I am
More than flesh and bones, (and I say no)
But some days I am
Just six feet away
From being just that
Shower, I do when I want
Sleep, I can when I want
Eat, yes, I am well fed
Now tell me
Can it get better than that?
I smile, I smile a lot
It costs me nothing
Yet, I don’t see you smiling
I thought you were rich
Less clothes and even less shoes
You know, I got nothing to lose
Enjoy yours while they last,
Because when you throw them away
You know I will!
I do look at the calendar
But unlike you,
I have no deadlines to track
Just some memories I pinned
And some promises I never kept
I call you my friend
And I call you my brother
I don’t care you look down at me
Because in the end
You know we will be equals
If it was the shelter
For being ungrateful
I know you would be filling my spot
The society has left me, not my God
He sees me with same eyes as you
I don’t need any ear
To hear me out
But hear the ones around you
I might be, a homeless voice
But, my voice is not homeless
– Sandeep Varry, Florida International University