During cold weather
if he built a fire during the day,
people called the fire department
and said the woods were on fire.
He had to wait until night
to build a fire in a burn barrel
so they couldn’t see the smoke.
The future was not as bright.
He was one of the “elders."
He didn’t have anywhere else to stay,
couldn't afford rent and disabled,
on the streets for 20 years.
People dropped off food sometimes.
Men “hit restaurants” sometimes
and asked for food,
and local ministries for meals.
No one would hire him.
He had seizures.
Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean
you’re bad people.
He was trying to exist
just like everyone else.
When he had an appointment
he walked from his “home” —
a homeless camp
— no matter the weather.
A stroke stopped his walks for food stamps
and other visits.
The 63 year old Vietnam veteran
wouldn’t accept a ride,
not when he could walk.
He had to do it himself.
He was used to doing stuff for himself —
he didn’t want to depend on anybody.
One morning, he couldn’t move his left leg,
and ended up at the hospital.
No rehab facility would take him
without insurance or income.
For some reason, he never knew
he could get veterans benefits,
... then it was too late.