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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Face of homelessness in Shawnee

  • There are many faces of homelessness — a woman who lost her home after a divorce, a disabled veteran having difficulty finding a place to rent, a man who lost everything after a serious injury.
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    There are many faces of homelessness — a woman who lost her home after a divorce, a disabled veteran having difficulty finding a place to rent, a man who lost everything after a serious injury.
    “James,” while tossing a camouflage ball cap onto the ground, said, “Anywhere this thing falls is where I call home.”
    James, who said he once had a nice home and a business in another state, found himself with nothing but a bag of clothes when he began living in a cardboard box in Oklahoma City.
    Living homeless in Shawnee since February, he seemed to be known by many as he arrived for an evening meal at the Shawnee Salvation Army.
    While he has stayed at the overnight shelter in the past, he honestly admits to drinking alcohol, which often disqualifies him from having a cot for the night.
    Despite the daily struggles of living on the streets, James, with an easy-going personality, admits he has three hiding places “where I’ve got food stashed” around town.
    With that, and the daily meal from the Salvation Army, there’s not much concern about having enough food to eat, he said, but where to sleep is another story.
    James said his entire “camp,” including a tent, sleeping bag and other items, were stolen.
    Now he carries everything he owns in a single backpack.
    Wherever he finds to sleep is home for the night.
    He feels many in the city have prejudice views against those who are homeless.
    For “Jane,” who is transitionally homeless, her life fits into one suitcase. She takes it with her from place to place, where she sleeps on a friend’s couch until they — or she — feels it’s time for her to make another move. At times, she’s called a cot at the Salvation Army shelter her home for the night.
    In the past month, she’s moved around at least five times.
    But she’s still homeless.
    Jane, who previously lived out-of-state and came to Shawnee about a year ago, became homeless after a divorce.
    “I had nowhere to go,” she said. “I miss everything about being in a home.”
    But Jane now has a new hope for a brighter future. After losing her identification card, she now has a new ID card and will begin searching for a job. She’s hopeful the Christmas hiring season might open new doors for her.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Bill,” who has called the Salvation Army shelter his home for more than a month now, has been homeless about three months.
    As a disabled Army veteran, he’s working toward getting additional benefits that might help him get into a home he can afford.
    Originally from Oklahoma City, Bill said he had a place to live with a friend but was asked to leave after a background check there revealed him as a “convict,” he said.
    “But that’s all behind me,” he said, not elaborating further on whatever happened years ago. With a friendly smile, he said he’s still determined to make things better and get out of homelessness.
    “This is the first time I’ve been in a situation like this,” he said, adding he’s thankful for the shelter. “It gives me some time to stop and think which way to go with life.”
    For now, he has a vehicle in the shop for repair, but hopes to get that fixed and eventually make his way to back to the Oklahoma City area, where he has a son.
    And while he said many people who are homeless prefer to sleep on the streets and not ask for help, he said the shelter, along with help from many church groups, has helped him.
    He said he keeps busy each day by playing dominoes, and even helps out with “odds and ends” at the shelter.
    He too travels with very little — a suitcase and a backpack. And while it’s all he really has, he admits it’s all just “material stuff.”
    For “Alice,” who indicated that she does have a home to stay in, the daily meal at the Salvation Army is a big help, along with having a place that provides hygiene products and a hot shower.
    “Sometimes people just have struggles in life…or are going through a bad situation,” she said.
     
     
     
     
     
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