A Look Into the Lives of the Homeless – Wally

Caroline Gee and Saagar Sanghavi

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        My life was good, you know, no divorces, nothing like that, and there was a kind of spat between my brothers and sisters, but nothing major. I lived in a good community, no drugs, at least nothing like what it is here. [There were] Catholics everywhere, Kansas is full of Catholics. And if you’re not a Catholic, you’re almost [discriminated] against.

        One day, a Jewish kid named Tom came to our community, and he felt very [discriminated against] and out of place in our community, much like me and my brother. My brother was like an alpha male — a big guy. My brother started fighting a bunch of guys for [Tom]. [Tom] always roamed around with a bible, well at least I thought it was a bible, but it was a Torah. And one day, a bunch of guys started beating [Tom] up. My brother fought against them; it was a bad fight, a very bad fight. I asked my brother why he was beating them, and he said that they were beating Tom.  Again, I asked, “Why were they beating him?” And to this he said, “That it was because few were Jewish, and both my brother and I were treated just the same as a Jew.” I thought to myself that Tom looked white and he carries around a bible. Now that was sort of an eye opener to me, that wow, the hate has indeed grown so much.

        Well that was the only instance of prejudice that I witnessed in Kansas. I grew up, went into air conditioning and heating; I had a baby girl. My wife, she had this postpartum…so she left us. I met this other girl; she had a boy from Georgia, named Brandon, [and I thought] we could be a family, you know. And then she said that she was moving back to Georgia, and I was like, “Do you want me to go with you or what?” But she had a boyfriend, you know. But the only thing I was concerned about was Brandon. He was my son now. Because that would ruin his life; she was taking him with her and she was a pretty bad drug addict and alcoholic. I made him stay back here for high school as his mom, soon after going [to Georgia], was retained because of a crime she committed in the Georgia department. I became a foster parent, you know; I’d work outside.

We had this big house, 9000 square feet; it became junk, but it was beautiful in 15 acres. But, when I went to the Philippines, I realized we have so much, and they have so little. In Africa too, they don’t have watches or anything. And a person from Africa, when asked about how they kept track of time said, “When we’re hungry, we eat; [we get tired], we sleep.” So it gets down to those basic needs. That’s how it is here, too.

Kids are my life; I feel blessed to live in this country. I don’t take this for granted, and I love being a foster parent. I love going places; I’m not just about white people. People may be greedy, but I come out here on the streets and say, “I’m not homeless, I live on this mother earth!” When you detach yourself from all materialistic stuff, it gets down to just this Earth. I’m attached to this tree, this ground. It just comes down to this. I feel blessed [that] I live on this mother earth.

        I’m blessed to live here, America is a great country just with people like you, people from everywhere in the world. You [guys] make this place different.

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A Look Into the Lives of the Homeless – Wally