"People think that you're no good when you're homeless, that you're going to steal, hit them in the head, or rob them. I'm not saying that there aren't a few who do that, but not everybody is a bad person."
I'm originally from Westernport, Maryland, but I did a little time in prison. When I got out, I didn't have a place to go, so I went to the Bartlett House in Morgantown.
My ex-wife put me in jail. She left me for another lady, and she tried to say that I raped her and our kids. I got a bum rap -- I took a lie detector test and passed it, but I ended up doing time anyways. When my daughter was older, she told them I didn't do it, but I already did the time.
I was in prison for 21 years, so you can imagine that when I came out, everything had changed. The hardest thing for me was adjusting to the outside world after being locked up for that long. It was like being institutionalized. Everything was different before I went in. I know it's for the better, technology and stuff, but I had to adapt to it. The first thing I remember when I went to Walmart for the first time was feeling like I was being watched. It's hard to describe, but I felt like people were watching me to see if I was stealing something; that was hard. Before I went in, people at the doctor's office would be reading magazines. Now, they're playing on their phones. That was a hard adjustment for me because I never had a cell phone.
I was always brought up treat people the way you want to be treated. To get respect, you have to give respect, but I think a lot of times, people will label others like, "Well, that's a no good homeless bum; they don't want to work, and they always got their hand out wanting something." I haven't drunk for 30 years, but you've got some people who do drink, and if you give them money, they'll buy a bottle, but you've got some that might use the money for lodging or food.
I thank God I'm alive. My health is pretty well-shot, but I look at it this way: at least I'm alive. I take one day at a time. I believe in God, but there are always people worse off, people dying of cancer or AIDS--I just thank God that I have got a roof over my head. I thank God that I've got my freedom to be able to be out and see the world. When you're in prison, you don't see anybody but the guards or if you get a visit from home. You've got a fence around you, and you're inside that building. It's not like going in the yard and seeing the trees and the birds flying. In there, you don't have that. I thank God that I'm now able to go places and see things.
What I'd like to do is to be able to continue with my life; hopefully, I can keep my freedom of movement to a point where I'm still able to walk. I'd just like to remind someone else never to give up, and maybe one thing this video will do, if anything, is that people looking at it will see the opinions of a homeless person. The biggest thing I could say is this: Give people a chance, and don't stereotype the homeless and assume they're no good. Granted, you're going to have bad homeless folks, but you're also going to have good homeless people too. Look for the good in everybody.
If I could build a place for them, that would be ideal. But another idea - and this might sound crazy - but I know we've got some homeless people that will pitch tents. I've never seen it, but I'm just going by what I've heard in town. A great big area where they could put a place for the homeless to pitch their tents and set up port-a-potties would be nice. There would be one rule for "campers." If they take drugs or drink alcohol, they have to leave, but they would have a place to store possessions.
The biggest thing in the world I would like to see would be world peace, and everybody would get along and respect each other. Attacks by terrorists who take the lives of innocent people are dangerous. I don't like seeing waves in the ocean. I like to see the boat sailing smoothly. I'm not into controversy; that just isn't me. I'm easygoing. Maybe one of these days, we will have peace in the world; that is one thing I would like to see.