Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Homeless in Springfield, MO: Can a Car Be Sufficient Shelter?

Words and Images by Al Griffin

Walking the long unused railroad tracks in the oldest industrial part of Springfield, I found a young man sitting cross-legged on the gravel between the weeds and the rails. He had a backpack lying hidden in the weeds behind him. He had a paper cup beside him and a pile of books on the ground in front of him. We talked a while and I asked if he lived on the street. He explained that he did not live on the street; he had a car. 

Not a distinction I had spent time contemplating, I stopped and thought about it a while. I asked him if he lived in his car, and he mumbled that he mostly traveled and read his bird books and studied birds, a life many of us would find pleasant enough if not forced into it by life and times over which we held little control.

He never said his name, even when he shook hands, and I told him mine. But he did explain he had lived in Springfield 6 or 8 years back and had been a student at the local college for a short time. A time he clearly cherished if I read him correctly. He referred to his attempts at writing about the birds he watched. He had a notebook and several pens and pencils near the books. He seemed to appreciate the fact I took pictures and appeared to have an artistic inclination even though he showed no evidence of sketching the birds.

Perhaps I too would imagine a fine and productive life if I were forced to live in my car and would explain my life as given to the study of the most beautiful and carefree of the creatures among us. I would like to think so. I wish him well and hope he finds his dreams.