I was born in Tomah, Wisconsin in 1954 and grew up in a house by the old milk creamery. My old man and my uncle had a milk can hauler route. This was how the old man supported my mother and my two brothers, two sisters and myself. My Uncle and the old man grew their business from hauling the milk in shitty jalopies to a $160,000 milk truck with all the bells and whistles. Brian died in a farm accident that wasn’t supposed to happen. That was one of the deaths that occurred that impacted my life. I made it through high school and graduated from that. I grew up mostly with my mom; the old man was around but he used me mostly as a punching bag but I grew up and made it through that stronger. Then Mom was killed in a car accident and the old man followed her years later because of the same accident. I moved around from Oregon State, Racine, and then finally moved back to Tomah where I found myself living in a hippie Volkswagen van surrounded by drunks and dope. I thought to myself that if I didn’t get out of this van that I was going to die.
I called a friend, Tiny, and he got the ball rolling with Becky, a case worker in the area. They got me into a local shelter in La Crosse I stayed there for about six months because I got pneumonia and that shelter was supposed to be a temporary thing. Becky kept visiting and visiting, and she got me into an actual apartment. I lived there for a year give or take a little, doesn’t really matter. I didn’t want to move out of that apartment, but it was temporary housing and they want you to move on. Becky helped me apply for housing. She has a lot to do with me getting in. There usually is like a 2-3 year waiting period and in 4 months I was accepted. When push comes to shove, Becky pushed a lot. I’m living in housing and they have automatic withdrawal from me for my rent, good with me. I have enough that I survive. I don’t live a luxurious life – I don’t go out, don’t go to the theater, the movies. Because of my feet I don’t get out much. I’ve got this walker and a scooter but as it gets colder, I become isolated because I don’t walk, I don’t generate much heat. The library is only a block away, and a shelter is two. I don’t get out much. I’m stuck in my apartment, but where would I go. Ya know, I don’t go so I don’t meet people, I don’t make friends. And then it seems like your world is falling apart because you got nobody to talk to.
As a person who has experienced homelessness I have some advice for the La Crosse community to better their homeless community. I want people to know it’s rough, really rough. You must believe in someone and hold onto them. You have to find that person that’s going to fight for you even when things look bad. I need that person to hold onto, and Becky is that person. The City of La Crosse needs more people like her to help the homeless community. We need more housing for homeless people in this area. Some of the shelters in town don’t have enough space to keep people and so people must live on the streets even during the winter seasons. If a person is late to one of these shelters, it could mean that they lose their bed and that’s disastrous. People need help in general to buy groceries and other items. Don’t treat people like dirt because you think that you’re above them. Everyone needs help, and we need to find those people that really need help – that would do a lot for the community. I really like being around people and making conversation with them. Even at the grocery store, I like to hangout and talk to people that walk by. This interaction makes me feel happy and normal.
Some people might have stereotypes about me since I was homeless and don’t have a job right now. I also have barriers that don’t help with me overcome these stereotypes. When people say I won’t amount to anything, or I can’t do something, it really tears me down. It makes me feel like I’m not normal and it shrinks me down where I feel less than other people. I don’t like having these stereotypes around me. People don’t know how hard it’s been as a homeless person. It makes me feel stupid, and that I’ll never amount to anything in this world. I’ve had some hard times in my life but I wish the stereotypes would quit. My feet are one of my biggest barriers in life. I can hardly get out of bed most mornings because my feet hurt so bad. I try not to take medication for the pain, but the medication they give me doesn’t help at all. They’re scared that I will abuse the medication. Probably another stereotype they have about people in my condition. People could give me positive feedback or comments to build me up so I could feel better about myself and that I’m trying to accomplish in my life.
Everyone has dreams – one of my dreams are to fall back in love with someone. I want someone to love and to possibly be married to in the future. Another dream of mine is to have the pain of my feet disappear. They hurt all the time, so if the pain went away, I could focus on other things. I also just want to feel normal like everyone else. I want to be able to sweep and vacuum my floor without the pain of my feet forcing me to take a break or not even be able to do it. I want to do normal things like take Becky’s family to Festival and buy them chicken. I want to play with their kids because I love being around kids. I want that type of normal in my life, and that would be a dream of mine.