Walter and his girlfriend, Sandy, met 24 years ago in a Quincy bar when Walter was working on a construction job. 

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Both are retired and living on only their Social Security income. Walter receives $681 a month and Sandy nearly $1,000 a month.  “Between us we get enough to live on, but there’s no extras. She (Sandy) pinches a penny until it hollers. We never bought anything on credit, the whole time we were together we paid cash for everything,” Walter said in November 2016 before Sandy was diagnosed with lung cancer.  After Sandy’s death a month later, Walter was lodged in the Adams County Jail at least five times involving a charge of disturbing the peace, a charge of assault and several for missing court dates. Walter says he is bipolar and admits he can lose self-control when provoked. 

“I do have a condition, which is schizophrenic and bipolar. And when I get angry about anything, I just get louder, and louder, and louder. I lose all self-control when I get angry. I don't remember diddly after it goes away. But while it's there, you wouldn't want to meet me. There's really nothing that controls anger, not when somebody steps on your toes hard. And that's my main problem, is people messing with me, otherwise I'm a fairly decent guy. I try to help everybody that I can if they don't try to steal from me or something like that. If they need something and ask for it, I'll give it to 'em, if I can.”

September 2016:  Walter makes jewelry from silverware and prides himself on the gadgets he makes. “ ‘Savage Wolf’ is my street name,” Walter says. “That’s my scalper, everyone needs one of these,” he says, pointing to one of two knives he’s carrying. After a stern warning from a police officer, Walter has stopped carrying knives.

September 2016: Walter makes jewelry from silverware and prides himself on the gadgets he makes. “ ‘Savage Wolf’ is my street name,” Walter says. “That’s my scalper, everyone needs one of these,” he says, pointing to one of two knives he’s carrying. After a stern warning from a police officer, Walter has stopped carrying knives.

November 2016:  After volunteering to serve Thanksgiving meals at the Kroc Center, Walter begins telling one-liner jokes, tickling everyone’s funny bone. “Hey, I gotta flirt with all of them, I can’t leave any of them out, it might hurt their feelings,” he says, jokingly.

November 2016: After volunteering to serve Thanksgiving meals at the Kroc Center, Walter begins telling one-liner jokes, tickling everyone’s funny bone. “Hey, I gotta flirt with all of them, I can’t leave any of them out, it might hurt their feelings,” he says, jokingly.

November 2016:  Walter naps after a lunch as Sandy rests on the couch in their living room. Sandy was diagnosed with lung cancer and isn’t expected to live more than a few months.

November 2016: Walter naps after a lunch as Sandy rests on the couch in their living room. Sandy was diagnosed with lung cancer and isn’t expected to live more than a few months.

November 2016:  Walter and Sandy walk from the Horizons Soup Kitchen to the bus stop as they make their way home. Sandy once weighed 135 pounds; she now weighs 84 pounds. “Twenty-four years ago I promised to love her and be with her until the day she dies,” Walter said. “I don’t think she will make it to Christmas.”  Sandy died Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, while Walter was lodged for 15 days in the Adams County jail for failing to appear on a drug-possession charge. Walter was found by police officers with a couple of Sandy’s pain pills.  He said he would take them sometimes to help him sleep. Walter was not allowed to see Sandy while she was dying in the hospital nor was he able to attend her funeral.  “Sandy was married twice and she didn’t want to get married again so we didn’t, but I was gonna sing my wedding vows to her in stead of saying I do. I was gonna sing that song 'I’ll Go to My Grave Loving You.' (Walter sings the words.) That was going to be my wedding vow, but it didn’t happen. … She passed while I was locked up in jail and I couldn’t get to her. That’s about all I know about it. I just hope to meet her one day in the sky.”

November 2016: Walter and Sandy walk from the Horizons Soup Kitchen to the bus stop as they make their way home. Sandy once weighed 135 pounds; she now weighs 84 pounds. “Twenty-four years ago I promised to love her and be with her until the day she dies,” Walter said. “I don’t think she will make it to Christmas.”

Sandy died Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, while Walter was lodged for 15 days in the Adams County jail for failing to appear on a drug-possession charge. Walter was found by police officers with a couple of Sandy’s pain pills.  He said he would take them sometimes to help him sleep. Walter was not allowed to see Sandy while she was dying in the hospital nor was he able to attend her funeral.

“Sandy was married twice and she didn’t want to get married again so we didn’t, but I was gonna sing my wedding vows to her in stead of saying I do. I was gonna sing that song 'I’ll Go to My Grave Loving You.' (Walter sings the words.) That was going to be my wedding vow, but it didn’t happen. … She passed while I was locked up in jail and I couldn’t get to her. That’s about all I know about it. I just hope to meet her one day in the sky.”

December 2016:  A photograph of Sandy sits on a chair in front of the Christmas tree where she and Walter called home.

December 2016: A photograph of Sandy sits on a chair in front of the Christmas tree where she and Walter called home.

December 2016:  A few days after her death, Walter searches for the newspaper with Sandy’s obituary. He discovers his roommates inadvertently placed it on the kitchen floor where dogs use it as their bathroom.

December 2016: A few days after her death, Walter searches for the newspaper with Sandy’s obituary. He discovers his roommates inadvertently placed it on the kitchen floor where dogs use it as their bathroom.

January 2017:  Within weeks after Sandy’s passing, Walter is stricken with pneumonia.  He loses more than 20 pounds, while struggling to regain his strength. 

January 2017: Within weeks after Sandy’s passing, Walter is stricken with pneumonia.  He loses more than 20 pounds, while struggling to regain his strength. 

January 2017:  Sick with pneumonia, Walter doesn’t make it to the bathroom on time before soiling his pants, so he cleans himself up. He’s using one-liter Pepsi bottles, which he gets from food pantries, as water containers. “It even wears me out changing clothes. I am so weak. Walter uses adult undergarments because of prostate cancer he suffered four years ago.  “I didn’t get to wear Pull-Ups when I was a kid, so I’m turning back the clock and wear Pull-Ups now.”  When Walter’s roommates moved out recently the water was shut off, so Walter carries water from a neighbors faucet to wash dishes and fill the toilets manually so they’ll flush. He is also resorting to drinking rain water.

January 2017: Sick with pneumonia, Walter doesn’t make it to the bathroom on time before soiling his pants, so he cleans himself up. He’s using one-liter Pepsi bottles, which he gets from food pantries, as water containers. “It even wears me out changing clothes. I am so weak. Walter uses adult undergarments because of prostate cancer he suffered four years ago.  “I didn’t get to wear Pull-Ups when I was a kid, so I’m turning back the clock and wear Pull-Ups now.”  When Walter’s roommates moved out recently the water was shut off, so Walter carries water from a neighbors faucet to wash dishes and fill the toilets manually so they’ll flush. He is also resorting to drinking rain water.

February 2017: Walter makes a few dollars with a small job cleaning tables at a local bar, where he likes to sing karaoke and dance, and socialize. He doesn’t drink alcohol because it makes him sick, but he enjoys having something productive to do.

February 2017:Walter makes a few dollars with a small job cleaning tables at a local bar, where he likes to sing karaoke and dance, and socialize. He doesn’t drink alcohol because it makes him sick, but he enjoys having something productive to do.

February 2017:  Walter, 72, says he was born in the state of Louisiana and moved to Quincy to work construction about 25 years ago.  “My dad was a full-blooded Choctaw. He was a mule skinner. We moved three or four times a year and followed his work.  There were six of us kids. He had a pretty hard row to hoe just feeding us. That’s where I learned how to make stuff  ‘cause I had to make my own toys; he didn’t have money to buy toys, barely kept us fed and clothed. Indians are rough and they live a rough life.  “Twenty-two years ago me and Sandy went back down to Louisiana where I’m from. I was still doing construction work at the time, building condominiums. At that time we had a little bit more money than we did later, because I had a good job.  While we were down there I was going to the laundromat one night, and I was driving a little woodie station wagon. Train come, it was kinda foggy, I started to go across the track, train coming along, no whistle, no nothing. It hit my little wagon and tore the front end of it off, tore the back end of it off.  Scattered my clothes about six blocks. Separated the motor and the transmission about 50 feet. And there wasn’t a glass in the passenger compartment even cracked. Who was taking care of me? The Good Lord was. He’s took care of me for 72 years. He left me here for a reason. And I know what that reason is. To try to help other people know Him. That’s what it says in His Word, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' In other words, try to help someone else along the way. He’s saving me for some reason. And that’s to try to help other people, I know it with all my heart.”

February 2017: Walter, 72, says he was born in the state of Louisiana and moved to Quincy to work construction about 25 years ago.

“My dad was a full-blooded Choctaw. He was a mule skinner. We moved three or four times a year and followed his work.  There were six of us kids. He had a pretty hard row to hoe just feeding us. That’s where I learned how to make stuff  ‘cause I had to make my own toys; he didn’t have money to buy toys, barely kept us fed and clothed. Indians are rough and they live a rough life.

“Twenty-two years ago me and Sandy went back down to Louisiana where I’m from. I was still doing construction work at the time, building condominiums. At that time we had a little bit more money than we did later, because I had a good job.  While we were down there I was going to the laundromat one night, and I was driving a little woodie station wagon. Train come, it was kinda foggy, I started to go across the track, train coming along, no whistle, no nothing. It hit my little wagon and tore the front end of it off, tore the back end of it off.  Scattered my clothes about six blocks. Separated the motor and the transmission about 50 feet. And there wasn’t a glass in the passenger compartment even cracked. Who was taking care of me? The Good Lord was. He’s took care of me for 72 years. He left me here for a reason. And I know what that reason is. To try to help other people know Him. That’s what it says in His Word, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' In other words, try to help someone else along the way. He’s saving me for some reason. And that’s to try to help other people, I know it with all my heart.”

“That’s what it says in His Word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ In other words, try to help someone else along the way. He’s saving me for some reason. And that’s to try to help other people, I know it with all my heart.”
— Walter
February 2017:  Walter says grace during the lunch prayer at the Horizons Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry in Quincy. “My mother was a fine Christian woman, she took me to church. Started when I was 4 years old. Until I was 16 I didn’t miss a day when it was open, she made sure of that. When I turned 16 I thought I knew more than she did so I started going somewhere else. I was raised Pentecostal, if you know anything about Pentecostal religion. It’s not religion anyway, it’s what you got in your heart that counts, ‘cause that’s where the Good Lord lives, is in your heart."

February 2017: Walter says grace during the lunch prayer at the Horizons Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry in Quincy. “My mother was a fine Christian woman, she took me to church. Started when I was 4 years old. Until I was 16 I didn’t miss a day when it was open, she made sure of that. When I turned 16 I thought I knew more than she did so I started going somewhere else. I was raised Pentecostal, if you know anything about Pentecostal religion. It’s not religion anyway, it’s what you got in your heart that counts, ‘cause that’s where the Good Lord lives, is in your heart."

March 2017:  Wearing mascara on his face, Walter breaks out in to a favorite country western song.  Walter says he suffers from manic depression and schizophrenia.  “I woke up this morning and just felt like being black. I’ll wear a wig from time to time — once I wore a skirt and had a friend put makeup on me — sometimes I just like to blow people’s minds."  “I’ve been going to see psychiatrists up here in Quincy for about, oh, I ‘ve been seeing her for about five or six years now. That was the first bout I’d had with it after I got back to Quincy 22 years ago. And they put me on Seroquel, started me off on 100 milligrams and then it went up to 300 milligrams and that’s enough to kick an elephant’s butt, but it don’t phase me, and it don’t control my anger. It quiets me down, but it makes me groggy. So, about a year ago I just quit all of it, cold turkey, except my psychiatrist, I still make my appointments with her. …  “The main thing I had against the medicine they were giving me to control my temper was that it made me groggy and I do like to be clear-headed. Side effects are lots of times worse than the problem that you had to start with.”  Walter said he applied for Social Security disability benefits 20 years ago. “I was denied, and I didn’t push it with a lawyer, so I didn’t get nothing. I went back to work.”

March 2017: Wearing mascara on his face, Walter breaks out in to a favorite country western song.  Walter says he suffers from manic depression and schizophrenia.

“I woke up this morning and just felt like being black. I’ll wear a wig from time to time — once I wore a skirt and had a friend put makeup on me — sometimes I just like to blow people’s minds."

“I’ve been going to see psychiatrists up here in Quincy for about, oh, I ‘ve been seeing her for about five or six years now. That was the first bout I’d had with it after I got back to Quincy 22 years ago. And they put me on Seroquel, started me off on 100 milligrams and then it went up to 300 milligrams and that’s enough to kick an elephant’s butt, but it don’t phase me, and it don’t control my anger. It quiets me down, but it makes me groggy. So, about a year ago I just quit all of it, cold turkey, except my psychiatrist, I still make my appointments with her. …

“The main thing I had against the medicine they were giving me to control my temper was that it made me groggy and I do like to be clear-headed. Side effects are lots of times worse than the problem that you had to start with.”

Walter said he applied for Social Security disability benefits 20 years ago. “I was denied, and I didn’t push it with a lawyer, so I didn’t get nothing. I went back to work.”

April 2017:  Like many in poverty, Walter frequents food pantries to stock up on basic staples. His freezer is full of bread. Food pantries tend to receive and hand out processed canned and boxed foods loaded with sugar and sodium, which makes SNAP food benefits and soup kitchens so much more important to maintaining a healthy diet.

April 2017: Like many in poverty, Walter frequents food pantries to stock up on basic staples. His freezer is full of bread. Food pantries tend to receive and hand out processed canned and boxed foods loaded with sugar and sodium, which makes SNAP food benefits and soup kitchens so much more important to maintaining a healthy diet.

April 2017:  Walter, in his kitchen, prepares to launch a “karate kick” to demonstrate his physical prowess at age 72.

April 2017: Walter, in his kitchen, prepares to launch a “karate kick” to demonstrate his physical prowess at age 72.

April 2017:  Walter checks a friend’s dog to see if any ribs are broken. The friend, who sometimes stays on the couch at Walter’s rental house, arrived crying, fearing someone had broken her dog’s ribs. Walter said he enjoys helping people when he can.

April 2017: Walter checks a friend’s dog to see if any ribs are broken. The friend, who sometimes stays on the couch at Walter’s rental house, arrived crying, fearing someone had broken her dog’s ribs. Walter said he enjoys helping people when he can.

April 2017:  Walter starts a yard sale to help raise money for rent and an overdue water bill. Although Walter’s name was not on the lease, Walter and Sandy lived in the rental house for about a year with another couple. After Sandy died in December 2016, the other couple moved out, citing mice and other issues.  “The landlord said at first that I could stay there and then he evidently changed his mind because he started throwing my shit on his trailer, and he hauled a Bible and a dollar’s worth to the dump. And then he came back and started trashing everything in the house. Threw my mother’s Bible in the dumpster and damn near tore it in half. And that kind of made me angry. …  “My Sandy was a collector. She collected angels, cookbooks, she was a cake baker. She did picture albums, padded ones. And she had a bunch of windup globes that played music that she had in a cabinet. And they trashed every bit of it.  “I didn’t move out beforehand because the landlord told me I was going to be able to stay there and catch the rent up, but he didn’t give me time to do that. I started a sale there on my porch, and he hauled all that off. And then, he said I had one day to get the rest of it out.”

April 2017: Walter starts a yard sale to help raise money for rent and an overdue water bill. Although Walter’s name was not on the lease, Walter and Sandy lived in the rental house for about a year with another couple. After Sandy died in December 2016, the other couple moved out, citing mice and other issues.

“The landlord said at first that I could stay there and then he evidently changed his mind because he started throwing my shit on his trailer, and he hauled a Bible and a dollar’s worth to the dump. And then he came back and started trashing everything in the house. Threw my mother’s Bible in the dumpster and damn near tore it in half. And that kind of made me angry. …

“My Sandy was a collector. She collected angels, cookbooks, she was a cake baker. She did picture albums, padded ones. And she had a bunch of windup globes that played music that she had in a cabinet. And they trashed every bit of it.

“I didn’t move out beforehand because the landlord told me I was going to be able to stay there and catch the rent up, but he didn’t give me time to do that. I started a sale there on my porch, and he hauled all that off. And then, he said I had one day to get the rest of it out.”

May 2017:  Personal belongings, including his mother’s Bible, in the dumpster. “I’m not mad at anybody, I’m just mad at their fucking ways.”

May 2017: Personal belongings, including his mother’s Bible, in the dumpster. “I’m not mad at anybody, I’m just mad at their fucking ways.”

May 2017:  Walter sleeps on a bench in Clat Adams Park after being evicted from the house in which he had been living. The bench is just wide enough for him. “It was fairly comfortable ‘cause I had my backpack with my clothes, my stuff in it.  I put it up against the arm of the bench I have to sleep sort of sitting up anyway. I have a breathing problem that makes it hard for me to lay flat.” He later moves to sleeping on downtown sidewalks.

May 2017: Walter sleeps on a bench in Clat Adams Park after being evicted from the house in which he had been living. The bench is just wide enough for him. “It was fairly comfortable ‘cause I had my backpack with my clothes, my stuff in it.  I put it up against the arm of the bench I have to sleep sort of sitting up anyway. I have a breathing problem that makes it hard for me to lay flat.” He later moves to sleeping on downtown sidewalks.

May 2017:  Homeless for two days now, Walter balances himself under the weight of his backpacks as he sits on a bench to rest. He made a makeshift leash for his dog with shirtsleeves tied together. “This is all I have left in the world. … Sandy died, then her dog died, then I had pneumonia. Now I’m homeless, but nobody will know any of this a hundred years from now.”

May 2017: Homeless for two days now, Walter balances himself under the weight of his backpacks as he sits on a bench to rest. He made a makeshift leash for his dog with shirtsleeves tied together. “This is all I have left in the world. … Sandy died, then her dog died, then I had pneumonia. Now I’m homeless, but nobody will know any of this a hundred years from now.”

May 2017:  Walter stops to talk with a group of college students outside a bar across from Washington Park. They are intrigued by his stories.

May 2017: Walter stops to talk with a group of college students outside a bar across from Washington Park. They are intrigued by his stories.

May 2017:   After sleeping on the bare sidewalk under the Washington Theater marque the night before, Walter wakes up to his 74th birthday, uses the restroom in Washington Park, and sets out to seek assistance from any social services organization that can help.

May 2017:  After sleeping on the bare sidewalk under the Washington Theater marque the night before, Walter wakes up to his 74th birthday, uses the restroom in Washington Park, and sets out to seek assistance from any social services organization that can help.

May 2017:  After five nights of sleeping in the cold on concrete sidewalks, Walter is feeling exhausted as he waits at the Horizons Soup Kitchen for lunch to begin.

May 2017: After five nights of sleeping in the cold on concrete sidewalks, Walter is feeling exhausted as he waits at the Horizons Soup Kitchen for lunch to begin.

May 2017:  While waiting in line to eat lunch, Walter plays with an infant, an interaction that raises his spirits after being homeless for five days.

May 2017: While waiting in line to eat lunch, Walter plays with an infant, an interaction that raises his spirits after being homeless for five days.

M ay 2017:  Walter sets his heavy backpack down after arriving at a motel room at the Welcome Inn in Quincy.   Several social services agencies provide vouchers, when they have the funds, to the homeless for temporary shelter. Walter was given a voucher to stay at the Welcome Inn. “Thank God I’m here and not on the fucking street no more. I’m going to get to stay here the rest of the month, and I’ll figure out what to do after that.”  Walter said he asked about living at the Quincy Senior Center but was told he was ineligible because of his mental illnesses.

May 2017: Walter sets his heavy backpack down after arriving at a motel room at the Welcome Inn in Quincy. Several social services agencies provide vouchers, when they have the funds, to the homeless for temporary shelter. Walter was given a voucher to stay at the Welcome Inn. “Thank God I’m here and not on the fucking street no more. I’m going to get to stay here the rest of the month, and I’ll figure out what to do after that.”  Walter said he asked about living at the Quincy Senior Center but was told he was ineligible because of his mental illnesses.

June 2017:  Homeless and out of money, Walter finds a bonanza of cigarette butts while walking by a local motel smoking area.

June 2017: Homeless and out of money, Walter finds a bonanza of cigarette butts while walking by a local motel smoking area.

June 2017:  Walter and his dog, Blondie, walk down a sidewalk with two vacuum machines Walter recovered from a nearby dumpster. He hopes to sell them. Blondie, like Walter, is homeless.  “Blondie’s a good dog. She’s 14 years old.  She’s like a 90-something-year-old person so she’s kind of slow getting up.  She walks at a pretty good trot. She’s a darn good dog, a little pug beagle. They call a puggie. I call her a puzzle. You don’t never know what she’s gonna act like sometimes she be stubborn as all get out. Other times she be just as loving as you’d want. She’s a good dog, though.  One day while Walter was homeless, a passerby noticed Walter and Blondie resting near a convenience store and called 9-1-1 because of his concern for the dog. When the police arrived they told the man that if they confiscated the dog she would risk being euthanized. The man asked Walter if he would allow him to foster Blondie for a while. Walter agreed and after a few weeks Walter found a temporary place to stay and retrieved Blondie.  Blondie lives on food scraps Walter saves for her from the soup kitchen. “Food stamps don’t buy Gravy Train. … Blondie, she ain’t worth two cents, but I wouldn’t take $100 for her even though I could use the money real bad.”

June 2017: Walter and his dog, Blondie, walk down a sidewalk with two vacuum machines Walter recovered from a nearby dumpster. He hopes to sell them. Blondie, like Walter, is homeless.

“Blondie’s a good dog. She’s 14 years old.  She’s like a 90-something-year-old person so she’s kind of slow getting up.  She walks at a pretty good trot. She’s a darn good dog, a little pug beagle. They call a puggie. I call her a puzzle. You don’t never know what she’s gonna act like sometimes she be stubborn as all get out. Other times she be just as loving as you’d want. She’s a good dog, though.

One day while Walter was homeless, a passerby noticed Walter and Blondie resting near a convenience store and called 9-1-1 because of his concern for the dog. When the police arrived they told the man that if they confiscated the dog she would risk being euthanized. The man asked Walter if he would allow him to foster Blondie for a while. Walter agreed and after a few weeks Walter found a temporary place to stay and retrieved Blondie.

Blondie lives on food scraps Walter saves for her from the soup kitchen. “Food stamps don’t buy Gravy Train. … Blondie, she ain’t worth two cents, but I wouldn’t take $100 for her even though I could use the money real bad.”

July 2017:  In the heat of summer, Walter asked a neighbor, watering flowers, to spray him down. He found a house to rent but it doesn’t have electricity because of a damaged meter box. Walter says the owner will fix the problem and has agreed to a rent-to-own contract. “I want a place I can call my own, so nobody can evict me again.”

July 2017: In the heat of summer, Walter asked a neighbor, watering flowers, to spray him down. He found a house to rent but it doesn’t have electricity because of a damaged meter box. Walter says the owner will fix the problem and has agreed to a rent-to-own contract. “I want a place I can call my own, so nobody can evict me again.”

A ugust 2017:  Walter relaxes in the backyard of the house he rented on Quincy’s north side after eight weeks of homelessness. Walter says he’s paying $350 a month rent and another $50 a month to use the washer and dryer his landlady left in the house. There’s no heat or electricity because the landlady’s son actually removed the utilities meter. Waiting for the meter to be replaced, Walter is living part-time in the yard, where he cooks on an open fire.  “I’ve been living in the backyard for a month and a half making cowboy coffee, you know what that is, where you can stand a spoon up in it? I got a pretty good setup here in my backyard, I got me a barbecue pit that would hold at least a half of a cow, maybe the full damn cow.  I built it myself out of cinder blocks, bricks and grates that a man gave me off a barbecue he had.  Walter did some work for a man who paid him with three lawn mowers, three barbecue grills, and three air conditioners, all of which Walter planned to repair and sell. Then, Walter says, people began stealing from him.  “There was a Craftsman, self-propelled, damn good lawnmower. I just needed to put some rear wheels on it. And there was a ‘green machine’ … You know what I’m talking about when I say ‘green machine’? Weed Eater brand. I went after my last lawnmower, I already had two here, I think. While I was going after the third one, someone come in, took the two I already had here, plus a weed eater that I paid $100 for. It makes me angry after buying something and having it come up missing a week later. I finally got a phone after six months without one and it came up missing too. They’re in a pawn shop by now.”  A few months later, Walter’s backpack with all of his personal records is stolen. He must replace everything — his driver’s license, Social Security card, his SNAP card.  It takes weeks to replace the identification cards he needs to reapply for his SNAP card. 

August 2017: Walter relaxes in the backyard of the house he rented on Quincy’s north side after eight weeks of homelessness. Walter says he’s paying $350 a month rent and another $50 a month to use the washer and dryer his landlady left in the house. There’s no heat or electricity because the landlady’s son actually removed the utilities meter. Waiting for the meter to be replaced, Walter is living part-time in the yard, where he cooks on an open fire.

“I’ve been living in the backyard for a month and a half making cowboy coffee, you know what that is, where you can stand a spoon up in it? I got a pretty good setup here in my backyard, I got me a barbecue pit that would hold at least a half of a cow, maybe the full damn cow.  I built it myself out of cinder blocks, bricks and grates that a man gave me off a barbecue he had.

Walter did some work for a man who paid him with three lawn mowers, three barbecue grills, and three air conditioners, all of which Walter planned to repair and sell. Then, Walter says, people began stealing from him.

“There was a Craftsman, self-propelled, damn good lawnmower. I just needed to put some rear wheels on it. And there was a ‘green machine’ … You know what I’m talking about when I say ‘green machine’? Weed Eater brand. I went after my last lawnmower, I already had two here, I think. While I was going after the third one, someone come in, took the two I already had here, plus a weed eater that I paid $100 for. It makes me angry after buying something and having it come up missing a week later. I finally got a phone after six months without one and it came up missing too. They’re in a pawn shop by now.”

A few months later, Walter’s backpack with all of his personal records is stolen. He must replace everything — his driver’s license, Social Security card, his SNAP card.

It takes weeks to replace the identification cards he needs to reapply for his SNAP card. 

October 2017:  Walter waits in the warm sunlight with his new kitten outside the doors of the Horizons Soup Kitchen in Quincy. A few days later he found the kitten dead in his yard.

October 2017: Walter waits in the warm sunlight with his new kitten outside the doors of the Horizons Soup Kitchen in Quincy. A few days later he found the kitten dead in his yard.

November 2017:  Walter displays one of the Christmas cards he makes in his spare time. Despite his meager financial situation, Walter says he believes God will take care of him.  “I make cards and hand them out to people without expecting anything. Sometimes people give me a little money but I must like to make them for people. This morning a lady at a church gave me $20 and said, ‘Merry Christmas.’ I turned around and shook hands with the pastor and left the $20 in his hand. I pay my tithes. Another time a lady with a girl and a boy at a convenience store gave me money and I gave them some of my homemade spoon jewelry in return. I said, ‘At least take these rings for Christmas.’”

November 2017: Walter displays one of the Christmas cards he makes in his spare time. Despite his meager financial situation, Walter says he believes God will take care of him.

“I make cards and hand them out to people without expecting anything. Sometimes people give me a little money but I must like to make them for people. This morning a lady at a church gave me $20 and said, ‘Merry Christmas.’ I turned around and shook hands with the pastor and left the $20 in his hand. I pay my tithes. Another time a lady with a girl and a boy at a convenience store gave me money and I gave them some of my homemade spoon jewelry in return. I said, ‘At least take these rings for Christmas.’”

December 2017:  On a cold December day, Walter organizes a living area in his homemade shelter made of mattresses, tarps and a plastic swimming pool.  The utilities meter still has not been installed in the house he rented back in July. The house remains without heat and water pipes have frozen.  Walter says the homeowner told him, on a handshake, she would do a rent-to-own agreement with him, but that the landlady’s son is harassing him.  “Well, I’ve been living in my back yard. At first, I was just around a fire pit sitting in a chair but since it’s got cold and it’s going into December it’s getting cold out there. I get kind of smudgy (from the fire soot) but it helps out. The way you deal with the smoke is you sit down and let it go over your head. I can heat water over the fire pit and wash off, but it’s not like being in a house with a shower and all that, and most people wouldn’t know. The landlady’s son jerked the meter out and evidently he messed up the meter box while he was taking it out because the power company will not turn it on with the meter box in the shape it’s in. It’s just got a small piece missing but that’ rules and regulations that we have to go by if we wanna live and do well.  “I couldn’t get anybody to co-sign for me so I could buy a house with a regular mortgage so I had to rent-to-own which is risky, as far as I’m concerned, but rent-to-own is the only option I’ve got. I pay $350 plus bills for the house and also have a washer and dryer I could be using now with electricity, but I pay $50 a month on that so it makes it $400 plus bills for the whole thing. I like the house and the yard. It needs a little work on it but I know I’ll do that. It takes time and a little material. But the location is the worst in Quincy. And there is a lot of thieving and drug-dealing and all that stuff going on right around me and in my yard. So it’s really not a place that most people would want to live.”

December 2017: On a cold December day, Walter organizes a living area in his homemade shelter made of mattresses, tarps and a plastic swimming pool.  The utilities meter still has not been installed in the house he rented back in July. The house remains without heat and water pipes have frozen.  Walter says the homeowner told him, on a handshake, she would do a rent-to-own agreement with him, but that the landlady’s son is harassing him.

“Well, I’ve been living in my back yard. At first, I was just around a fire pit sitting in a chair but since it’s got cold and it’s going into December it’s getting cold out there. I get kind of smudgy (from the fire soot) but it helps out. The way you deal with the smoke is you sit down and let it go over your head. I can heat water over the fire pit and wash off, but it’s not like being in a house with a shower and all that, and most people wouldn’t know. The landlady’s son jerked the meter out and evidently he messed up the meter box while he was taking it out because the power company will not turn it on with the meter box in the shape it’s in. It’s just got a small piece missing but that’ rules and regulations that we have to go by if we wanna live and do well.

“I couldn’t get anybody to co-sign for me so I could buy a house with a regular mortgage so I had to rent-to-own which is risky, as far as I’m concerned, but rent-to-own is the only option I’ve got. I pay $350 plus bills for the house and also have a washer and dryer I could be using now with electricity, but I pay $50 a month on that so it makes it $400 plus bills for the whole thing. I like the house and the yard. It needs a little work on it but I know I’ll do that. It takes time and a little material. But the location is the worst in Quincy. And there is a lot of thieving and drug-dealing and all that stuff going on right around me and in my yard. So it’s really not a place that most people would want to live.”

December 2017:  Walter carries a bag of dog food, donated by a local good Samaritan, from his backyard shelter to the house he rents, which still has no electricity or heat. He says he must put the dog food in the refrigerator, which doesn’t work, to keep mice and rats from getting into it. Now five months later, the utilities meter is still not replaced so Walter use his open fireplace to keep warm and cook meals from canned food the receives at local food pantries. Freezing weather takes its toll, however. Walter spends many evenings in fast-food restaurants to stay warm and a friend allows him to stop by and take a shower every couple of weeks.  “I got the Good Lord on my side. In fact, I’m one of the richest bitches on earth, if you wanna put it that way. I really got no worries except what’s in my mind that Lucifer put there. I just decided to live it day by day. Come what may and let the Good Lord take care of the assholes on this earth. I am still kicking, I will stay on this earth as long as the Good Lord says so. What that Man says come, I don’t give a damn if you’re the president of the United States, you come. That’s my belief. If a man don’t live by his beliefs he ain’t much of a man.

December 2017: Walter carries a bag of dog food, donated by a local good Samaritan, from his backyard shelter to the house he rents, which still has no electricity or heat. He says he must put the dog food in the refrigerator, which doesn’t work, to keep mice and rats from getting into it. Now five months later, the utilities meter is still not replaced so Walter use his open fireplace to keep warm and cook meals from canned food the receives at local food pantries. Freezing weather takes its toll, however. Walter spends many evenings in fast-food restaurants to stay warm and a friend allows him to stop by and take a shower every couple of weeks.

“I got the Good Lord on my side. In fact, I’m one of the richest bitches on earth, if you wanna put it that way. I really got no worries except what’s in my mind that Lucifer put there. I just decided to live it day by day. Come what may and let the Good Lord take care of the assholes on this earth. I am still kicking, I will stay on this earth as long as the Good Lord says so. What that Man says come, I don’t give a damn if you’re the president of the United States, you come. That’s my belief. If a man don’t live by his beliefs he ain’t much of a man.

December 2017:  Walter holds the center pole of his makeshift shelter so it doesn’t blow away on a windy afternoon. He’s covered in soot from the open fire he uses for warmth and to cook.  He wonders if he brought his recent troubles on himself because of “living in sin” with his girlfriends of 24 years.  “I walked away from my teaching and got in trouble by not doing what the Word of the Lord says. You’re not supposed to live with a women unless you’re married, that’s what the Bible says. Paul said ‘marry or burn’ and that means either get married or go to Hell. And if you don’t believe in Heaven and Hell, I feel sorry for you Enough said on that subject.”

December 2017: Walter holds the center pole of his makeshift shelter so it doesn’t blow away on a windy afternoon. He’s covered in soot from the open fire he uses for warmth and to cook.  He wonders if he brought his recent troubles on himself because of “living in sin” with his girlfriends of 24 years.

“I walked away from my teaching and got in trouble by not doing what the Word of the Lord says. You’re not supposed to live with a women unless you’re married, that’s what the Bible says. Paul said ‘marry or burn’ and that means either get married or go to Hell. And if you don’t believe in Heaven and Hell, I feel sorry for you Enough said on that subject.”

January 2018:  Walter stayed away from the rental house for about a month because of what he said were threats made by the landlady’s son. Walter returned in January to find the shelter torn down and Walter’s belongings trashed. His clothes are wet and mildewed. His small collection of art supplies is ground into the mud with much of his other person property. After confrontations with the son and a stay in the Veterans Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, Walter is able to return to the rental house but it still does not have heat or electricity. Walter said he applied for public house but was told there was a two- to three-month waiting period. Walter says he can’t find a place he can afford on his $681 monthly Social Security retirement check.

January 2018: Walter stayed away from the rental house for about a month because of what he said were threats made by the landlady’s son. Walter returned in January to find the shelter torn down and Walter’s belongings trashed. His clothes are wet and mildewed. His small collection of art supplies is ground into the mud with much of his other person property. After confrontations with the son and a stay in the Veterans Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, Walter is able to return to the rental house but it still does not have heat or electricity. Walter said he applied for public house but was told there was a two- to three-month waiting period. Walter says he can’t find a place he can afford on his $681 monthly Social Security retirement check.

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