A visit to a homeless campsite higher than most...
I hesitated on actually putting this story online… but, with the consent of this gentleman, I decided to go ahead and post it. He wanted his story to be heard to hopefully help someone else. If someone can see his struggles, if someone can see what he is a slave to, then possibly… one person will quit drinking. - Scott Walker (WGNS)
I saw him sitting in the shadows of a large sculpture and saw that he was drinking from a Vodka bottle stuffed in a paper bag with a yellow plastic bag wrapped around the paper bag. As I approached, I saw he was shaking. I asked, “Are you okay?” He said, “No.” He told me he had surgery on his neck two months ago and he pointed to a large incision. The 58-year old man said the hospital released him too early. He called the procedure a “Cervical Disc Replacement.”
He told me that he is homeless and I asked why. He responded, “Years of bad choices.” He then pointed to several large buildings in downtown Nashville and said, “I wired that building and that building and re-wired that one.” I asked, “Are you an electrical contractor?” He said, “I was.” He saw my camera and said, “Please don’t take a picture of me, I don’t want my friends or family to see me like this.” He granted me permission to photograph him from the neck down, and turned his head when he took a drink.
He then talked to me about his father and a past marriage. He started to tear up and cry as he talked about who he once was. He told me that he can’t stop drinking, although he went for years being sober. After looking off into the distance and regaining his composure, he asked me, “Do you like my new shoes?” He told me he got them from a thrift store earlier today. I could tell he was proud of his purchase.
He asked, “Do you want to see where I am currently living, I've never shown anyone.” He then told me to follow him. We walked several blocks and he led me to a narrow walkway over a road next to a large bridge. We walked up a pathway about 300-feet long leading to a flat and very narrow gravel section about 7-feet wide. To my right was a large wall with a fence on top of the wall. To my left was a 40-foot drop with a 4-lane divided roadway below. No side railing existed and he was stumbling all over the place. At one point, he fell against the wall to his right cursing the rocks beneath his feet.
He stood on the edge of the retaining wall and reached under a small cavity where the bridge met the road above. He pulled out a red sleeping bag that was neatly rolled up. He said, “This is where I hide my sleeping bag during the day.” He told me that he sleeps at this location, because no one else is crazy enough to come up here.
Cars roared by below and if he made one misstep, he would fall into traffic. He pointed to a sheet of cardboard and said, "This is my mattress." He looked around and again started to tear up.
We then headed back to the location where I first ran into him, with me grabbing his shoulder from time to time when he almost fell into traffic. I bought him a sandwich at a small restaurant and he told me he was going to stay at the mission tonight, due to rain that was on the way. He then firmly shook my hand and stated, “Will this help someone else?” I told him, “I hope so.”
To see more of Scott Walker's journeys, visit SmallTownBigWorld.com