I was with my son in Knoxville, TN, taking pictures in Krutch Park, when my son got interested in some birds. He found that the place where they would stay still long enough for him to get their picture was around the feet of this man sitting on the park bench, who was feeding them pieces of bread. Naturally, we started a conversation with the man, and that’s how I came to know Bobby. Bobby has been in Knoxville all his life except for a couple of years when he worked in Louisville, KY. He’s raised 3 boys who are now adults. He became homeless through a series of unfortunate events which he admitted were his own doing. His wife kicked him out of the house, and he’s been living in a shelter near the park. About a year and a half ago he was in an accident as a result of driving drunk. He now has a metal plate in his skull, and lost some movement in his limbs that then rendered him disabled. He admitted that he’s not completely sober and still gets a couple of drinks a week, but he doesn’t drink till he’s drunk anymore (said he’s learned his lesson). He lost his driver’s license and currently doesn’t plan to get his license back. He wishes rent wasn’t so high so he could have a place of his own. He would like to work again, but being 61, disabled, and not having a driver’s license or car, make that a difficult goal to achieve. He has been living on a budget that he’s set for himself and saving up the rest of his monthly disability benefit to get himself out of homelessness. He said he doesn’t like where he’s at, but he has hope of a better future. I enjoyed hearing Bobby telling me of his childhood, the way things were when he was young, and how things have changed in Knoxville in the years that he’s been living there. His biggest problem, he said, is loneliness, because most of his friends are gone now. Overall, he said he’s content and thankful to have food and shelter for each day. In a way, he likes the simplicity of where he’s at, because it keeps him focused on what’s really important in life, unlike the time when he used to have a home and many material things that distracted him. He misses his boys, and wishes he has brought their pictures with him when he left his wife.
My son said it was sad how people just passed Bobby by without even looking at him, much less smiling or saying hello to him.