At the time of this writing, it’s been 3 weeks since he’s been gone, yet no news media has mentioned the tragic collision that ended his life. Some bystanders at the accident who did not know him surmised from his appearance that he was homeless, and some even presumed that he was drunk or under the influence of drugs, or that he did not look carefully before stepping off the curb into the street. None of this is true, except for his lack of a permanent dwelling place.
His name was Grady Steven Scott, and while he was without a home, he was not an irresponsible drunkard, or a drug addict. He was a son, a brother, an uncle, a bighearted man, and a good friend to anyone who would take the time to know him. In the years that I have been visiting homeless people near the intersection of Shadeland and 21st Street in Indianapolis, he has been polite, always greeting me with a big smile, asking me how I was doing, and was genuinely concerned for my well being and safety in that area. He showed deep gratitude for the things my friends and I do for the homeless. He took very little from us, often saying, “Thank you, but I’ve got all I need; better give it to someone else who needs it more than me.” He was the kind of man who would gladly give the shirt off his back to another that he deemed needed it more. Even in death, he donated his liver to save someone’s life.
While he struggled with mental illness (bipolar disorder), he always gave his best at any temporary work he could find. On July 29th, 2019, the day that he was hit by a speeding vehicle, he was as sober as anyone could be. He spent many hours fixing an ice machine at the Exxon gas station convenience store. He impressed the manager so much that he was offered a part-time job. He then said to Jill, another employee there, “Today’s my lucky day!” His hard work to find stable employment and get out of homelessness finally came to fruition. He bid Jill good-bye and was crossing the street to run an errand, intending to return to the store later that evening to help Jill with the closing of the store. But he never returned because, after carefully looking for oncoming cars (as he habitually did), when he stepped off the curb, according to eyewitness account, a speeding car “came out of nowhere” and hit him so hard that he “flew” to hit another car. In that one instant, by the action of a careless driver, Grady’s life ended, just when he was about to taste the fruit of his discipline and get out of homelessness.
To the media, he wasn’t newsworthy, but to me, he was a good man and a friend I will miss very much.
While my family was attending GenCon in downtown Indy in early August of 2016, I lagged behind taking pictures when we were on our way to lunch and got lost. That’s when I met Tanya. She was offering to give directions to people for some change. The problem was I had no idea where to go. So I ended up talking to her, thinking I’ll just call my family with my cell phone and catch up with them later.
Tanya came from Kentucky, having left an abusive relationship behind. She’s been sleeping on the couch of a friend, hoping to get a job and a place of her own. Her new start in Indy didn’t go well, however, when her bag got stolen with her ID in it. Without ID, she could not find a job. Without money, she could not replace her ID. And so began her life of homelessness. She also suffers from depression and has not had the medication since she became homeless. Being homeless, of course, only aggravates the depression, as anyone can imagine.
While I was talking to Tanya, “Romeo” came up to greet Tanya. His real name is Joshua. Joshua and Tanya became friends after meeting each other on the street and have been looking out for each other. You can find them at the southwest corner of Maryland and Illinois. If you’d like to help, they would appreciate a hand-up via a job where they can earn a living. Oh yeah, Tanya would need to get her ID replaced first.
This is a memorial for a sweet young woman that I never had a chance to meet. The memorial was created by her friends at a homeless camp in Indianapolis called “The Jungle”. Margie Kandell was originally from Michigan, and she had lived in The Jungle for about a year when she got engaged to a man named Jim and moved into his apartment to prepare for their future together. But what should have been a happy ending turned into a tragedy. Margie had all her teeth pulled in preparation for some dentures and was in recovery when Jim came home to find her unresponsive. I wasn’t able to find out for sure what her cause of death was, but her friends speculated it was excessive bleeding from the oral surgery. Margie was only 30 years old when she died.
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.
Joe came to Nashville 6 weeks ago with all of his small savings and some clothes. Like many others who came to Nashville, he’s hoping to break into the music industry. He has been singing ever since he was a young child, and can play several instruments. He left his instruments at home with his parents, because he was traveling by bus and couldn’t carry them with him. I later thought it’s a good thing that he left the instruments, because his clothes got stolen after being in Nashville for 2 weeks. If he had had the instruments with him, they might have been stolen along with the clothes. He has been looking for permanent work, but hasn’t found any, and his money has already run out. He’s been doing temporary jobs to get by.
Though he introduced himself to me as “Joe”, he later proudly told me that his full name is “Joseph”, that he was named after Jesus’ father. His grandfather is a preacher. Joe loves God and his faith is what keeps him going everyday. When his arm got injured on his last temporary job, he was dismayed that he won’t be able to work, but then later thought that it maybe a blessing in disguise to get him out of homelessness. When I met him, he was sitting in this smelly doorway, waiting to go see the worker’s comp lawyer to talk about a settlement for his injury. He hopes the settlement will be big enough to rent a place to live, and maybe have some left to cut a batch of CD to launch his singing career. All he wants is a chance. . .
Cassius Richman doesn’t consider himself a homeless person, even though he doesn’t have a place to call his own. He travels from city to city, staying a month or two in each one with relatives and friends. He earns the money he needs for food each day by playing the saxophone. He says he’s not homeless, because he has a place to go to sleep each night, and he’s never gone hungry. He accepts his lack of a permanent home as part of the cost of living his dream as a traveling musician. He’s a man of faith, and is thankful to have good health and the gift of music to enjoy and earn a living with. I didn’t talk for too long with Cassius, because I wanted to let him go back to earning his keep. I enjoyed just quietly listening to his music and thanking God for giving him such a gift, not just the ability to play the sax, but the wonderful attitude he has about life.
I was fighting tears after seeing Jerry. His first name was all the information I could find out from him. He didn’t appear to understand what I was saying to him. I had to use gesture to ask him if it’s OK for me to photograph him, to which he nodded his consent. He’s obviously not deaf or mute, for he heard me when I asked, “What’s your name?” and said his name, albeit only first name.
I had a lot of questions for Jerry that will go unanswered. Looking at the length of his finger nails, hair, and beard, and how dirty they were, he appeared to not have been cared for in a long time (either by himself or someone else). He was smoking, and there were a lot of cigarette butts around his feet. I wondered where he got the cigarettes, and how long he had been at that spot, all alone and ignored.
He seemed to be suffering from some kind of mental illness or developmental disorder. I wondered, given his apparent age, if he was cared for by someone who’d passed away, and now there’s nobody to care for him. Or did he get lose from a mental hospital? One way or another, a person in his condition should not be left to face this world alone. He didn’t appear capable of finding help for himself. He looked so confused and lost. . . and lonely.
I could have spent all day talking to Wayne. He’s so far from the typical characterization of a homeless person. He’s educated, intelligent, knows God, loves God and people, knows the Bible better than most Christians, and knows Hebrew and Greek too! He’s a writer as well as a musician. He teaches Bible study and sings Gospel music.
Wayne became homeless 20 years ago, when he was served divorce papers and told to vacate his home. It’s been a long journey, but he’s doing really well compared to other poor folks I know (and I’d even say he’s doing better than some rich folks I know). I admire his independent spirit. He has refused to get food stamps, and has chosen instead to grow his own food. He’s a vendor for the Nashville local paper called The Contributor, a publication that was created to help the homeless, giving them a way to earn a living and contribute to the betterment of the community. The Contributor has featured Wayne in their publication in 2012, and on their website, there’s a transcript of an interview with Wayne, as well as a link to a video that they created (so you can hear him speak for himself!). You can read more about Wayne here.
Marcus “The Trumpet Man” was a delight to talk to. He taught himself how to make the sound of a trumpet with just his lips and vocal chord. And he did sound like a real trumpet too! Before I saw him, as I was coming around the corner on the sidewalk, I thought someone was playing a trumpet nearby. He said he was inspired by the movie Beverly Hills Cop, where there was a character who could make all sorts of sounds with just his lips. He dreams of getting into the entertainment business. Currently he entertains passersby on the street with his original music. He uses a styrofoam cup to magnify the sound, which I thought was rather resourceful. He appreciated how I’d stopped by to talk to him, because, he said, most people would walk in a wide circle around him. In particular, Asians would openly show their fear of him. He said he hasn’t been able to hold on to his jobs because he suffers from chronic depression and hasn’t been able to afford the treatment. He’s been married for 10 years, but his wife has filed divorce after she’s “found someone else”. He’s desperate to find a place to live because his soon-to-be-former wife said he needs to move out in a month. All he really hopes for is to earn enough as an entertainer to afford his own place to live and buy his own food.
Looking back, Jack Fisher thanks God that he got arrested when he tried to sell some drugs to an undercover cop about 3 years ago, because it’s the wake-up call he needed to start turning his life around. He’s been clean since, and has learned healthier ways to cope so that he no longer has a desire to use drugs. He was sentenced to 28 months in jail and just finished serving his time 4 months ago. He has been walking the streets of Nashville, looking for a job everyday. He was living at the halfway house, but got kicked out when he could no longer pay the $125/week to stay there. He said it’s been hard because people are repulsed by his arrest record, or the businesses are simply not hiring any new workers. Another reason he’s having difficulty getting a job is also his lack of a high school diploma. He wants to get a GED, but lacks the $600 it costs to go through the program and take the test.
He has an estranged 20-year-old son, with whom he’s trying to reconcile. But like all of his friends and family, his son has lost faith in him. He said he understands that, because he has lied to them, but he hopes that in time, he can earn their trust back. He’s been getting food at the Presbyterian church that you can see behind him in the photo. At night, if the weather is good, he would sleep on the lawn of another church down the street that allows the homeless to sleep on their property. (The city has been arresting people for sleeping in public places.) When the weather is bad, he would go to sleep at the shelter for the homeless, but he said he prefers not to go there, because he wants to stay clean, and doesn’t like that there are people still using drugs there. When I asked if he needs anything, he said he’s thankful for the help that the church and other folks have given him, so there’s no lack there. He only wishes for a chance to prove himself as a good worker, to earn his own money and get his own place to live.