Homeless in Longmont
When I first stumbled on ‘Bike God’ - that's what he asked me to call him; I asked if I could take photographs of him and his 'home'? He said he wanted one thing, "conversation" that's it. At least in his case, one of the many things he does not have being homeless, is common conversation.
I learned that he, and occasionally others, had been living in the pictured 'camp' for about 4 or 5 months with the landowners' blessing. He got to ‘live' there and tried to keep other ‘homeless' off the property as best he could.
There was a fire about two or three weeks ago; he thinks that was started by another homeless person when lighting small fireworks to scare the raccoons away. "At night raccoons come out, they are scavengers, they steal whatever food they can find.”
He makes a meager amount of money fixing and selling bikes to other homeless. ‘"There's not much money in it" he says with a knowing half smile, "they are homeless".
It is difficult for him to leave his stuff "it'll get stolen by other homeless”, he says. He says that being “homeless is the hardest job he's ever had”. I asked him at one point if there was "one event, or a series of events that landed him here?" He said that, "I think I knew six or seven years ago that I would end up here" (homeless).
He is motivated, skilled, and has in my estimation encyclopedic knowledge of bicycles. At one point he gave me a tour of some of his prized and favorite bikes, rattling off brand names, unique features, years made, and why they are "cool".
I asked him, “What do you want? What would be helpful?” He likes living outside; it is freedom to him. He wonders if Longmont has a piece of unused city land he could live on. He does not need or want to be "saved". He'd love to be "left alone-mostly repair bikes and not be in the system".
Every time I would visit him, his pile of possessions and bikes got smaller - "Yeah the police came today and took a lot away, put them in storage - I have 30 days to ‘bail’ them out.”
Where he goes from here is anybody's guess.
Make no mistake about it -what I did was potentially very dangerous from many perspectives. I was extremely lucky when I first walked over to introduce myself for the first time that 'bike god' was whom I was talking to.
I visited him three or four times at random for about a half hour or less each time. Every time asking again if I could continue to take photographs of him and his stuff. There were other homeless around who did not want to be photographed.
At no time did he ask me for money, nor have I given him any. I have no assignment from any news or media organization. I do not expect nor care if I get paid for it.
As you can see from the above, I have only minimal writing skills.