Nikki: Carol, tell me your story:
Carol: I have an older brother, then we were adopted out. We were adopted out by a couple from Texas that adopted both me and my brother. My brother messed up and went to prison. I got married and had two kids. My husband was very abusive. I left him, came here. So that’s my life.
Nikki: Why did you come to Denver?
Carol: I fled. My husband beat me up really bad, and I left at two o’clock in the morning with my kids. I came to Denver because that is where my adoptive parents were. We still talk every now and then.
Nikki: What about you J.C.? What is your story?
J.C.: I’ve lived in Denver my whole life. I went through the 11 ½ grade. If I had busted my butt for the last four months, I would have graduated.
I have a brother and two kids and my parents live here. My kids live with my parents, so I see my kids.
I want to see my kids when they are 21; I want to see their kids. I don’t want to give up. Life’s too short to just give up and roll over.
So we’re trying. Both of us want our kids back eventually, but they are in a better place than I can give them right now.
Nikki: Do you have a good relationship with your parents?
J.C.: Kind of. I guess. …They would rather me do better than what I’ve accomplished in life.
Nikki: Where did your story lead you to being homeless?
J.C.: I was told to get a job or get out when I was 18. So I traveled a lot, decided to come back home, met Carol.
I traveled to Georgia, all up the South, pretty much anywhere warm. If it was cold, I wasn’t going. So – like Georgia, Florida, Louisiana.
Nikki: Were you homeless there?
J.C.: Yes, but that was not a good time in my life. I made a lot of mistakes. But when you’re young you make mistakes. If I had listened to my parents and never went to Georgia, I would have been safer staying here. I came back here with a felony and was homeless. I lost everything in Georgia. I picked up a record there.
Nikki: How does a felony affect your life?
J.C.: It’s hard. Like a lot of businesses do background checks, and when it pops up they start looking at you different – like, “Why didn’t you tell us? Because I don’t tell anyone!” It’s nobody’s business. I like companies who don’t ask and I don’t tell.
Nikki: How about you, Carol – how did your story lead to homelessness?
Carol: I came to Denver and saw a lot of street kids on the streets and I took them back to my place and started housing them. The street kids that were staying at my place stole over $2,000 from me. That is what I was going to use to pay my rent. My next-door neighbor called the cops and the cops were being really rude and said, “Do you have a permit for running a shelter?” And I said, “I’m not running a shelter, you know, they are just staying with me for a couple of days. They are trying to get back on their feet.” And they saw my kids, and social services were called, and they said that my kids were not in a safe place because I had all of these street kids with me and they didn’t know if they were mass murderers or something.
I became homeless after they took my kids. They kicked me out of my apartment. I lost my kids. I lost everything. So I just gave up for a little bit.
Nikki: What is it like to be homeless? Describe the street life.
J.C.: Cold. The police mess with you.
Carol: You don’t sleep.
J.C.: You really don’t get much sleep.
Carol: …I’m worried about who’s going to take my shoes; who’s going to take my stuff? Am I going to wake up to the cops holding their guns out at me? So you really don’t sleep.
J.C.: It’s scary. It’s dirty.
Carol: It’s hard; it’s rough. You have to worry about the cops messing with you during the day.
J.C.: …Messing with you at night. You have to worry about the cops pretty much all of the time.
Carol: There’s some good things about it because you know you have your freedom.
J.C.: I can go anywhere every day. I like being free. My soul feels so much better when I’m free. I’m just a free spirit I guess. I’ll go anywhere in a second. They call that bi-polar though. Seriously though, I’ve been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder for that very reason. Because my mom couldn’t figure out why I could be distracted so easily.
Nikki: What are you looking for when you are looking for a place to sleep?
J.C.: Anything that blocks wind, the weather, the elements, the cops.
We used to squat down on Broadway so we got to know the cops really good. They were good – district four has some good policeman. District six, I understand why they aren’t so nice, but district four, they were good about letting us sleep where we had to sleep. They didn’t mess with us unless you were like starting stuff with people.
Carol: They used to let us sleep on the grates outside of the city courthouse because of the heat that came up from the grates. You would stay warm. If it snowed you wouldn’t be able to feel the snow because of the heat rising up from your sleeping bag or your tent. Him and I had a tent that we put up on the grates in the snow. They are uncomfortable because they were metal, but you could put cardboard over them.
J.C.: That was one place you could sleep and not get messed with because they had an all night security guard that would walk around the building. The city would let us sleep there, but there got to be a lot of homeless sleeping there. A lot. So they had to kick us off. I think that is why they don’t like the homeless here. Some of the homeless are kind of rude; they don’t care about nobody.
Carol: But we used to wake up to a really rude security guard. Every morning he would kick us to wake us up. Literally kick us. He would yell, “Get up! Time to get up!” He didn’t have to kick us. He could have just told us nicely to get up, but…
Nikki: What are people’s reactions that you’ve seen towards the homeless?
Carol: There are always the people that will lend a helping hand. Then you have the people who will tell you to get a job or to “F-off” and they are just rude.
J.C.: They don’t even give you the time of day. They act like they don’t hear you.
Carol: They just look at you like you are a piece of trash – like they are better than us.
Nikki: How does that make you feel?
Carol: I don’t care what they think. The way I see it is that if you help out somebody, it will come back to you ten fold. It’s like last night, this lady came up to me. She had a black eye and a busted lip. Her husband had just beat her. She asked me if I had any change. I gave her all the money I had. I said, “This is all the money I have. Good luck. I hope you get to where you are going.”
I just don’t see why people have got to look down on us. Sometimes I see where they are coming from. “Get a job,” but it’s kind of hard when you have felonies to get a job.
J.C.: And when you sleep outside, that’s another thing that makes it hard to get a job. They think it’s so easy to get off of the streets, but all the shelters…you’re too scared to go to because people rob you there. I would rather take my chances outside.
Nikki: What do you see for your future?
J.C.: Hopefully off of the streets, hopefully have my kids back. Hopefully with Carol as long as she stays with me. …She’s doing more than I’m doing.
Nikki: What kind of role has church played in your life in the past?
Carol: I was raised in church because my dad was the minister at the local Church of Christ. So, we were forced to go to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. When I got married I fled away from church, but I have come back since then. My dad was just really really rough on me, you know, “Go upstairs and read your Bible and get ready for church.” He wouldn’t let me go out with my friends because I needed to be reading my Bible. He was just really hard and I was really rebellious.
Nikki: How did the church respond to your divorce?
Carol: Well, they kind of looked down on me because I was divorced and a single mother. They looked down on me and were talking about me behind my back, so my dad resigned and went to Oklahoma. That’s one of the reasons why I fled because they were judging me and I was like, “Who are you to judge, when you are preaching about don’t judge? Let God judge.” So I think that is why I left church for a little bit.
Nikki: What do relationships mean to you?
Carol: It depends on the person. Like with me, I’m a people person. I love to help out people and talk to people. A friendship relationship is cool. But the relationship that J.C. and I have, I’m just happy in it no matter what. So, relationships mean a lot to me because I didn’t get that when I was little. Relationships help me cope.
J.C.: I would be lost without them. Some of these people I’ve known for 10 years. They are good people. Carol’s been with me for a minute. I don’t know what I would do without her. I would just get frustrated.
Nikki: Is it hard to develop trust in people?
Carol: Yeah, it is!
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you met Dry Bones?
Carol: About two years ago. My friend had told me, “Look, there’s this church group that feeds you and does fun stuff on Thursday nights. This is when y’all were feeding down by the Platte River. I just saw a lot of people that were willing to help. And I saw street kids that were actually happy. That’s the first time I met Dry Bones. I just started coming around more and more and more after that.
J.C.: I started coming to play pool. That’s where I first met you guys.
Nikki: What does having a relationship with an organization like Dry Bones mean to you?
J.C.: You guys brought me back to my belief.
Carol: It shows that somebody’s actually out there that cares and that wants to help and not just mess with our heads. Some people say, “Oh yeah, we can help you,” and then help us for a little bit, and then whenever we turn a certain age, they give up on us.
Nikki: What are your views on God and your relationship with Him? How have you seen Him work in your life?
Carol: I just think He’s awesome!
J.C.: He’ll burn you if you do dirty, I’ll tell you that!
Carol: I’ve seen him work through my three-year-old son. He was supposed to be dead, but now he’s off of his feeding tubes and he’s walking. He was never supposed to walk or feed himself. He was suppose to be fed by tubes and go to the bathroom with tubes and be a paraplegic for the rest of his life. My family and I were just praying. Then about a month ago, my son’s caseworker called me and said that my son was off of the tubes. He’s walking and talking and very healthy. So, that’s how I’ve seen God work.
J.C.: God helped me get clean. Cause that was not easy!
Carol: Getting clean. Praying to God almost every night and going to church.
J.C.: I’ve seen Him a lot. The more I go to church, the better my life is getting. But once I do mess up, it comes back to bite me.
Carol: We have a choice to listen to what God wants or to shrug and flick Him off our shoulder. I see that He’s a caring Father and that He wants us to do right. I mean, if we pray for something, He might not give it to us right away. He might give it to us in little portions. When He sees that we are doing something right, I think that He is just going to explode and give it to you right there.
Nikki: How have you seen God work on the streets?
Carol: Down by the Platte River with my street brother and J.C. My street brother had swallowed a very hot crack pipe. It almost killed him. Now all he talks about is God, because he says that God saved his life.
J.C.: God saved his life, seriously.
Carol: It went scalding straight down his throat. Made his throat swell up. They had to put him on a breathing tube. He says that God was showing him that this is not the life I want for you. And now, he just walks around and talks to people about God. God works wonders through people.
Nikki: Is there anything that you would want the people to hear?
J.C.: We’re not different.
Carol: Yeah, we’re not different and don’t look down on us. We’re trying, it just takes us a little bit longer and it’s harder.
J.C. I know that I’ve done things to myself to get me into this situation.
Carol: We’ve made mistakes and served our time and now we are just trying to make a life. When people look down on us, it just makes us want to give up sometimes.
Nikki: Anything else you want to say?
J.C.: Go Dry Bones! You guys rock. It’s good to know I actually got some people who care. Not all of these organizations care. So it’s good to know that you are there. I want to tell everyone out there, that Dry Bones is really good folks. I’ve good friends here.
I found out how much you cared for me just the other day when Robbie came to check on me. He came just to see me and talk to me for a little bit. It was just awesome. I deeply appreciate that you guys truly care. Y’all sincerely care. Y’all are good people.