A man leaning against the façade of God’s Extended Hand at 1625 Island Ave. — a religious soup kitchen — will talk to me. He will not reveal his name but a mutual familiarity with Illinois is the way into conversation.
“I’ve been out here maybe a year, maybe a little more.”
As to how he’s finding things here, he says, “Well, I’m doin’ a lot better than what I was. I was homeless back in Illinois. I was livin’ out in the woods in the southern part of the state. Tryin’ to live off the land: roots, mushrooms. I was nothin’ but skin and bones. No meat on me, ya know? So, this is actually my fourth year of bein’ homeless.”
It is evident he has, in fact, spent much time in the south of that state, which abuts Kentucky, and a particular type of a low-key Southern accent can be made out.
“Ever’ once in a while I’d have to go into town and the community to soup kitchens like this,” indicating God’s Extended Hand. “And I didn’t like it. I need a lot more vitamin D from the sun and I got medical conditions where my bones pop out of joints and stuff like that.”
In fact, the anonymous interviewee, with his shaven pate and indeed pale skin smiles and reveals the teeth of a 90-year-old man — or a 30-year-old amphetamine user. This latter being conjecture, but the image is familiar.
When asked how it was he became among those without conventional housing or permanent roofing over their heads, he answers with the single word: “Divorce. I lost my wife, my job, ever’thing.”
Was it a matter of the wife taking everything?
“No, it weren’t like that. It was more, ‘Take it all and go — please!'”