Interview with homeless man with frostbitten fingers and toes

Thomas, homeless in Denver’s cold, speaks about losing some of his fingertips and toes due
to frostbite.
PHOTO/PJ DAMICO

 

Editor’s note: The People’s Tribune thanks PJ Damico for sharing this interview.  It is unfathomable that people are forced to sleep in the street, risking death, when eight billionaires own more wealth that half of humanity. Something has to give.

DENVER, CO — PJ Damico: We’re here with Thomas, outside the St Francis Center. The center has about 800 homeless men who come through every day. It opens at 6 a.m., so people have to fend for themselves at night. Thomas has to have his fingers and toes taken off because of frostbite. So tell me, what happened to you?

Thomas: I was camping outside cause some of us just can’t handle the crowds and a lot of the rules . . . We was cleaning our campsite so we would not get arrested, and I got inside my tent and fell asleep. When I woke up, that’s the way I was. It’s a pity. So they’re gonna have to cut off my fingers. One of the reasons I finally did come inside was because of the frostbite. It hurt me so bad. I’m sitting there at the table and I can’t even make me a cup of soup . . . and people are just walking by and taking stuff, you never see none of your stuff again. Then it takes you three or four months just to get your ID and birth certificate. I lost my cell phone and everything.

PJ: How long have you been out here?
Thomas: I’ve been homeless for a little over three years now. Yeah, it’s a daily struggle. Not everyone is a drug addict or an alcoholic. We need a hand up, not a hand-out.  This can happen to anybody.

PJ: Would you like to get into some form of housing?
Thomas: Oh yes yes, cause the winter out here is pretty harsh. Talk about pain and agony, the cold in the morning just coming off the river, oh it’s devastating. I had a couple of good changes of clothes, but everybody’s taken everything I had.

PJ: What would you tell the mayor?
Thomas: I would ask him, y’know, to recognize that we’re not bums, we’re not hideous people. I know there’s properties all over Colorado that could help people, the homeless especially with the camping, so we can try to support ourselves. I would ask him to please consider if there could be a big enough lot where everybody could live—with house rules and if everyone cleaned up after themselves. We deserve a chance.

A lot of us are clean, we just like to stay away from big crowds, cause there’s a lot of craziness, madness. I’m not  hatin’ other people, I’m not even hating the people that stole my stuff, maybe they needed it worse than I did. We all start our lives in different variations every day. We all struggle, but the way we’re supposed to do it is to help each other.

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