The Homeless of Denver Have a Story and This Is It…
On a cold and wet Tuesday morning in downtown Denver just blocks from the capital building, we meet a homeless man, Brian, in the basement of an old church, where a local woman has been feeding the hungry every week for twenty years. Brian stoically stood with coffee in hand observing the room with an air of compassion and the authority of a general on the street. Off to the side, he hands a $100 bill to an individual buying winter boots for the homeless. We ask if we can record his story and he agrees.
How did you get out on the streets, man?
What brought me out on the streets was I sent my daughters to college. I decided I needed to sell my house and get into an apartment to help them pay for college. And before I sold my house I had a stroke. So I still sold my house but I couldn’t work- and that pretty much put me on the streets- because I already gave them all the money to get them into college.
Did you have any regrets from giving all your money to your daughters?
Not even one. I would do it all over again.
What about Disability?
I’m not really disabled. I recovered from my stroke but it took me 10 months. I lost my job during that time.
What did you used to do?
I was working as a machinist- building NASCAR motors
Do you still talk to your daughters?
How old are they?
26 and 24
Are they still in college?
Kelsey will graduate this year from Stanford with a PHD in medicine and Alexis is going for her PHD in medicine also.
What about their mom?
They have only talked to their mom one time since we divorced when they were 2 and 4.
Why did you get divorced?
She cheated on me for about the 5th time…
Where did she go?
She lives 7 blocks from us- but never once did she stop by. Not even one time…
Tell us about your spiritual walk and how that correlates to you being on the streets?
I believed in God, but I wasn’t born again until about 7-8 yrs ago. I did good for about 4-5 yrs then the last yr I had some struggles, but I met this woman who revived my faith when I was at my lowest point.
How do you survive out here?
I’ve got a 0 degree sleeping bag and I put up a tarp to stay dry. That’s the main thing is to stay dry. I have a bike that has a 100Lb trailer with about 600lbs on the trailer and I ride it everywhere. Some days I load it down with 300lbs of Bibles just so I can give them away.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve encountered on the streets?
Uhm… the relapse into the drug world.
What kind of drugs?
Heroine, crack, meth… I’ve done them all.
What keeps you from going back to that? Why not just give up?
Pretty much God does- my faith. God takes care of me every day. He helps me help others. I’ve helped 14 heroine addicts and I’ve had 2 relapses out of 14.
How do you help them?
First, they have to want to stop. Then, when they want to- then I’ll be there for them the next 2 months. They get sick in the morning- the heroine addicts do- so you have to give them sugar, lots of candy and coffee. You’ve got to give them Seboxin or Methadone. If they want to get off- I’ll go find them pills. It cost me like 300 bucks to get them.
Where do you get the prescriptions?
Off the street.
Why isn’t that more readily available to get them help?
Insurance. Have you tried to take people to the hospital?
Yeah, they don’t help you- they tell you to go cold turkey. But they are in so much actual physical pain- they can’t.
So, you’re like a street preacher? What are you thinking about when you are out there every day?
I’m usually thinking about how I can help others. So, that’s what I do. I try to help them and pass out Bibles. As a matter of fact, I met 2 people on the trail- they were fighting and arguing, and I sat and talked to them for awhile. They didn’t have no food, so I fed them lunch from food I got at the food bank. They were arguing about stupid stuff and I read them some Scriptures about relationships and gave them a Bible. He called me 3 weeks later and told me he got a job and it was the best thing that happened to them. For about a year I was handing out about 2 Bibles every day.
Do they come back to you after you give them a Bible?
A lot of them do- I know over 1000 people out here on the streets that are homeless, I see them all the time.
What regrets do you have about life?
I don’t have too many…I probably would make the same choices.
If you were going to give the world one piece of advice what would it be?
Just give your life to God- it took me 45 yrs to figure that out. My life would have been so much easier. I ran away from my moms house when I was 13. She married an alcoholic and was abusive. My brothers and sisters were all drug addicts.
How do you know God loves you?
Just faith- brother- it’s an internal peace. Some days I may not be where I want to be but I am where I need to be. You just don’t get it, till you get it. Some days you just have to submit and say my life isn’t mine, it’s yours. Then this peace takes over and it’s amazing and you’re taken care of every day after that.
This Spring Brian will finally be receiving his pension from the Navy and Teamsters. With the much anticipated pension, Brian plans to move to South Carolina. Brian dreams of buying a sailing boat and traveling to Mexico, Belize and the Yucatan, taking his mission of handing out Bibles on the streets of Denver to the world…
By Ronnie Pietras and Jennifer Fitzgerald