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Facing Poverty in McPherson, Kansas

No matter what anyone says, I always did the best that I could. I’m not perfect but then again, who is? I done what I think is right and I am grateful for the people and organizations of McPherson. Here is a long tale that is not so old, though I may be. I still believe what I had to do I did for my own actions and no one else could tell me otherwise. For one whole year, I spent time living on the streets of McPherson. This is the story of gratitude, not shame.

Oh I use to have it all…money, houses, and more…then I got old and retired from the working world. To be honest, I thought it would be a lot of fun, till the money ran dry and the IRS came a knocking on my door. The bills piled high and the money I received from my social security didn’t stay long in my hands. I felt like I was on a long and winding tunnel and I could not get out, so I sold all of my stuff and struck out on my own.

A 70 year old man living on the streets, the best way to take it is one day at a time for one whole year. I slept in my truck sometimes, on cold nights, in the Post Office. Other times I used stores for restrooms and such. Then when I really needed help, I turned to the church and found that God could take care of me when I couldn’t. Things began to get better, slowly at first. I would have gone hungry, at times, if not for the church. The church helped with paying for motel rooms for me. When they couldn’t, the Senior Center then helped out.

I found that it is very helpful to have someone help you, even if it is a little embarrassing to ask for the help. Now I would not have made it if not for the help and resources in and around town. I kept to myself most of the time. However, I found that complete strangers were more willing to help me than my own family would. People would ask me, “Can I give you a ride?” or “Are you ok?” On many occasions I went to the hospital and they have always helped me, have taken care of me and have saved my life.

I’ve had people tell me that “there is no reason for you to be doing this.” However, I know that I have these bills on my shoulders and if I don’t pay them…well, I just don’t feel right then. I am obligated to pay off my debt and I am doing so one payment at a time.

I have great respect for my wife, God bless her soul. She is a wonderful woman, even though we are no longer together. She supported me a lot when I was out on the streets. She would let me park my truck at her house and have a safe place to sleep…in my truck, of course, but parked in her driveway. My poor wife now has cancer for the third time and I feel terrible that I cannot help her in her time of need. But I am very grateful for the emotional support she gave me during the time that I was without a roof.

Now don’t get me wrong, I could have gotten me an apartment. I had the money to do so, but I just didn’t want one at the time. I never told my family that I was living on the streets. They once told me, “We will pay all of the expenses to put you in an assisted living home.” However, that is not what I wanted. So whenever they called me I always told them I was “Great”.  Ya know, it would have been a lot easier to have let someone else run my life for me, but I would not be as strong as I am now if I did. I faced my problems. I didn’t run away. I know God will help me with what I cannot do for myself. I know I’m not perfect, but I am still learning new things each and every day. I do the best that I can with what I have, but I do know I make a lot of mistakes. But then, I just apologize to God and start over again. I am so grateful for the people and organizations of McPherson. I want to give back, starting with little things. I do know this, when I have a need, I pray and God sends me people.

One day, I hope that I can do more than just say “Thank you!” Things may not always go according to my plan, but in God’s plan I know that I am doing GREAT! Now when I get into a difficult moment, things tend to work themselves out. I had a lot of help to survive on the streets.

Living on the streets was tough and I haven’t fully recovered, but I’m still doing my best to keep going. I have a son that lives a long way from here, lives with his mother. He keeps asking “When are you coming to see me?” I will one day, once I’m done with what I feel obligated to do now.

I will say this about McPherson, though. There is a lot of help, a lot of resources out there for anyone to use, not just senior citizens. I have to thank the people of McPherson for being so kind and willing to help and yet ask for nothing in return. Now that I think about it…I find that it costs a lot more to live on the streets than it does to live in an apartment.

A Man Living in Poverty’s Story as told to Rhea Lyle

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