In order to provide readers with first-hand insights on the issue of homelessness, TODO Austin staff member César López Linares took some time to interview Larry, a homeless man who uses a wheelchair. Every day, Larry spends all morning and part of the afternoon in the corner of 6th Street and Congress Avenue, holding a cardboard with a message asking for help.
Do you live here, in Austin?
“It’s been four months [since I moved here]. I’m from Houston.”
You are so close to the ARCH (Austin Resource Center for the Homeless)…
“They got a bunch of drug addicts over there and they steal from you. I had a wheelchair. While I sleep, they took it. They are smoking crack and everything; they drink, not inside, but outside [the ARCH].”
Do you live in the streets?
For how long?
Is that since you came from Houston?
“Yeah. They didn’t give me my check. I got hit by a car in a motorcycle. I need my check so I can get a place. But I haven’t got it yet, so…”
Is that the check from the insurance company?
“The check from the government. They said they were going to give me $700 a month. It’s not much but… better than nothing.”
When is that going to happen?
“The month that’s coming up I will start getting a house. Government housing, to get off the streets. They have housing projects. They are cheap.”
Did you already apply for that?
“Not yet. I am going to do it tomorrow.”
Is that process fast or do you have to wait?
“I’ll wait a year… yeah.”
Did you use to have a job?
“Yes, I was a welder. That was what I used to do.”
But after the accident you stopped doing it?
How long did you work as a welder?
“For 20 years… I am 58 now. I will be 59 in December, five days before Christmas.”
Do you have family here?
“I don’t have no family at all.”
And in Houston?
“I don’t have no family nowhere.”
“I’ll be still here till like about 4:00 o’clock, then I’ll go back…”
Where do you sleep?
(he points the ground with his hand)
But in what area of town?
Is it cold sleeping on the streets?
“I’ve got a sleeping bag…” (he points to the back of his wheelchair, where he carries a package.
How are people around here? Do they give you money?
“So so… Like about $20 a day. I no need no more.”
Are you always downtown?
Besides the broken leg, are you healthy?
“I got a disc out of my back. I had a surgery in my back. It’s hard for me to walk.”
Are you planning to go back to Houston?
“I don’t know, I don’t have no more family, so…”
Is it better here for living?
“It’s pretty nice, yeah. People are pretty friendly. People are mean there (in Houston)… You need a lot to live here. Everything is so high. I think it’s better here, not too much rain.”
“Don’t mess up like I did. Don’t mess up like me.”
“I started doing drugs, then I don’t do it no more… I do nothing, I don’t even drink.”