Monday, December 28, 2009

Homeless in Gadsden The homeless: Our neighbors

In every place that some call home, there are others who have no home, and the experience for those who don't can vary from place to place, said Gene Champion.

“That's the thing about being homeless: You have to travel a lot,” said Champion, who lives under a bridge on U.S. Highway 431 and carries all his ragged worldly belongings — blankets, clothes and a tent — in the baskets of a bright pink bicycle.
More than 80 years old, Champion has lived the homeless lifestyle periodically throughout Alabama. He thinks some cities are more conducive to that life than others. His favorite is Dothan, where he plans to return by Christmas since he thinks he'll find work there. He hasn't had much luck finding employment in Gadsden the last three months.
“If your work plays out in one (city), you have to go to the next (city),” Champion said.
The lack of work isn't the only reason he's leaving, though. He said it's hard to find a good place to camp without being disturbed and asked to move. He's also been struck three times by moving vehicles while riding his bike.
Although job markets, camp sites and attentive motorists may be more abundant in some places than others, Champion's hand-painted “HELP” sign on the back of his bicycle seat evokes assistance from people in Gadsden and “coast to coast,” he said.