Three homeless men share stories

June 29, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

Terry Clayton wants to find a job - once he gets an identification card.

Van Jordan would like to work, too - after he gets medication for his frostbitten feet.

Samuel DeLee is intentionally staying homeless for a little while.

All three men spoke last week about being homeless as they sat at the Hagerstown Union Rescue Mission, waiting for an evening prayer service to begin.


Clayton, 46, said he used to live in Canton, Ohio, with his mother. Two years ago, she died.

Without her, "There was just nothing," he said.

So he left.

Clayton said he has family elsewhere, but he doesn't talk to them.

He spent six months in Spartanburg, S.C., where he cooked breakfast at a shelter. But his allotted time at the shelter ran out.


Clayton hitchhiked north and walked a lot. He went to Washington, then swung back to Hagerstown, which he remembered from a previous visit.

He has no identification. When that's resolved, he plans to try for a landscaping or dishwashing job.


Jordan, 40, is a Reno, Nev., native, but said he's lived everywhere except Hawaii and Alaska.

He graduated at 18 years old and went to Florida.

With 13 years in Maryland, he seems to have settled on a state.

Jordan said he makes good money when he finds work as an electrician. He recalls helping to wire some of the downtown government buildings he passes each day.

But he's not working now. He said he got frostbite on both feet this past winter and has had no luck getting medication to treat it.

His situation gets him down, and he said he drinks.

Never downtown, though - only when he's back at the secluded tent camp he keeps along the Antietam Creek.

He said his father has money, but Jordan won't ask for any.

"I could, but I don't," he said. "I'm a 40-year-old man with a ... good trade. Why should I ask for help? It's embarrassing."


DeLee, 45, grew up in South Carolina. He came to Washington County two years ago for a job.

He also got engaged. But a dispute ended the relationship, DeLee said.

"She asked me to leave," he said. "I've been homeless ever since."

Yet, he considers this new low point to be a "godsend" and a lesson.

"It's intense," he said. "My only clothes are in a backpack. I have relearned how to make everything count, make it do, make it go longer."

DeLee said he wants to start a transportation business. But, first he wants to maintain his lean life for a while and let hardship sink in.

"I have the skills and abilities to get a job," he said. "But I have decided on purpose not to now. ... I really want to see. Whatever it is I do must affect the bottom of the barrel."

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