Timothy Walker, Jr., 30, has no real home. He is one of the area’s homeless who works the demeaning job of panhandling, though he would dispute the use of the term. He also lives in the local tent city along with less than a dozen other homeless.
“I work both sides,” he said, explaining that he stays there along the Scioto River but also stays with other homeless living down at the camping site near the Ohio River. “I’m down by the campers down at the circle. I’ve got tents there and here. I work both sides, clean and help at both sides.”
During the day, Walker spends his time standing with a homeless sign asking for donations.
“Panhandling is when you straight up walk up to someone and ask them for money,” he argued. “I just stand with a sign, and people pull over and give on their own.”
Walker also visits food pantries for food that he takes back to share with the other homeless, who have become his only family. During the day, he takes advantage of the free meals offered through the Salvation Army. His clothing comes from donations and from the homeless shelter, clothing he has little choice but to wash in public restrooms.
“I’ll be straight up honest,” he said. “I go into bathrooms at places and wash my clothes out and then bring them back here and hang them up.”
All the tent city residents have laundry hanging around their shelters, either on cables or on fences. Those who do not use the water supplies of gas station and fast food restrooms, wash their laundry in collected rain water or river water.
Walker is one of the first to call the area home.
“See, I’ve done this for like five years or longer,” he said about being homeless.
Walker explained that when he first started staying by the river, it was being used as a dump.
“When I came down here, you couldn’t even see a path,” he explained. “That trash was this high (holding his hand high on his hip).”
Trash would get washed up from the river bottoms. With quite a mountain forming from the water washing debris to shore, area citizens saw no reason not to add to the problem by dumping their own garbage. Walker explained that he cleaned out all of the trash by burning it. He added that he and the other homeless in the area continually pick up trash that comes up from the river and run out drug addicts and thieves who would be down in the area causing trouble.
Between trying to find food, keeping up with maintaining shelters, dealing with weather, fighting insects and pests and running off those who come down with ill intent, it is a difficult life.
“Down here it is pretty much survival,” Walker said.
His homeless journey started with tragedy. As a homeless person, he has also been a vagrant, moving around often. Walker first started life on the streets in Raceland, Ky. He then moved into Ironton and eventually made his way to Portsmouth.
“I lost people in my family, and since then I’ve just been bouncing around,” he commented as to why he lives on the streets.
Walker has vision and health problems and is alone in the world. He has no family or friends to turn to. Other homeless have provided his only bonds.
As he spoke, other homeless stood around watching, from nearby tents. Some had strings ran on sticks to designate property lines or to prevent trespassing.
With his present and agreeing, Walker told how each helps the other and how they all take care of the whole by contributing all they can to the community, though they have little to share. He added that they have little trouble living where they do, stating everyone gets along. The only trouble they have is from outsiders who come down to steal or vandalize.
“It’s pretty peaceful down here,” he stated about a life out of sight from the rest of society, a life of little, a life of work and hardship and the only life he has managed to build for himself.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.