I did a lot of thinking on this one before writing it. There are things that people do not like to see or read about. I felt that I would go ahead and write it up.
You see it on the news and in the paper all the time. I am talking about what people call those who have no place to live. They are called homeless, vagrants, bums and “too sorry to work.” I met quite a few of them back when I was on the Rome Police Department
I walked a beat on Broad Street for several years. I got to know most of them by name and what had brought them to this stage in their life. I knew where they stayed at night, for most of them would come to the Cotton Block in the morning.
They would gather down at the end of the river bridge and wait to see if anyone would come along that needed someone to work. You could see them coming from under the bridges. That is where most of them lived. They had no homes or jobs, so they lived under the bridges or anywhere they could find shelter.
Most of them were alcoholics and stayed drunk most of the time. There was one that I remember and will not forget. He was a black man and his name was Louis.
Louis lived under the Second Avenue Bridge with a white man by the name of Irvin. They had built a house under the bridge out of cardboard boxes. They had a wood heater that only had one leg on it. The other sides sat on bricks. They gathered wood crates from the back of the stores and carried them under the bridge and made beds out of them. With their wood stove and homemade beds, they had a board that lay on bricks for a table.
The first time I went there I was surprised at what I saw. It was not what I wanted to live in, but it beat being out in the weather on a cold gray day. They built it back against the concrete pillar that helped keep the wind from hitting it. I remember laughing when Irvin called it a hacienda overlooking the water of the Coosa.
One day I got a call that a man was in the river. I headed for the Second Avenue bridge. When I pulled in at the bridge, Louis pointed toward the water. I got to where I could see and there, laying half in the river and half out, was Irvin.
This was a steep bank and I explained to headquarters what I had. With an ambulance en route, I worked my way to where Irvin lay. He never moved. In my mind he was dead, but just as I bent over to check him, he let out a moan. I noticed that he had ice all over his clothes where he had gotten wet.
The ambulance arrived and the EMTs began their chore to get to us. I motioned to one of the EMTs and he bent over and felt for Irvin’s pulse. He straightened up and said, “this man should be dead but he is still alive.”
Irvin was a big man and it took five of us to get him up the bank to the ambulance. At the hospital, the doctor who examined him shook his head and said, “he should be dead but he has so much alcohol in him that it has kept him alive.” I went to police headquarters and made out a report. Several weeks later I saw Irvin sitting on a porch in West Rome. How he had survived, I often wondered.
I would take a hot cup of coffee and an egg sandwich to Louis on an occasion. I would pull in and blow the horn and he would come out and get the coffee and sandwich. I kept a check on Louis for quite a while.
It was on a cold wet day I was flagged down by a person who advised me that something was wrong with Louis. I went to the bridge and got out. I walked down to the hacienda, as Irvin called it, pushed open the wooden door and looked in. I knew when I saw him that he was dead. Louis had frozen to death.
I have always tried not to judge anyone. I do not qualify as a judge. Everyone will be judged, when the time comes, by a qualified judge.
I remember that Irvin lived for several more years after falling into the river. As I stated, I have heard them called all kind of names. It does not matter whether you live in a mansion, drive a Cadillac or live under a bridge. When the time comes, you will be judged. All of us are creatures made by God.