Homeless: Living on the Streets
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — It’s the time of year to think about heading into our homes and turning up the heat to keep out of the cold. However, each year in Springfield 1,200 to 1,400 people are homeless. While many go to a shelter, others choose to sleep on the streets.
ABC40’s Brittany Decker spent an evening with Charlie Knight of Springfield. He led Brittany around the city and shared the truth of what it is like to be homeless and survive during the cold months.
It is the middle of November and nighttime temperatures have already dipped into the 20s. “The guy that thinks he going to make it through may not make it at all,” explains Charlie.
He knows all about what it’s like to live for months on the city streets. He came to Springfield looking for a job, but the little income he had coming in just wasn’t enough.
“Without work, what are you going to do three weeks later? With no money to pay the rent, next thing you know you’re evicted,” says Charlie.
Fortunately he is out of the cold, but many others are not so lucky.
“There were lots of us living here on the bank of the river,” notes Charlie as he shows us parts of the city that most residents have probably never seen before. He explains the ways of survival that he had no choice but to learn, “It’s learn or die, pretty much.”
Most homeless try to live out of the public eye, going off the beaten path to keep warm and safe. Charlie showed the reality of where to stay; places that aren’t so obvious.
“The bridge connects to the land and there is a spot underneath that most people don’t look. You can curl up close underneath it and be out of the elements a little,” he says as he points to a small crevice under the bridge.
Following Charlie to the banks of the Connecticut River, we grabbed a stick to help us down the slope.
“You were taking that off the roof,” says Charlie.
“What roof?” asks Brittany Decker.
As she walked down the slope she saw exactly what Charlie was talking about. She had taken a stick off the roof of a hand-made shelter that could very well be someone’s place to sleep tonight.
“It looks just like a pile of sticks,” explains Charlie,” But notice, they even put plastic up.” It is material used in attempt to keep warm. “Plastic has to be a ways away from you to stop the wind from coming at you.”
As we continued to walk about a quarter mile down, we found another structure completely sealed shut.
“This is the type of thing we would create so we could live in somewhat of a little home and not be imposing on anybody,” says Knight.
He continues to explain how desperately trying to survive the night means sleeping behind walls, “Nobody sees you, you’re away from some of the wind, it’s not too bad.”
Nooks and crannies, even a storm drain is appealing at times.
“See!” says Charlie as he looks in the drain.
“So people actually go in here?” asks Brittany Decker.
“They use to, but the rubber thing on here may keep us out now,” he says.
Parking garages and parking lots may be a bed for some. And in the South end of the city Charlie showed us a popular, yet dangerous location to sleep: abandoned buildings.
“Is it safe?” asks Decker.
“We are talking about the difference between dying or staying alive, so safe doesn’t come into it,” Charlie responds.
The simple necessities of life many of us take for granted…”Home is a separate bedroom, a yard, maybe a little garden,” says Charlie.
However for those who live here, this is a distant dream.
69-year-old Charlie Knight is now living in an apartment by STCC in Springfield where he is also taking classes.
He is on the board of directors for Friends of the Homeless shelter on Worthington Street and also serves as a voice for homeless in Springfield, encouraging anyone on streets to come to the shelter, especially during the cold months.