Homeless for the Holidays


The stereotypical Jacksonville Beach bum: This particular sect of our society is usually typified by its scruffy exterior, substance abuse problems and interactions with the rest of society that are often limited to an inquiry about the surf and quickly followed by a very forward attempt to make your wallet a little bit lighter.

But to over-generalize such a large group of people, which is estimated to in exceed 300 at the beaches alone, would be a crime of assumption against a growing less-auspicious group who cannot afford a home.

It is easy to saunter past these people and act like you don’t see them, but what does it say about our society if a person becomes intangible when he or she can’t afford a home?

The homeless who spoke to the Spinnaker come from diverse backgrounds and are on the street for a number of different reasons. Some were victims of personal ruin, others where casualties of the foster care system and some were just unlucky.

Mike Paterson
23 years old
Born in Jacksonville

Ugly is something Mike knows all too well. He lost his brother when he was 6 years old in a car accident and was placed in the foster care system at age 12 due to the “unlivable condition” the judge deemed his home. This thrust him in to the solitary life of an elder foster child until his 18th birthday, and he’s been on the street ever since. Looking across the sand at Mike, I didn’t see a victim of society or a casualty of the foster care system, though he could be easily branded as such. His adoration for life and gratitude for what little he has been given is a testament to the human condition of having less often means valuing it more.

“I love my life, even though I have very little to call my own. I love every day of it and wouldn’t change it for the world. You see too many people, homeless or not, focus on the ugly in life, then dwell on it. You see, ugly can be beautiful sometimes; sometimes you need to experience the bad and ugly in the world to feel human.”

John Murphy
71-year-old war veteran
Vienna, Georgia

As with many who have fought in foreign conflicts, John Murphy had no desire to stir up those memories. “I may have not fallen in ‘Nam, but part of me definitely never made it home,” he said. Rather than dwelling on his rocky past, John is faithfully committed to focusing on the good things his life – traveling up and down the coast depending on the season. Rising above the habits of his itchy palmed peers, John chooses crafting to feed himself rather than begging. He sells his handmade palm flowers and crosses by the Jacksonville Beach amphitheater.

“It’s not always enough to just love your family. Show them you love them. Life moves a lot faster than you could ever imagine, and well, love, showing love, goes a lot further than you can imagine. I’m 71 years old and don’t go a day without wishing I could just kiss my wife one more time or share a beer with my father. These people in your life won’t be there forever. Be thankful that you have them now and don’t forget to let them know that.”

Mike Williams
32 years old
North Carolina

“Man, all these people out here take all this stuff so seriously. Yeah, I’m homeless, so what? I’m also probably happier than most people with a home. I don’t need a house to be happy.”

Luis Delgado
75 years old
Mexican Immigrant

Born in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Luis was hired and brought to America as a carpenter. Living in Texas, he met his wife and eventually moved to Chicago following a job offer. Luis’ wife was killed in a car accident, and shortly after, he hurt his back rendering him unable to perform skilled labor. He tried life in New York, but unable to find a job that paid a decent salary, he made his way down the East coast trying to find a better life for himself.

“Even the homeless in America have it better than many in Mexico.”
“Deserve your dreams, deserve your dreams and the rest will follow.”

Compiled by Erik Tanner.