While recently in Waco, Texas, I met Chuck Rose, a 55-year-old homeless man.
Despite an accounting degree from Northern Illinois University, he worked as an auto mechanic.
At 21, he married high school sweetheart Melody — a future OBGYN doctor.
They owned a nice house, cars and motorcycles.
Chuck's downward spiral began when Melody, 27, was coming home from work, blew a tire and rolled her Mercedes 357 — killing her and their unborn son.
"I was completely brokenhearted, and went ballistic," says Chuck. "After that, I met a demon named Jack Daniels — drank a fifth every day for a year."
Soon, he lost his house, started frying fish for Long John Silver's, then was imprisoned for driving a "borrowed" car home from a party.
Eventually, he joined a former prison buddy in Waco.
Now, he spends most nights in alleyways, and days collecting cans in a stroller — with his cat, Thunder, attached to a wire leash.
Chuck — who has a laptop, cell phone and Facebook page — regularly receives food donations and occasionally stays at acquaintances' houses — but "hates house rules."
The "unofficial spokesman" for Waco's homeless, says, "People
don't understand the homeless; we are completely free — no bills, obligations or schedules."
When asked about his dreams — while nursing a quart beer from a paper bag — Chuck belies this romantic notion.
"My dream is to have a good job, a nice place and a girlfriend that I can put up with."
Contact Wendel Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org