King of the Hill
“I thank God that I found a spot like this to chill in and I think I got a lot of the community behind me so I should be okay,” says Timothy. Timothy came to Durham, North Carolina in November of 2010 and has been living in his spot on the hill since September 2011. He lives alone in the camp and he is proud of how he maintains his camp. “The only thing that can get me out of this place is a woman or my son,” he says.
“I broke not one, but both arms. I fought with asphalt. I was on a racing bike doing about 30 miles an hour and a car cut me off. I’ve showed you my battle scars. It’ll never be the same.. and that’s what’s holding up my disability.. it’s because the hospital that did the surgery on me knows they messed up. They ruined my elbow. The wrist is fixable. I don’t think the elbow is fixable unless they put in an artificial elbow,” says Timothy. A hospital in Montana recommended that he come to the Duke hospital, which is how he ended up in Durham.
“I called Duke and explained my situation. I said I’m gonna have to hitchike down there but if you’ll fix my hand I’ll come. So I did. I got here in November 2010. They said just show up at the emergency room and oh God they gave me a hard time. I went through four or five different meetings to be told we don’t have the funds available. I came out to get back on I-40, not sure which way I was gonna go and ran into some people who says hey we got a lady who can hook you up and it was Ms. Carolyn,” says Timothy. Ms. Carolyn works for Open Table Ministry in Durham, which aids the homeless community. Timothy now sits by the I-40 exit ramp to ask for money.
Durham recently passed Ordinance #14375, which limits where people can panhandle. Certain medians and corners are restricted, which has led to numerous citations being given out. Timothy only goes out for about an hour in the mornings, just to get what he needs and then he goes home.
Each Wednesday afternoon, Open Table Ministry hosts a lunch on the side of 15-501, that is free for everyone. Members of local churches come and serve food to the homeless community. Everyone eats and catches up. Timothy attends the lunch every week and brings his dog Reeses, who gets everyone’s leftovers.
Timothy has a son who just turned 18 and was supposed to receive money that Timothy left for him. The money has disappeared and Timothy is trying to figure out who is responsible for giving it away and is trying to get it back. He has two cell phones, to ensure various attorneys and others involved can be in contact with him. He sits in his tent with Reeses and makes phone calls on a rainy afternoon.
Open Table Ministry has a storage unit, in which they store clothing, food, tables, and chairs, among other things. It is right by the site where they have lunch and worship each week, so that they do not have to constantly carry everything back and forth from home. Timothy wanted shorts and a t-shirt when the weather warmed up, so a volunteer from Open Table let him see what clothing was in the storage unit.
Along with feeding and taking care of his dog Reeses and his cat Ezra, Timothy also has a bird feeder which he regularly refills. He says the birds wake him up in the mornings. He cleans and works on his camp most days of the week.
“In 2011 I met John and he’s the one who suggested I come over here. It’ll be two years straight up that I’ve been on this hill.” John owns a nursery farther up on the hill near Timothy and provides and pays for Timothy to have electricity. Timothy has a “kitchen tent” with a refrigerator and microwave. He regularly plays music in his camp and also watches TV and movies in his “bedroom tent.”
“She’s a great dog.” Reeses is with Timothy everywhere he goes. He feels blessed to have her around. She knows if someone is coming into the camp and will bark to make Timothy aware of it. Here Reeses sits on his bed as he pets and hugs her.
Timothy watches TV in his tent at night. He prepares to put in Top Gun, which he says is one of his favorite movies.
“It’s frustrating for me not to be able to make a living and sit out there and hold a piece of cardboard. It’s humbling, but it’s humiliating too. It’s something I definitely would not want to write home about.”