Floyd Brown stood in the hallway Tuesday morning, inside the soup kitchen on Crawford Road. As he waited for soup, meat and bread, he stamped his 38-year-old feet. He was asked why.
"Because my feet are still cold," Brown said.
The thermometer outside late Tuesday morning showed 40 degrees. Better than around the 32 degrees that it was before dawn.
"Colder during the night," Brown said. He carries no thermometer. His feet know cold.
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I asked Brown if he had any heat where he sleeps, and he smiled a smile that is no smile at all, but clearly the only defense he has against the world.
"I slept in the woods," Brown said.
Brown, who found day work with a labor company before the economy fell apart, said he did not know that the Salvation Army had opened its doors Monday night for the hours into Tuesday morning for people like him. The homeless. He did not know what's called a "warming center," able to help dozens at night when the temperature is below 38 degrees, had its cold-season opening.
"I try to hold on," Brown said.
A preacher named George Mitchell, at the soup kitchen to help anybody he could, said he didn't know, either.
"Probably 10 people here any day don't have a place to live," Mitchell said. I gave Mitchell a copy of Tuesday's Herald. The front-page story saying the shelter opened was at the top. "That's good to know."
Mitchell showed off that story to a room of people.
A guy named Leroy McCrorey said he did not know about the warming center, either. He said he found a place to stay Monday night/Tuesday morning but had no regular place.
"Who can go?" McCrorey asked.
He was told anybody who is homeless and cold.
"I'm both," McCrorey said.
A survey last year showed at least 375 homeless people in York County.
However, nobody showed up for the first night Monday, according to the Salvation Army.
"Word will get out," said Maj. Melody McClure of the Salvation Army. "We opened earlier this year than last year. Last year, it was the first of the year. But it is already cold."
Even with good intentions, the opening was announced to the media Monday. Of course, people without a roof or heat don't watch local TV news.
That nobody homeless showed up the first night is not a crisis. The homeless world relies on a network that has no airwaves. Word will get around.
A cop working a second job as security at a grocery store told me he looked for one homeless guy he's known for years from near the northern stretch of Cherry Road, just to let him know the shelter would open.
Some woods off Wilson Street near Main Street, a sort of campground for the roofless for years, had nobody Tuesday. A guy named Mike Miller, just a decent man trying to help somebody less fortunate, said Tuesday he was looking for one guy who used to stay there, to let him know about the shelter. Another guy who used to stay in the woods already is warm -- he's in jail, Miller said.
Off Anderson Road at Exit 77 of Interstate 77, there was nobody in that stretch of woods where the homeless sometimes stay. But across the road, walking south, footstep after footstep, was a man in a winter coat. He had a hood over his head and carried a large, black, plastic garbage bag. In that bag were aluminum cans he collected in the grass and ditches to sell down the road at the metal recycler.
"Make a couple dollars," he said.
The man, William Alan Cameron, said he is 62 years old. I asked if he had a place to live and he said, "I do all right. I had a place last night."
I asked if he had a permanent place and he said no.
"This road here is my turf," he said. "I collect aluminum all the way down to the Indian reservation. Sometimes, people give me something to eat. I appreciate it when they do."
I asked Cameron if he knew the Salvation Army warming center and he said no.
I asked if he had seen the paper Tuesday because it had the story about the warming center opening, and he said no.
"Can't read, got no education," Cameron said.
Cameron took out pipe tobacco from a plastic bag with a press-type seal.
"Not that wacky stuff -- I just smoke a pipe," he said.
Cameron filled his pipe, just like grandfathers do in dens, below roofs, in homes. He tamped it with a forefinger. He lit the pipe with a lighter.
Then he began walking south on U.S. 21. He puffed the pipe. The black bag filled with cans was slung over his shoulder. He had to walk countless miles to collect cans to make a dollar, so maybe this 62-year-old man can eat and find a warm place to sleep.
The Salvation Army warming center, open overnight when temperatures drop below 38 degrees, is located at 119 Charlotte Ave. in Rock Hill. To donate supplies or for information, call 324-5141.
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