Disabled Homeless Wichita Falls Man Responds to Online Criticism: Shares Heartfelt Message
This morning, as I was looking around on Facebook, I noticed a picture being shared around a lot of different Wichita Falls groups. The picture was of a homeless man seen near the WalMart on I-44. He's usually sitting in a wheelchair, but this pic showed him standing up. It was then full of comments speculating and accusing the man of many things
Don't judge people just by what you see. You don't know the whole story until you talk to them
After reading some of the comments, I got a little worked up. This guy had no way to defend himself, yet people were posting things that were downright cruel. There was speculation that he was a complete fraud, just out to get people's money and not actually homeless. There were people saying that he wasn't disabled, and the wheelchair was just a ploy. There were others saying that he was impersonating a veteran. There were even some calls for violence. I decided that instead of sitting at my desk and commenting, I should go out and actually do something. Whether the speculations were true or not, this man deserved the chance to defend himself. We took the camera, got in the car, and drove out to try to meet him and see if he'd let us talk to him.
He was easy to spot, sitting on the island in the median near KFC. We introduced ourselves, told him why we came out, showed him the picture that was being shared online and asked him if it would be OK to film a video and let him tell us his story.
For anyone who didn't know, the man has a name. His name is Mark. Mark told us how he came to Wichita Falls with his daughter, but ended up associating with some people who he shouldn't have. Although he never got arrested, he was with some people who were and his daughter and him had a falling out. He's spent some time living with an uncle, but it was a temporary thing. The biggest thing that put Mark in the spot he's in now was an accident that led to a hospital stay and injuries he's still combating today.
Yes, he is able to walk, but not for long distances. There's a difference between being disabled and being crippled. His wheelchair is necessary, but he can get up and walk for small amounts of time when he has to.
He was a little embarrassed about the picture being shared because he said he was relieving himself at the time. No, outside behind a dumpster isn't necessarily the right place to do that, but he says most of the business in the area have barred him from entering.
I asked him about getting a job and he told me one of the problems with that is his foot injury. He's still waiting on some help to come through and needs more surgeries done. It's hard to find a position to work when any day he could end up having to go in for that right then. He also has some legal papers that he needs to obtain.
He says he's not out there everyday making tons of money, like other people speculated. On a good day, he can get enough to get a room or someone will buy him a meal. He says that he doesn't drink alcohol, but does smoke cigarettes and probably drinks a little too much Dr. Pepper, when he is able to. I asked him about staying at a shelter. He said that he has before, but he was robbed there once and feels safer other places. Occasionally, someone will offer him a room for a night.
He said the police don't really try to hassle him. He got a couple tickets at first, and then one officer stopped and helped him get a permit from the city. Since then, he's just been doing what he can do day by day.
All-in-all, Mark is just another human. He's fallen on some bad luck and is doing what he can do to try to make it better. The main point he had to say to all the people on the internet speculating was this: "Don't judge people just by what you see. You don't know the whole story until you talk to them."