running man

Homeless are private citizens too

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As he is taking his rounds through Butler Plaza on Friday, Jan. 28, 2011.

Since I arrived in Gainesville in 2005, I have been completely fascinated with three people. Three homeless people, and by homeless I mean they wander the streets during the day, but they are not all necessarily homeless. They are the underground celebrities. Everyone knows who they are, everyone hears rumors about them or knows something about them, and they all have a (silently agreed upon) nickname. THE bum, the running man, and the whore. If you ask any police officer or any other bum and refer to them by the above-mentioned names, they all know who you are talking about. They are simply known for aimlessly wandering the streets of Gainesville rather than congregating with the rest of the bums in downtown. I do not mean to use bum in a derogatory way.

If you try to find information from the police, as I did, you won’t get far. Yes, they may be homeless, but they have privacy rights too. The police know exactly where they hang out or if they “live” somewhere, but cannot tell you.

He has been my favorite but I have yet to work up the courage to actually converse with him. He is an African-American man, about 5’6″, and smells like he has never had a shower. He wears a navy blue beanie, layers of clothes topped off with a large navy blue hoodie, and sneakers. He used to carry an umbrella and the hoodie has replaced a large, faded, leather Colts jacket. According to the women at the front desk of the GPD station, his jacket was stolen. Who steals from a bum!? They also told me he doesn’t speak to people, but will just sit and mumble to himself. If you watch him as he is walking you will see his lips moving, and if you are near enough you can hear him mumbling. He hangs around Butler Plaza and walks in and out of the stores. He has been spotted sleeping on the bench outside the Walmart. He used to have mid-back-length dreadlocks, with the beanie resting on top like a star on a Christmas tree. In spring of 2008, he cut his hair- I always wanted to find out where and how!- and it has been up to his shoulders ever since.
One day before I leave this city, I will attempt to talk to him.

I was trying to get information from one Alachua County Sherriff’s Office officer:
“She is really skinny, blond, curly hair, and rides around on a bicycle. She’s got really fair skin.”
“Oh you mean the whore?”

My friend and I had always seen her and she was always dressed in new clothes. They ranged from sweatpants, to a mini skirt and boots, to a dress, or just jeans and a nice top.

The women at the GPD desk told me she was rumored to have some kind of illness, they knew it to be a cancer of some sort and she apparently had been getting weaker and thinner recently. A friend who knows a CVS pharmacist revealed about two years ago that the pharmacist had been filling a prescription for her and confirmed that she had an STD of some sort.

I haven’t seen her in over a year, though.
I even walked around Bo Diddley Community Plaza asking about her. Some knew who she was and said she biked by regularly, but had no other information.

Now this guy is just fun. He runs around on SW 20th Ave and SW 34th St and waves at everyone driving by. He is an African-American with a cool afro that is parted in the middle. Each side looks like big fuzzy wings. Maybe to help him run better. He’s always wearing running shorts, or sweatpants and a running shirt.
The Alligator took a video of him in 2009, and wanted to do something around the same time last year, 2010. I was a stringer for the multimedia section and was assigned this task. The funny thing about homeless people is you can’t really find them when you want them. Time is irrelevant to them.

As it turns out the GPD spokeswoman knew a little bit about him. She has participated in local races and apparently so has he. He gets sponsored…probably how he affords to feed himself. His name is supposedly Tinmothy Rogers, but no one can find any solid information on him. An online search revealed he lived somewhere on SW 20th Ave.

I finally found him, but was on my way to work so couldn’t take my video then. I pulled over to talk to him though, as he was running by Mill Run Condominiums.
I asked his name, he replied Timmy. I asked him if he runs in local races and he said yes, and then asked me to turn my radio to 91.3 FM, a Christian station. He said I would find all the answers there.
I tried to ask him where he stayed or if he could meet me the next day at the same place. He said he would meet me at the same place. I waited for two hours, nothing.

I have to admit I was slightly skeptical to begin with. It seemed he didn’t have any way to check time, because when I had asked him to meet me at 4 p.m., he looked at his empty wrist and then said, no problem, 4 o’clock. Made me wonder, but I guess I’ll never know. I even drove around when I was free for the next week to see if I could spot him. No luck.

We may never know their story, but I’ve always wished I would get the opportunity to write it. Let’s see what I can accomplish in the next four months.