“The first time I got evicted and I didn’t have a place to go and I had a bag of clothes. I hid them in the bushes where I slept. And that’s when the bathrooms used to be open all the time. And that’s how you’d take your shower… you’d get cleaned up – you didn’t take shower, you got cleaned up or you washed your shirt with – if you had a bar of soap. That’s how I lived.” What is it like to be you? “I try to be… I’m happy. I don’t get mad. I can’t get mad. I can’t. And that’s me. If you see me sitting down there by Mr. Subs and I’m out there sitting, I’ll wave, if you wave, I’ll wave. I’ll smile I don’t care. I’m not going to come up to somebody and say, oh, I’ll give you whole list of what’s wrong today. No. Who’s going to want to hear it? Nobody. Nobody will.” You use the word homeless, do you feel at home anywhere? “You know, for me, I’ll speak for myself, I have a place now – I can’t be in it. I’m not used to, for once, to have something where I could say ‘Oh man, this is mine.’ I see the sun come up – I’m gone. I’ll go, ‘Why in the hell are you doing this here when you could to at home?’ No. Because I know, in a couple minutes it could be gone – and then where am I anyway?”
Howie Morenz, 57, was born in Watertown and returned here after serving in the military. During his life he’s been homeless off and on for eight years. He shared this experience of being homeless and how he navigates his life. He found a home this year on January 29.
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Howie Morenz, a military veteran, was homeless off and on for eight years in Watertown.
Meredith Turk: So you wanted to talk about your life. Why have you wanted to?
Howie Morenz: People have asked me, of all the things, because I go down the river walk – the Veterans River Walk and… Yeah. I’ve actually lived there. I lived there for over a year.
MT: Can you describe it for people who have never been?
HM: It’s a walkway. It’s a wooden bridge that goes a little ways over the water and right across from there is where I slept. I’d go in at – I would be there at seven. And I wouldn’t come back until nine at night. I’d leave, come back, but it’d have to be after nine so that way you don’t get seen.
MT: So, how did you come to that place and stay there?
HM: The first time I got evicted, and I didn’t have a place to go. I had a bag of clothes. I hid them in the bushes were I slept. And that’s when the bathrooms used to be open all the time. And that’s how you’d take your shower. You’d get cleaned up. You didn’t take a shower, you got cleaned up, or you washed your shirt, if you had a bar of soap. That’s how I lived. I mean, you didn’t have…I’d go to the soup kitchen, I ended up volunteering. I was even working at Denny’s, still living down there, because I didn’t have enough money.
MT: What is it like being you?
HM: I try to be happy. I’m happy. I can’t get mad, I can’t. And that’s me. If you see me sitting down there by Mr. Subs and I’m out there sitting. I’ll wave; if you wave, I’ll wave. I’ll smile. I don’t care. It’s like, “Hey, how you doing today? “I’m doing good, now.” It could stink, but I’m going to say, “It’s great.” I’m not going to come up to somebody and say, “Oh, I’ll give you whole list of what’s wrong today.” No. Who’s going to want to hear it? Nobody. Nobody will.
MT: Can you tell me about, and only if you’re comfortable, tell me about one of the hardest nights living out there?
HM: Before you go to bed and it’s a beautiful sky, or even in the winter; it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to say this; you don’t have nobody to call home or you don’t have nobody to say goodnight to. And then you pray tomorrow is going to be better. And a lot of nights—it wasn’t just a few—a lot of nights, you go to bed and you do cry. I don’t care who you are out there. You’re a grown man—you do. If you have any feelings, when you go to bed and you don’t have nobody, or anybody around where could just, like, “Help me.” Christmas and Thanksgiving was pretty much the hardest. But, I had food stamps, so I ended up getting some ham. So I had a ham sandwich and that was Thanksgiving. And then Christmas I got turkey one time and I made a turkey sandwich. You can’t get mad. I had a place; I had my table, I even—if I had guests, there was other tables.
MT: What are you proud of in your life?
HM: You know, making it. Making it day by day, day by day. Not saying jobs or anything, but just doing it. Being there, getting up and doing what you’re supposed to do. That is the most important thing. You can’t sit down and say, well, this is going to happen tomorrow so I might as well sit here and wait for it. Heck no. Get out and enjoy what you got. It’s you; you personally is what you have. Nobody else can give it to you. It’s what you take. And everybody is a good person, a beautiful person. No matter what, they could talk about me all they want. I hear it all the time anyway. Who cares? You know, as long as you know what’s true and what’s not. The rest is like “Let it be.” Go ahead, just laugh it over. That’s probably why I smile as much as I do. I hear it every day anyway. So why not?
MT: Thank you for talking with me.
HM: You’re welcome.