My Encounter with an Opportunistic Charleston Homeless Man

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Drinking coffee

By Mark A. Leon

Last evening I was approached by a friendly homeless man on a bike with sweet grass flowers on the corner of Market and Church.? He politely introduced himself and asked my name and made an immediate assumption I was from New York and then when I corrected him, saying I live here, he defaulted to Summerville.? Close, James Island.

After the formalities were out of the way, he indicated that he was not asking for money, but just wanted to be able to put some food in his stomach.? I was pondering for a moment where this conversation was going if he wasn’t asking for money, but wanted food.? I obviously knew where the conversation would lead, but didn’t want to disrupt his elevator speech too quickly.

After a few more sentences, I kindly disrupted, letting him know I only had a phone, car keys and a credit card and absolutely no cash on my person.

He then asked, if I had money, would I have given him some.? I naturally said yes.

Then he said, “Can I ask you a serious question?”

My immediate reaction was that he wanted to ask my opinion on his sales pitch.? A little startled, I said yes as I looked to my right, eagerly awaiting the arrival of my dinner date.? He pointed to the end of Market Street saying, “If you go to the corner right over there and make a right, there is an ATM”.

There it was, a homeless man had just asked me to go to an ATM to get him money.? He wanted me to walk two blocks, get money from an ATM and come back and give it to him.

Now that was bold and opportunistic.

The only flaw was that I haven’t had an ATM card for over 15 years.

The times they are a changing in Charleston.? Opportunity and greed come at all levels.

Happy Holidays Charleston and don’t forget your ATM card.

Tent City of Charleston Initiative – Helping the City Homeless…Year Round

helpingThe Tent City of Charleston Initiative is a group of civil minded citizens whose hearts stretch far beyond the borders of the holy city.? Their generosity and hope of a better tomorrow are a guiding light for us to follow.

Surrounded by all the wonderful media, boutique hotels, five star restaurants, booming economy and educational foundation lies a small population of homeless that live in small tent cities in Charleston.? Most of us have witnessed these mobile residents and have looked beyond them.

There is a group who has dedicated themselves to being guardian angels and banding together to give them the basic needs to sustain themselves and their families.

Each week, a wish list and a recurring list of basic needs are released to the public.? There is no obligation or fan fare, just community partnership and generosity.? Five locations have offered their businesses as drop off points.

If items are for a specific person, the donor just has to leave a note with the name of the person who will receive the items.

Drop Off Sites

Mount Pleasant

Habitat for Humanity – 469 C Long Point Rd

Lowcountry Consignments off of Hwy 41 (1179 Gregorie Ferry Road)

The Shelter Kitchen and Bar – 202 Coleman Boulevard

Pleasant Paws Day Spa – Belle Station Boulevard

North Charleston

Mjm Salon Company – 8410 Rivers Ave Suite I

This weeks wish list includes:

Tent City of Charleston Initiative Facebook Group

You may not know John, Christopher, Noah, Dana, David, Jeffrey or Peter, but like you and I, they wake each day and breathe the same air.? They unfortunately, do not have a place to call home or the financial luxuries so many of us are accustomed to.? Without jeopardizing their pride, this initiative has lead a crusade to once again show the strength of the City of Charleston and its incredible ability to help one another.

If you want to become part of something bigger than yourself this holiday season or even beyond, give to those that cannot help themselves.

To all the volunteers of this initiative, so for five years, thank you for once again showing the power of love in Charleston.

The Beauty of Charleston can be found in the kindness of the homeless

Written by Loretta Jophlin

A Thank you To Byron

I had been very lucky up until that moment. Nothing truly bad had ever happened to me. I have never been beaten, raped or murdered. All of that was about to change.

“Just open the door.” My attacker squeezed the back of my neck and pressed his body against mine, wedging me against the door. I knew who he was: the man who had been bothering me all night at Capone’s, the bar around the corner from my apartment.

A scream caught in my throat and he ripped the keys out of my hand and began jamming them into the lock. I knew I had just a few seconds to get out of the situation and finally my screams echoed up King Street and down Burns Lane. He grabbed my pony tail twisting my neck, but I managed to scrambled away, leaving him with a handful of my hair. By the time I could turn around, my attacker was no longer behind me, but being dragged down King Street and onto Burns Lane by a large, black man. That man’s name was Byron Knight. I ran inside and locked myself in my studio apartment, hysterically sobbing while Bryon beat my perpetrator with his fists behind a garbage dumpster.

Byron was a fixture on King Street in the late 1990’s to 2000’s. Well known for panhandling to scrape up enough money for a single cigarette or a hot dog from King Street Station, few know about the good deeds he did. Byron saved me that night, from certain doom. I cannot say where I would be today if Byron had not intervened. My next encounter with Byron, I sheepishly gave him a corndog and a pack of Newports in appreciation. He accepted gratefully, without further discussion. It became a ritual thereafter. I would buy him a corndog whenever I saw him. We would chat and then part ways. I would study. He would, as rumor would have it, go smoke crack. It didn’t bother me. One summer day, I found Bryon sitting in front of my apartment, with a huge smile and a box of chicken wings. “Hey girl, break bread with me.” I politely declined. “No way lady, you take care of me all the time. Let me give a little back.”

Rejecting his kindness was not an option. His honor was on the line. I knew those wings were from a trash can. I sat beside him on the stoop, reached in for a wing and ate it. I even had seconds. “This makes me legit, right?” Bryon asked.

I moved off of King Street, to the suburbs of Rutledge Avenue and saw Byron a lot less. One bright morning, while walking to class, Bryon rode by on a bike. He saw me and turned around with that famous smile. “Hey girl! Let me give you a ride.”

“Neh, Byron, I’m good.”

“Get on the bike!” he ordered. I immediately acquiesced and hopped on the back, wrapping my arms around his waist. I’m not gonna lie. He was dirty, dirty from living on the streets. He took me to my destination and a thanked him for the ride, suddenly smelling myself smelling like him. “No problem! Hey can I borrow your cell phone. I wanna call my girlfriend.”
I was shocked. “You have a girl friend?”

“Shoot, you must be crazy. I got girlfriends.” He laughed. I lent him my phone and he arranged his date with a lucky lady. He rode away on his bike. That was the last time I saw Byron. I hear someone bought him a bus ticket to go to California. I carry him with me still, in my heart: a homeless man, who shared his meal, gave me a ride and saved my life. Byron had very little, but what he did, he was eager to share with others. He is an example of the true beauty of Charleston.