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It started with a “stupid” accident. Michael was goofing around with his kids on the trampoline when he fell off and broke his leg. Despite having a procedure that required literally screwing his leg back together, Michael has reduced movement in his leg and a significant limp. Social Security turned him down for disability insurance because he was “too mobile.” Yet Michael has had difficulty keeping employment because even basic jobs, such as his one at Arby’s that required him to stand, cause him pain. Further, without a car, he had always biked to work. With his injury, biking became difficult as well. With no public transportation in Burlington, and no one to give him a ride, he ended up losing his job. He has been applying for disability for the past 3 years to no avail. Michael has not lost hope, but he has struggled over the years—his wife left, he lost custody of his children, he landed in jail for a time, and he has battled alcohol addiction.
About seven years ago he met Andrew at the shelter. The quickly became friends and have helped support each other ever since. “Trying to do it alone … I mean, you can do it, but it’s easier with somebody watching.” The public library has been a sanctuary for Michael and Andrew, but each night, they head back to a tent to sleep. Michael is working with a veteran’s organization to try to get a home, and ultimately a job, but he admits that the immediate future doesn’t look like it will be much different from today. “That’s the thing about being homeless,” he says. “It’s just the same old, same old.
Interviewed by Tom Mould, 2015. Photographed by Erin Turner, 2015