Word & Image 

William Smith, 51. Unemployed.

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"I've lived on this island [on the James River] since 2003 — about 11 or 12 years. I don't go to shelters or stuff like that. Some people stop through here, they come down here and look after me. Shit, I've been homeless, man, for 30 years. After my parents died out in Tappahannock, I think I was about 20. I hitchhiked here. I just couldn't take that no more, being there.

"I've never had my own home. Not a day in my life. This is about the closest thing. I can come and go when I please, and I ain't got nobody messing with me.

"I was staying underneath the bridge over there — you know where Off the Hookah is? This dude, this dude named J.D., he was staying on the other island over there, so he turned me onto this island, and I've been here ever since then.

"Wasn't nobody here then. It was kind of trashy and stuff, so I had to clean it up. I started hustling getting canvas and stuff together — get me a tent and stuff like that, a mattress. 

"And then, stuff got to happening down here, and the new young 'uns got to moving down here. I got in a little trouble with them, had to go to jail for a couple of months. They accused me of rape and robbery and throwing a lady in the fire. But it wasn't true, and they let me go in a month's time, because the lady came forward. Really, they was trying to take the island from me, so the two of them lied.

"Other than that, you know, shoot — I've been doing pretty good. I do my little hustle, wake up early in the morning. Sometimes I gather cans. Sometimes I find little odds and ends. Sometimes I go stand on the corner with the fellas, run across some jobs cutting grass, cutting down bushes — yard work mostly. I can make a few dollars, but sometimes it gets a little hectic. I just come on down here and lay down and go to sleep. That's about it.

"These geese come up and mess with me. They come in my tent looking for food. It's crazy, man. There's two of them. There's raccoons, too. Yeah, I want to kill the hell out of them. Yeah, because, they tearing my stuff all to pieces. I got one pet one that comes around sometimes in the daytime, it always comes up to me and stuff. I got a red tail fox around here too that comes every night. My cat is Elly May. That's my baby there.

"I usually get back around 5 or 6 — before it gets dark. I just sit up and cut my little radio on — 105.7 [Kiss FM], I kind of like that station. I feed Elly May, play with her, then me and her get on in and go to sleep."


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