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Welcome To Shawnee, Oklahoma: The Worst City In America To Be Homeless: Live from the Roasterie CXXXV: May 29, 2014

When I see things like this, my only reaction can be: just what is wrong with these people?

Scott Keyes:Welcome To Shawnee, Oklahoma: The Worst City In America To Be Homeless: "Gary Lynn Roy was too poor to live indoors...

At night, even when it was cold, even when it snowed, he slept outside. He had no choice. There are plenty of reasons why he was poor. He’d earn occasional pay as a builder, but construction jobs were too few. Nor did it help that he and his twin brother Larry used to drink heavily together. Larry eventually got clean. Gary tried. Sometimes he’d sober up, but just as often he’d relapse. Larry wanted to help, but alcoholism is a vicious disease. Eventually, Larry returned to the family home, alone, in order to get his life back on track, while Gary remained on the streets. “I feel so guilty [leaving my brother],” Larry told Glenn Blankenship, who ran a nearby homeless non-profit.

By late 2012, though, Gary seemed to be turning things around. He’d stopped drinking. He’d found a construction job. Things were looking up. Then, while working on a roof one day, he fell. The impact broke both his legs. He couldn’t move without a walker, so construction work was out of the question. “Sleeping outside is hard enough, but then having a hard time getting around and being cold?” Blankenship told ThinkProgress. “He just had to be miserable.”... On February 20 of last year, as Gary Roy was readying for sleep by the railroad tracks in a small city called Shawnee, that local news ran dire headlines: “Oklahoma Bracing For Second Wave Of Winter Weather.” Temperatures dropped below freezing. Snow started falling and it didn’t stop. By the next day, six inches had blanketed the area. No one will know if Roy had final words, because no one was there when he took his last breath.

Roy died, as so many homeless do, surrounded by homes. He may have even helped build some of them, knowing he himself couldn’t afford to be in one. Authorities discovered his body the next day, lying in the snow. He would have been 50 today. He’ll forever be 49. It didn’t have to be that way. Less than a mile from where Roy froze to death, there was supposed to be a brand new shelter for Shawnee’s homeless.... And yet the shelter was never built.... Standing between Roy and dozens of new shelter beds that night was one wealthy city commissioner and a city that has declared all-out war on its homeless residents...