Aurora couple loses car wash home and is forced back to the streets

Antonio “Kapone” Williams has lived in an old Aurora car wash with his wife Lynn for a month. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com
Part 3 of this report

Aurora, CO – When I last left you in this series, Antonio “Kapone” Williams and his wife Lynn, a homeless couple, were squatting in an old and abandoned 75 cent coin operated car wash located at East Colfax Ave. and Joliet St. in North Aurora, Colorado.

Additionally, a homeless man named Jeff was panhandling with his 2 year old daughter “Summer” (her name changed) outside of a South West Aurora McDonald’s restaurant at S. Havana St. and E. Florida Ave.  Kapone and Lynn had been living in the old car wash for about a month.  Jeff, had his daughter Summer for the weekend, his wife in the Denver County Jail for and old criminal offense.  Jeff was 25 dollars short for a motel room for the night with his child.

Kapone and Lynn were living in the old car wash.  Jeff was panhandling with his daughter Summer in tow.

A couple of evenings later I rolled up on a serious street shooting incident near Mississippi and Havana in South Aurora.  The shooting had occurred just east of that intersection in the middle of East Mississippi Ave.  It’s 6:12 PM.  I’m snapping still pics of the shooting scene.  Numerous Aurora cops swirl around a sedan with a rear window that has obviously been blasted out by gunfire.  An ambulance has just left the scene with one victim.  I’m clicking the shutter on my DSLR camera when I glance to my right and who do I see?  Jeff.  The homeless panhandler from the other evening, and yes, his daughter Summer is still in tow in her stroller.  On this occasion Summer is wide awake.  Jeff still has a half-gallon of milk on the top of her stroller and Summer, this time eyes wide open, is sucking on her milk bottle.  “Jeff” I say!  Remember me?  Shane, from outside of the McDonald’s the other night.”  Jeff looks at me. “Sure” he says.  I remember you!”  “Did you and Summer make it to a motel that night?” I ask.  “Yep, I sure did.” Answers Jeff.  “I’m looking to get into another one tonight.  Right now I’m only $15 bucks short.”

Jeff surveys the Aurora shooting crime scene, his daughter Summer in her stroller below. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

I survey the crime scene.  Lots of cops.  Lots of rubberneckers.  There’s always plenty of interest in a broad-daylight shooting.  I ask Jeff what brings him and his daughter to this violent crime scene.  He tells me he had been in the King Soopers grocery story parking lot across Havana when he heard “Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!”  “It sounded just like the shootout at the OK Corral” says Jeff.  “Six or eight shots!”  He goes on to say “I ran across Havana with Summer to see what had happened.  Another dude told me paramedics were doing CPR on a guy and blood was squirting out of him!  Man, this is crazy!”  I ask Jeff if he feels safe wandering the streets with his daughter when things like this shooting can go down with no notice.  “Well,” he answers, “Of course it doesn’t make me feel very safe, especially with Summer with me.  What can I say?  It’s all part of life on the streets.”

‘Paramedics were doing CPR on a guy and blood was squirting out of him!  Man this is Crazy!’
Aurora cops survey the shooting scene. A back window is blasted out of a sedan. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

I give his statement thought as I snap a few more pics of the scene.  Cops map out the crime scene.  Yellow evidence markers litter the pavement.  A woman sits in obvious shock in a car behind the sedan with the shot-out window.  In the daylight Jeff looks a bit rougher than he had under the restaurant lights the other night.  I look at little Summer.  She stares in the direction of the busy shooting scene, completely oblivious to the scene and its inherent violence.  I watch Jeff wander off from the scene.  He pushes Summer’s stroller towards the East and slips into the crowd of civilian gawkers.

Jeff pushes Summer away from the crime scene. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Once again, (as I had the other evening) I find myself wondering if the father and daughter will find suitable shelter for the night.  Will Jeff (with Summer at his side) find himself near or in the middle of any other violent crimes in the neighborhood?  I really can’t say.  I wish Jeff and Summer the best in my mind.  I pack my camera bag and saddle up to head 10 minutes North.  Time to check back in on Kapone and Lynn in their old car wash “home”.

When I get up on Colfax I turn right on Jamaica Street.  As I round the corner to the abandoned car wash, I notice that the West bay where Kapone and Lynn have been living is empty.  I turn right behind the adjacent old tire store, and there to the right of a green dumpster I see Kapone, Lynn and all of their possessions against a white cinder block wall.  I get out of my truck and strike up a conversation with the couple.  They tell me that Aurora Zoning came down hard on the car wash owners and that the owners told the couple to be out of the car wash lock-stock-and barrel by the following morning.

The old car wash bay has now been completely emptied

Virtually everything has been moved out of the old wash bay.  Kapone shows me how clean they have left the bay.  Cleaner now than how they found it he tells me. They have moved almost every single belonging of theirs against the wall of the tire store which is right next to the car wash.

Kapone and Lynn move the last items from the car wash bay. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Evening is now falling rapidly.  Kapone is favoring his right hand and he tells me that he had gotten into a scrap with some type of street preacher and that he, Kapone, had to defend himself.  He now believes his hand is broken.  A later trip to the hospital will confirm his hand is indeed fractured.  Kapone and Lynn move and reorganize a few remaining possessions.  He tours their old car wash “home” one last time.  They will camp for this night against the North wall of the old tire store.  In the morning the couple will likely have to move on to a new location.  Their next likely camp spot, a park right up the street.

Kapone says goodbye to his car wash home of 30 days. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com
Outside of the old car wash and against a tire store, Kapone and Lynn discuss their next move. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

The next day Tuesday 8/29 I return and the tire store wall is indeed clear of both the couple and their household possessions.  I drive North a block to Spencer Garrett park.  I spot Kapone and Lynn in the Southeast corner of the park. 6 shopping “buggies” hold most of their valuables.  Furnishings and other smaller household items are staged on the edge of the sidewalk.  This day in the park is mostly uneventful.  The following day is quiet in the park as well.

 

Kapone and Lynn camp in Spencer Garrett Park in North Aurora. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

By Thursday 8/31 the park camping location is starting to unravel for the couple.  Kapone, who says he smokes small quantities of pot for his chronic spinal pain, gets ticketed by Aurora Police for public consumption of marijuana in the park. Lynn gets warned by an officer of some type of unresolved legal issue that she has as well.  What that issue is, she isn’t even completely sure she says.  The officers went on further to warn the couple that if they are still in the park at 8PM this evening with their shopping carts and belongings, that Aurora Code Enforcement will be called in and all of their possessions would be permanently disposed of.  Lynn and Kapone are worried.  They need to get their buggies out of the park quickly, but it’s impractical to travel far with them this time of night, besides, Kapone’s broken hand is hurting him.  Between his spine (which has been twisted by both scoliosis and degenerative disc disease) and his broken right hand, Kapone leaves most of the shopping cart organizing and heavy lifting to Lynn.

Lynn does most of the heavy household lifting. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com
The two devise a plan of action to hide their buggies from the cops

The two devise a plan to stash their carts and belongings against the wall of a church adjacent to their park camp location.  They hope that the exterior walls of the church will provide adequate camouflage for their buggies from the street, and effectively hide them from both the Aurora cops and Code Enforcement. It’s 8:43pm. Lynn fades in and out of the park shadows shuttling their fully loaded shopping buggies into the dark church alley for overnight storage. She stashes the carts against the darkened outside walls of the church.  By 9pm no cops have shown. Capone and Lynn are exhausted.  Crickets and cicadas fill the evening air with their end of summer songs. An emergency-vehicle siren screams down Colfax.  The two bed down and snuggle against the darkened masonry wall of the church.

Lynn moves a shopping buggy with the couple’s possessions down a darkened alley. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

The next evening I return and find the couple back in their same corner of the park with all of their goods where they had resided the few days before. It’s Friday September the 1st about 7PM, the beginning of Labor Day Weekend.  They had vacated the church parking lot early this morning, as not to get hassled for trespassing, and had taken up camp in the park once again.  Kapone tells me that he talked today with a representative from a local homeless shelter who had stopped by the park to chat with both him and Lynn about coming to the shelter. Kapone says he would rather “Serve the Devil” than stay at that particular shelter. He says “It’s filthy and dangerous sh*t-hole filled with thieving crack heads!”

‘I’d rather serve the Devil than stay in that shelter’ says Kapone

Darkness is setting in at the park.  Lynn works feverishly and efficiently to pack their nomadic camp up for the night. The couple is still at great risk of the Aurora cops rolling up in the dark and shaking them down for vagrancy, or at risk of the park lawn sprinklers coming on suddenly and soaking all of their personal belongings. Lynn systematically packs a half-dozen shopping carts which now hold the couple’s entire mobile household. Kapone rummages thru a grimy back pack and looks for his marijuana rolling papers. His back and hand hurt and he wants to smoke a blunt. He can’t find his rolling papers and Kapone accuses other park dwellers of having stolen them. “I hate thieves!” he says. This evening he has a red and white cruiser-style Schwinn bicycle that he has retrieved out of a local pawn shop. He hops on the bike and peddles off in the direction of East Colfax to buy replacement rolling papers. He prefers mango or watermelon flavored papers. It’s dark by now.

Lynn sorts and organizes the many shopping carts in the darkened park. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Lynne is silhouetted against the dark park by orange sodium vapor streetlights. A glowing cigarette dangles from her lips. A waxing September-first moon rises over the adjacent church parking lot which gave Capone and Lynn their sanctuary last night, the church where they had stashed their shopping buggies and bunked down for the evening.  They had managed last night to stay out of sight of patrolling police eyes and potential human predators as well. Distant crickets now fill the air with their chirps. Lynn continues to scurry around in the darkened park. There is a method to her shopping cart distribution system. Each buggy holds specific items. One for housing gear such as tents, one for clothing, one for food, one for hardware, etc.

Each buggy holds specific items in Lynn and Kapone’s system

A lone dog howls in the crowded urban distance. Cars pump out loud bass-filled music and slowly roll by on East 16th ave. The distant sounds of children playing waft in on the mild September air from the North end of the park. Lynn takes a quick break from her camp chores to walk to the Golden Arches nearby and get a large cup of ice. When she returns she pours a warm soda over the cup of ice. She’s been at her chores for about 2 hours now. The nocturnal sorting and loading ritual continues. Back and forth she moves, packing and organizing in the darkness. A large family wanders by with 2 children peddling their bikes. The family stairs at Lynn in her darkened homeless camp and whispers inaudibly. A small child cries in an adjacent backyard. A car drives by and a male voice shouts a word out of the window. Did he just yell “bum!?” Lynn asks me. “I’m not certain, but I think so.” I reply softly.  Lynn is unfazed. She contemplates which buggies to cover with plastic tarps in case of nighttime rain. It’s 9:02PM and she is finally about ready for some dinner.

When asked about all of their many belongings, Lynn says that the items are all very important to the couple. Their wish is to hang on to all (or most) of it or to store it somewhere in the hope that their valuable possessions will land in an actual house someday. A house that they could call home. Perhaps a house of their own back in Russell, Kansas where they once lived and perhaps someday will return.

‘Someone just tried to jack my bike on Colfax by the liquor store’

Kapone rides back into the camp on his red and white Schwinn cruiser. He says someone has just tried to jack his bike by the Colfax liquor store where he purchased his mango flavored wraps, but he has no time for the evening drama. Two young men on bikes have just approached him and Lynn in the darkness and are discussing purchasing or bartering used bicycle parts. I hear the sound of numerous fire trucks racing down Colfax. Lynn says she’s tired of the constant sirens wailing thru the night. She says it’s like living by a train track. You know you’ve been there too long when you start to not notice them any more. Lynn finalizes the packing for the night. The two young men on bikes melt into the park’s shadows. Lynn wants to again move the shopping carts to the relative safety of the church parking lot, even though it technically means trespassing.

The church parking lot and walls had afforded the couple a limited degree of nighttime privacy and security. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Kapone sighs. “I’m too tired to move all of this stuff” he whispers. “Let’s just stay in the park and take our chances tonight”. The couple has grown weary of the park camp location.  Too much stress.  Too much police heat.  Kapone has an idea for a new more secretive camp location.  He thinks it will offer better privacy, but the neighborhood there is seedier, more dangerous and leaves much to be desired.  He tells me how to navigate to their likely next camp location in the following day or so.  I leave the couple for the evening and return to the safety and comfort of my life.  I feel more than a pang of guilt about doing so.  I hope Kapone and Lynn will be safe in the park on this night.  As for Jeff and his daughter Summer.  I haven’t seen him since the shooting.  I hope the two of them are safe as well.  Shane Anthony reporting ColoradoNews1.com

See where Antonio “Kapone” Williams and his wife Lynn will land on the streets in the next installment of this series. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

4 lives put on hold on the mean streets of Aurora for under 300 dollars 08/29/17

Meet Antonio Williams known as “Kapone” on the streets of North Aurora, CO.  Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

08/29/17 – Aurora, CO: PART 2 OF THIS REPORT.

This has been a difficult last 10 days or so for me.  If your read my last posting, I have returned to the old carwash on East Colfax and the couple that lives there. This assignment has really given me cause to reflect.  As a freelance photojournalist my income tends to ebb and flow.  Anyone who knows freelance news photography understands that it is frequently a lifestyle of “feast or famine”.  Due to a slow beginning of summer news in the Denver area, my work (and subsequently my income) has been in a bit of an ebb period for the last few weeks.  This is nothing new to professionals in my line of work.  It pretty much comes with the territory.  I don’t usually air my personal laundry on this web site, but I feel this bit of background adds to what I have experienced and learned over the last week and a half or so while on this assignment.

‘Antonio “Kapone” Williams and his wife Lynn have squatted in an abandoned Aurora car wash for a month’

Last week I brought you the story of Antonio Williams (known on the streets of Aurora Colorado as “Kapone”) and his wife Lynn.  The couple has been squatting in a dilapidated and  abandoned car wash next to the Mexican Mall located at East Colfax Ave. and North Joliet street.  They have lived in the far western bay of the old car wash for about 30 days,  Long enough to fill it surprisingly full with personal belongings.

Lynn and Kapone share a moment in their carwash home.  Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

To the average passerby their personal items appear to be the usual collection of homeless person stuff.  Some of it junky in appearance.  Some of it eclectic.  Some of it seemingly trash, but to Kapone and Lynn this carwash has served as there home for a month, and a home and its contents are to be respected.

Now travel with me just a few miles south of the old car wash.  We shoot straight down Havana Street and land at the McDonald’s located at South Havana Street and East Florida Ave.  It’s just before 9PM and nighttime has set in.  While leaving the restaurant after a cold soda, I see a man wheeling a baby stroller out of the men’s room.  I notice a jug of milk on top of the stroller located next to a handful of cigarette butts.  This hooks my curiosity.

The top of a baby stroller.  Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

In the dark stroller, I spy a small girl sleeping soundly.  I ask the man if he is doing OK this evening.  He starts to fidget and looks at his feet.  He then replies “No, I’m actually not doing that well tonight.  I’m trying to get a motel for the night for me and my daughter, but right now I’m 25 bucks short.”

‘Jeff is homeless and he and his 2 year old daughter need a motel for the night’

His name is Jeff.  I’ve chosen not to show Jeff’s face in this article to protect the privacy of his 2 year old daughter who I will call “Summer” (name changed).

Meet Jeff. I bumped into Jeff and his 2 year old daughter at McDonald’s located at S. Havana St. and E. Florida Ave.  Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Summer sleeps soundly with a milk bottle pursed between her tiny lips.  I can’t help but wonder if the milk has gone sour from the heat of the late August evening.  She’s a bit dirty in appearance and dressed in a little denim jumper.  “Why are you on the street tonight” I ask Jeff?  He replies “My wife is in the Denver County Jail on a very old theft offense she committed as a kid.  I don’t have the money to bail her out.  She has been there 70 days already.  I live on the streets and Summer usually stays with my mom, but my mom is in the mountains this weekend for work so Summer is with me tonight.”  Jeff tell me that he keeps a pretty large territory.  I ask Jeff if he his familiar with the couple who dwell in the abandoned 75 cent coin operated car wash.  As it turns out, Jeff knows both Kapone and Lynn up on Colfax, and they later inform me that they know Jeff and his little girl as well.  It can be a pretty small world in the homeless community, even in a city the size of Metro Denver and Aurora.  Jeff keenly remembers the couple’s elaborate camp in the old carwash bay.  They in turn recall Jeff wheeling the sweet little girl around in the stroller on East Colfax.  Jeff remarks that Kapone seems like a cool guy.  Kapone makes a similar comment about Jeff when asked.

‘Kapone keeps busy with household chores in the old car wash’
Kapone tidies up his home.  Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

When I wrote my article last week I stated that Kapone and Lynn were basically stranded in their old car wash “home” for the sake of about $300.  They told me at the time they were from Russell, Kansas and that they would gladly return home there for the price of 2 bus tickets and maybe a little travel money.  Russell is located about 5 hours due East of Aurora off I-70 (just East of Hays).

Kapone and Lynn wish to return to Russell Kansas, a place they once called their home

I checked the bus line. A ticket to Hays, KS averages about $85. or so per person.  If what they stated is true, then they are both stranded in North A-Town for an amount that is actually closer to $200 cash.  When I first met the husband and wife I happened to be pretty financially strapped that week myself, but at the same time I was trying to wrap my head around what it must be like to be so broke that you have to live in an old carwash (if you are lucky to have one as your shelter)?  I mean come on Folks!  200 to 300 dollars.  That sounds like some kind of weak excuse to continue living on the streets doesn’t it?  Let’s face it.  If you are like me you have probably heard the following more times than you can count: ‘Homeless people are there by choice!’  ‘Don’t give them money or they will just spend it on drugs!’  Fast food joints are always hiring, why not get a job there flipping burgers?’  ‘Most of them are mentally ill.  How could I possibly help?’  On and on the lines seem to go.

Kapone lives in chronic back pain due to scoliosis and degenerative disc disease. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Yet as I spent more time with Kapone and his wife Lynn, and Jeff and his little daughter Summer, more and more questions seemed to gel in my mind.  I’ve faced challenging finances at times.  Many, if not most of us have to varying degrees.  What has separated me at those times from these 4 people and complete homelessness such as they now live in?  Brains?  Luck?  Timing?  Circumstance?  Divine intervention?  We hear it from experts all the time.  “The average American is living about 2 paychecks away from being homeless.”

Amongst other things, Kapone repairs old bikes and sells or barters them to make a meager, but honest living.  Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Sound like a line of crap to you?  Step back and give it a second thought.  This stuff is for real people.  The more of these homeless folks I meet, the more shocked I am at the diverse lives that they used to have.  Some honorable.  Some productive.  Some average.  Some criminal.  Some wealthy.  The list goes on and on.

Lets take these two families shall we?  Kapone (Antonio if you prefer) is no babe in the woods.  It turns out Russell Kansas is not actually his home town.  It’s simply a place where he lived for and while, and the place and lifestyle to which he would like to return.  No, his background story is far from perfect.

54 year old Antonio “Kapone” Williams looks out from the broken vacuums at the old Aurora car wash which he calls home.  Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Kapone grew up in Southern California, Compton to be exact, and started gang-banging at age 8.  As a young man he was “commissioned” by his chapter of the Bloods Gang to come to Denver and start gang enterprises and to enforce gang-rules in Colorado.

‘Kapone was once a hard-core gang banger’

Yes, his story gets worse as so often it does.  Crack cocaine was huge when he hit the streets of Denver as a young Bloods gang member.  He was “crackin'” (as he tells me) and engaging in violent crime,  even culminating with racketeering and kidnapping.

As a young Blood member Kapone blasted through huge amounts of cash daily. Now 5 dollars can mean eating a meal on the street or not.  Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Kapone says that at one point in his past he had a couple of people in the trunk of a car.  They both were tied up and he had shot bullet holes in the trunk of the car so they could breath.  The next thing you know, this 54 year old former gangster tells me, God “intervened” and he sent the two victims alive and packing.  He ultimately does 16 years in prison, continues to find The Lord and boom, fast-forward!  He’s says he’s now completely done with violent crime.  Now that same man, a former and Original Gangster extolls the blessings of God and shares food, clothing and goods with other homeless passers-by of the weathered old blue and white car wash.  Why are he and his wife of 10 years in this abandoned car wash anyway?  Oh yes, I remember.  They need a minimum of 200 bucks for bus fare to Kansas.

Summer sleeps in her stroller.  Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Back South again to the McD’s on Havana at Florida.  I’m still talking to Jeff, father of 2 year old Summer.  It’s a bit past 9PM at this point.  Jeff tells me he is almost 40 years old.  He is originally from New Jersey but he has been in Denver 30 plus years now.  About 25 years ago, Jeff was nailed on his bicycle by a pizza delivery driver.  It pretty much destroyed his left knee and left it permanently swollen and painful.  Then his kidneys were trashed by IV antibiotics.  Then he got hooked on pain meds.  His doctors have told him that he will most likely succumb to kidney failure as a reasonably young man due to his kidney damage.

‘Jeff refuses to take his daughter Summer into bedbug infested homeless shelters’

He refuses to stay in homeless shelters.  The reason?  Bed bugs!  “I’ve seen them crawling everywhere in shelters.  I can’t take my daughter Summer into those places”.  What about Summer’s mom I ask?

Jeff and his daughter “Summer”. Jeff’s left knee was virtually destroyed when a car stuck him 25 years ago.  Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

“She’s been in jail for about 70 days now.  I can’t contact her because I don’t have a phone to take a collect call on.  I haven’t talked to  her in 70 days.  Her bond is $2000.  A bail-bondsman told me he could get her out of jail if I can come up with 10 percent of her bond, which is $200.  She could have a pre-sentence investigation next week.  She might spend another 8 weeks in jail.  My choice every day is to keep my daughter out of the bedbug infested shelters or get my wife out of jail.”  Jeff panhandles outside the fast food restaurant with little Summer in tow.  He says “This is killing my pride.  It’s a vicious cycle!”

Home sweet home in the old car wash.  Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com
More to come. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

By this point of my assignment I’m starting to gain a whole new appreciation for what it’s like to really be financially challenged.  I pause and consider these two families.  I wonder how the August night will treat them?

‘How will these two families fair their homeless summer night?’

Will Kapone and Lynn rest comfortably and safely in the old car wash tonight?  Will Jeff and Summer make it to a safe and relatively clean motel, one with clean sheets and no bedbugs?  I ponder in the soft night breeze.  More to follow on these two struggling families in part 3 of this series.  Shane Anthony reporting ColoradoNews1.com

300 dollars strands couple in old abandoned east Colfax carwash 08/17/17

An old car wash on East Colfax. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

08/17/17 Aurora, CO – PART 1 OF THIS REPORT.

What could 300 bucks buy you?  For some people people maybe 2 tickets to a classic rock 70’s band reunion.  For others a football ticket or two.  For many, a day for two on one of Colorado’s premier ski slopes skiing or riding in the early Spring sun.  For Antonio Williams (known on the streets as Kapone) and his wife Lynn it could be their ticket to freedom.  A  chance to escape life on the street,  two bus tickets to Russell Kansas and some change left over for food and travel to be exact.  It could buy them clean water to shower in, a bed in a real house, maybe even a new lease on life.  What’s $300 dollars to most of us in Metro Denver?  A weekend fun budget?  To this husband and wife team it’s a more than mad money.  It’s what keeps them stranded in an old abandoned car wash.  It might as well be 10 grand.

Antonio. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Take their location on the edge of East Colfax in Aurora near North Havana Street behind a tire shop.  A strip of Old US Highway 40 to be exact.  Now draw a straight line due east 365 miles (about 5 hours by bus) to Russell Kansas (which is just east of Hays) and you have arrived at Antonio and Lynn’s home town.  It’s even off Old US Highway 40 as well (just North of I-70).  The couple arrived in Denver about a year ago for a funeral when Antonio’s dad passed away.  Antonio says a cash-swindling family member cost him his return trip money after the funeral.  The rest is regrettable history.

Lynn and Antonio pose. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

Both members of this marital team are willing to work.  Antonio, who’s in his early 50’s, actually has been a skilled worker in the past.  He was also a wild land firefighter in Kansas and Colorado.  He even helped fight the Hayman Fire when it ripped thru Southern Colorado many years ago.  Now physical work is more difficult for Antonio.  He suffers from scoliosis and degenerative disc disease.

Antonio’s gnarled spine. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

One glance at his spine shows a life filled with physical pain.  In spite of this, he and Lynn keep busy in their East Colfax neighborhood.  Their “home” is filled with street-dweller possessions and treasures.  Old bicycle wheels, hubcaps, tents, a leather chair, ashtrays, knick-knacks and trinkets galore.  Some of it they keep for their own use or creature comforts.  Other items they sell or barter to other homeless people.  Other street folk are welcome to stop by, but Antonio and Lynn have two strict rules.  Number 1: Keep their home clean and tidy.  Number 2: No Hard Drugs!

Lynn reflects on life in the old car wash. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

I ask Antonio about the old car wash property owner.  Does she mind that they squat there.  He says “She’s cool!” She even comes around now and then.”  For now she seems OK with them staying there.  I ask about the Aurora Cops?  “Oh ya.  They are real cool so far with us as well.” replies Antonio.  Their desire or goal to get back to Kansas.  It is a come-on or a scam?  “We are for real.” says Antonio who also goes by the street name of “Capone”.  “We need cash or 2 bus tickets.  Folks could just hand us two tickets to Russell and we would be very grateful.” What about God in your life and a place like this I ask?  “We are very blessed.” both Antonio and Lynn respond.  How do you feel about all the division in our Country right now I ask Antonio?  “It’s sad…This is America.  We should all be as one.”

Antonio and Lynn’s home. Photo by Shane Anthony ColoradoNews1.com

By now I’ve spent about a half hour with this unique couple.  I don’t want to overstay my welcome.  They make me feel invited, but I arrived at their home unannounced.  I take one last look around their “house”.  Old nylon tents.  Blankets.  A small camping potty.  An old wheelbarrow.  Even an American flag.  I thank them for being so welcoming and generous with their time.  Antonio invites me to return any time.  “Maybe you can go on my neighborhood route with me sometime.  Meet my home boys.”  I pause and reflect for a moment.  I think I will return sometime soon.  When I do, personally I hope to not see Antonio and Lynn in the old carwash again.  I hope by then the two of them are 365 miles East of here in Russell Kansas.  You know.  Right off Old US Highway 40.  Yes, nothing personal.  I hope to not see them again in North Aurora.  What’s $300?  Weekend fun money, or maybe the stuff new dreams are made of?  I can’t really say.  Can you?  Shane Anthony reporting for ColoradoNews1.com