As nights grow chill, Lyons homeless man not yet into his camper

As nights grow chill, Lyons homeless man not yet into his camper

Charlie Armstrong, who is homeless, sits at his campsite above Colo. 7 along the South St. Vrain River outside of Lyons on Sept. 13. He has not yet been able to move into the used pop-up camper purchased for him by town residents. (Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer)

A feel-good story about a town coming together to help a homeless man find shelter is feeling a little more complicated, as the final critical steps to get him out of the woods and into a secure environment are proving problematic.

Charlie Armstrong has lived in a tent in a makeshift campsite overlooking the South St. Vrain River along Colo. 7 for several years, braving the rigors of winter weather and everything else the elements can throw at him. But a recent comment made to a good Samaritan produced promises of a brighter future.

When Armstrong hitched a ride with Lyons resident Jen LaFollette on Sept. 7, he commented to her that he pined for a used pop-up camper that he might be able to locate on a piece of property somewhere, which could give him four walls and a roof as refuge from the cold in coming months.

"I think I am getting too old to sleep on the ground anymore," Armstrong, 64, said that day.

LaFollette started a fundraising drive over social media that quickly racked up the money needed to buy an $1,100 used camper she'd just heard about, plus another $700 or so required to fix it up. All that remained was arranging for a piece of land on which the vehicle could be parked, enabling Armstrong to move in.


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Weeks later, that remains a hurdle — and not the only one.

LaFollette said that locating a place to put Armstrong and his camper is "unfortunately" a mission that has not yet met with success.

"While he's had two offers to park a camper in the past, the reality of reconnecting with the people who made the offers and having them come through for him, now that it's a reality, is making it difficult," she said.

Ralph Ford, who runs a farm stand in downtown Lyons, has befriended Armstrong — as have many locals — and helps him in various ways, including allowing Armstrong to sell sage that he bundles as smudge sticks at the farm stand.

Ford said Armstrong is eyeing a piece of land in the Allenspark area for which Armstrong might need to secure a permit — but, lacking a computer, a car or a phone, even that is problematic.

"He seems to be okay with all of it," Ford said. "It's just that there's nobody who's offering anything, like, 'Hey, I've got a place for Mr. Charlie to live.'"

The location for Armstrong's camper is not the only snag. Also still looming as an issue are the piles of trash that have accumulated around Armstrong's site, which he acknowledged at the time that his camper was purchased to be an issue that worried him. It still does.

"I'd like to see somebody step up to bat and say, 'Let's run a pickup truck up there. Let's get that stuff cleared out of there,'" Ford said. "It's really that simple. It would just take a couple of hours.

"That's the kind of stuff he worries about. They can actually throw him in jail" if the refuse was abandoned, Ford said.

LaFollette said she had thought the trash issue had been resolved, but that if it continued to remain a challenge, "We will go with the truck and haul it out."

Ford said: "I'm sure there are a lot of people who would chip in on that."

It was still summer when Armstrong was longing for a camper. Now, it's fall, with nighttime temperatures in Lyons hovering around 40 degrees and the season's first snow possibly not far off.

"He's a survivor. He's a refugee in his own way," Ford said. "He's been doing this for a long time. And he just keeps moving through town and rolling on."

Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, [email protected] or twitter.com/chasbrennan

Source : http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_31342209/nights-grow-chill-lyons-homeless-man-not-yet

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