The Man Who Stands On Commercial Street

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
An elderly man, known just as Robert, is a familiar figure on the corner of Hwy 7 and Commercial Street. He holds a cardboard sign identifying himself as a veteran who needs money for food and gas, as he takes donations from motorists as they stop at the intersection for red lights. His aging convertible automobile is sometimes parked beside him on the side of Hwy 7. Other times the car has been seen in the Warm House parking lot. Many people have expressed curiosity about the man, even wondering if he is a veteran, and the Warsaw Police Department has received many calls about him.
During an interview with Robert, at about 11 AM on June 3, he was asked what circumstances put him in a situation where he needed to ask motorists for financial help.
“I am dead-ass broke,” said Robert. “I moved here to retire in 2007 and in 2008 I lost everything. That was when the housing market fell and I had two houses that I had to turn back to the bank. I owed them $200,000. When I started receiving my retirement from Merrill Lynch, who went bankrupt, the banks took that money too.”
Robert said that when he had a truck, he made a living scraping. But, he said that the truck “blew up,” and it had to be scrapped. He said  if he had a running truck, he could go back to scraping and make more money than he gets asking motorists for donations.
“I was in the U.S. Marine Corps Gunner (Military Occupational Speciality 0331), for two and a half years when my wife was raped and I had to go home on emergency leave,” said Robert. “I knew the guys responsible for the rape and I beat them up. Then I sat in prison until the Marines gave me a General Discharge. Since it was not an Honorable Discharge, I have no veteran’s benefits.”
Robert said that three months after his wife’s assault, she committed suicide. 
“I’m at the end of my life,” said Robert. “But my wife is 30 years younger than me, and my handicapped daughter is 40 years younger. I adopted her when I had some money. We have gotten some help from the Warm House with utilities, and are alright except that it is hard to keep food.”
Robert was willing to give his address in case someone wanted to send him a letter and perhaps give him some ideas of how to get a working truck that he could use to haul scrap. It is 30835, Hwy 7 South, Edwards, 65326.
Cities across the nation are adopting anti-panhandling laws, typically making it a crime to approach vehicles at a busy intersection or to stand on a median. However, these laws are also being challenged by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union. Springfield, Missouri, passed an ordinance last December to ban giving money or items to roadside panhandlers. The ordinance also includes provisions meant to decrease vehicle-pedestrian crashes with rules for crossing streets and standing in medians. However, at least one suit has been filed challenging the ordinance.
Sergeant Johnson of the Warsaw Police Department said he doesn’t know about Robert’s situation, but that in many cases, people who panhandle are trying to support addictions such as alcoholism and drugs. He recommended it is best to buy food or fuel for those soliciting money, rather than giving them cash.