Homeless, but king of his castle – WOOD

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 27, 2014 in Rat News | Subscribe

WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) – Officially, he is homeless, but he is king of his castle.

“That’s Cookie’s chair right there,” David “Cookie” Rodgers, said, pointing to the recliner in a corner of his home.

This is Cookie’s place, with Cookie’s made-up address, 128 Railroad Dr., in an off-the-grid homeless neighborhood known as North Camp in Walker.

“This is definitely the best place I’ve ever lived in,” he said.


Photos: Hidden homeless camps in West Michigan


The home he built last fall is 180 square feet, with a pot belly stove to keep him warm in the winter, a half-moon window above the front door, and a loft he sometimes rents out to homeless friends for $25 a week.

And, five pet rats.

“I don’t have television; I have rat-vision.”

Cookie, 51, has never been married. He’s a long-out-of-work construction worker who said he’s lived on the streets, in caves and has hitchhiked across the country.

He said alcohol almost killed him, so now he drinks only occasionally with friends. For a time, he played accoustic guitar in bands, once at Festival in Grand Rapids, he said.

“Savanah, her name is Savanah,” he said of his guitar.

He survives on a welfare Bridge card, food donations, and working odd jobs — mowing lawns, trimming weeds.

“It’s either that or we go out and we dive Dumpsters and go through trash cans looking for bottles and cans. Anything we can do to make money.”

Just before moving to North Camp, he stayed at a homeless camp near a railroad trestle behind the old Baker Furniture factory in northern Grand Rapids.

“But it got too dangerous back there; there’s a lotta under-handed stuff going on over there.”

So, last fall, he found a new neighborhood — the North Camp in Walker.

“I went down the line and asked everybody, mind if I build a place here?”

He built his chalet with stuff either donated or found. It’s one of about 10 homeless homes at North Camp, and the best place on the block.

To him, it beats a downtown shelter.

“It’s just the privacy, and I don’t really have to answer to authority,” he said. “You know. I have a small problem with authority, and I don’t have anybody telling me what to do back here.”

“It’s a lot of people’s second chance because they don’t have anywhere else to go; it’s probably their last chance.”

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