Dig Baton Rouge

Love Your Neighbor: Baton Rouge’s invisible homeless community

Mike Jones , 65, is a sliver of a man, clothes hanging on his thin frame.

He sits in an overstuffed chair, donning an Anna and Elsa hat from Disney’s Frozen while gripping his coffee like it’s the only thing that matters. His one bag sits tied up at his feet, holding all his possessions inside.

Mike has been homeless for some time, though his memory of the details seem to have slipped away. Most recently, he lived in an abandoned house for four years with no power or furniture to sleep on. Then he went to prison for 18 months

on drug related charges. When he was released from prison, Mike returned to the same abandoned house because it was the only thing he knew.

Originally from Port Allen, Mike says he has family nearby, but fears his crack/cocaine addiction has ruined those relationships.

“I was living with my baby brother, but he put me out. Say he just wanted it to be him and his two kids,” Jones said.

Every time Mike addresses me, he calls me ‘ma’am.’ He is a gentleman through and through.

When Mike talks about the past, he skips over the mid-life years and goes back to childhood. His smile is contagious as he relives memories of his mother and his aunt cooking up sweet potato pies and teacakes.

“I was in a coma when I was 14, for three weeks and two days. Momma says I came out of that coma asking for tater pies. I came out laughing and I stayed that way for a long time,” he said.

Mike has been a client of the One Stop Center for years. He says that God works through the organization and answered his prayers one day.

“Woke up one morning and said, ‘Lord, I’m tired of living like this.’ Three days later God responded,” Jones said. “I walked over here and as soon as I walked in the door, they said, ‘Mike Jones, we been looking for you. You been selected for an apartment.’ I couldn’t do nothing but cry and thank God.”

When I ask where he sleeps now, he shakes his head and stares down at his worn shoes. Mike spends his nights in an abandoned truck at a carwash on Government Street. He cleans the parking lot for them and they give him $3 and let him sleep in the truck.

“I lost that blessing of an apartment, because, you know, back down the same old rocky road. My addiction gets the best of me,” Jones said.

He quotes the Bible throughout our conversation, little tidbits here and there, paraphrasing when the exact words escape him. Though Mike’s life has been a struggle, he says he still has hope.

“All I have to do is plant one little seed. Look how little that mustard seed is. And it grows into something beautiful. I have hope for a better future. I do. I just want to do what God wants me to do.”

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