Dig Baton Rouge

Love Your Neighbor: Baton Rouge’s invisible homeless community

Susan Baptiste Evans, 56, and Anthony Evans, 55, are a couple who met in Dallas and married on one of their trips to Baton Rouge. Susan is the more outspoken one, while Anthony insists he isn’t sociable.

Susan’s biggest message was made clear as soon as we sat down to chat.

“Everybody on the streets ain’t on drugs. And everybody ain’t broke. Sometimes it’s just bad situations and something to do with credit,” she said.

Susan’s parents were in the military and that meant a lot of moving around. She mostly attributes that lifestyle and her father’s mental issues to her desire to stay on the move.

“He was very abusive. And this is why I think I’d rather not settle down. I move around a lot, because I don’t feel safe after a while. Eighteen months to two years is the longest I stay in one place,” she admitted.

“Then she’s ready to go,” Anthony added.

The couple has only been back in Baton Rouge for a few weeks, relocated from Jacksonville, Fla. At the time of our interview, they were sleeping under the North Street overpass. Each night, they secure their backpack, bag of food, and the rest of their belongings in a wagon and lock it all together. It’s the only form of theft deterrent while they try to get some sleep.

“We’re not safe there. You just gotta pray that don’t nobody mess with you,” Susan says, shaking her head.

Susan is an Army veteran and has been homeless off and on after serving 24 years. She is on a fi xed income and says that the resources for the homeless in

Baton Rouge are helpful sometimes, but every day is a struggle. Now that they are married, Anthony says that looking for work has become a double-edged sword.

“If I get a job, even a minimum wage job, it messes with her check. That, plus the cost of bus fare to get to the job, don’t make it worth it,” Anthony says.

Both of them have grown children, and from the way Susan talks about them, it appears that those children may not have a clear picture of the couple’s living situation.

“It’s hard for me to accept help from my kids. My son said, ‘Just remember if you need a place to stay, you’re welcome to come here.’ I’m not going to my son’s house. That’s not how it’s supposed to be,” she said.

As much as the couple moves around, Susan says that she could consider staying put if she had a decent place to live and could feel safe. Anthony agrees that they are both tired of “sleeping on concrete.”

“I can’t afford the rent nowhere on my fixed income,” Susan said. “And I don’t want to pay rent for somewhere to stay and it feels like a roach hole. I want to see myself in a place, because I’m getting too old for this.”

When I asked Susan would she consider abandoning her traveling lifestyle and stick around if she was able to get into affordable housing here in Baton Rouge, she answered with a laugh, “Yeah. Until I get tired of it.”

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