Oklahoman details life without traditional shelter

Editor’s note: This is the final story in a four-part series about homelessness in Mustang. The series explores limited services for people experiencing homelessness in the area, and sheds light to one man’s journey.

Kevin Eaton calls Oklahoma his home base.

Kevin Eaton holds his dog, Baby Taz, after a round of fetch Feb. 5. The two have experienced homelessness together for about 13 years. Photo / Haley Humphrey

Although he was born in Edmond, the 51-year-old said he has been a hitchhiker his entire life.
His feet have walked across 35 of the nation’s states and the Bahamas. But seeing the world on foot since he was 13 hasn’t been all perks for Eaton, who has experienced homelessness most of his life.
When he was 6 months old, his parents divorced. Eaton primarily lived with his father, who was the first
the first person to introduce him to alcohol and drugs.
“My dad was an alcoholic,” said Eaton. “All my life, he was an alcoholic.”
Eaton recalled stories of his father and his friends.
“They’d put me in a big trash bag and they’d stand in a circle around it, holding the top of the
trash bag and they’d take a hit and blow it down in the bag,” he said, noting he was a baby then.
At age 5, he smoked marijuana on his own, and began shopping for it at age 7. By 8, Eaton was
introduced to cocaine.
Until he was 7 years old, Eaton’s grandparents, uncle and older sister lived under one roof with
him and his father. It was Eaton’s grandparents who made it a point for him to attend church.
Throughout his tween years, Eaton struggled with school. After he was expelled from one of his
public education institutions for having an ounce of marijuana on his person, Eaton attended
Washington Center in Oklahoma City, which has since been closed.
During the time when his education journey was rocky, Eaton said his father had remarried a
woman, who was not fond of Eaton and the feeling was mutual, he said. After several conflicts,
Eaton moved in with his mother, who also allowed him to use drugs.
“When someone would notice, they just thought it was funny,” Eaton said.
After turning 12, Eaton moved back in with his father, who had separated from his stepmother.

“That’s kind of the way it’s been my whole life,” Eaton said. “I’d move out and he’d call me
back and I’d move out again and then I’d call him saying, ‘Dad, I need help,’ and he’d say,
‘Well, come on back.’”
Eaton’s father was a construction traveler, building developments across the nation. It was about
a year when Eaton packed his bag again after an argument ensued between the two about Eaton
having to clean up his father’s beer cans, which littered the house.
After couch-hopping for several months, Eaton ended up in Kansas, only to return home a short
time later. The two were then North Carolina bound.
Feeling homesick, Eaton left his father again to hitchhike back to Oklahoma.
“I would just put a sign on my back that said Oklahoma City and just kept walking,” Eaton said.
Some vehicle travelers would pull over and give Eaton a ride every now and then, while others
weren’t the nicest.
“That’s a lot of it everywhere — people know that you’re a hitchhiker, they just look at you as,
well, ‘you’re a bum,’” he said.
He tried to make money when he could by visiting local bars and convenience stores, telling
owners he would sweep their floors or clean their bathrooms.
“Sometimes they’d just give you cash and say, ‘good luck,’ other times, they’d put you to work,”
Eaton said.
Still others along the way would offer him hundreds of dollars. After stopping in a bar in Indiana
and asking the owner what he could do for them, and finding there was nothing, Eaton’s feet hit
the pavement again.
Only to be stopped by a trucker, who heard Eaton’s journey and gave him about $300, which
was a collection from the bar’s customers. Eaton was unprepared for what was to come. He
found himself cleaning pig pens for the trucker.
No matter where Eaton found himself, he would not stay inside an acquaintance’s home.
He has seen terrors most people have been lucky enough to not see in their nightmares.
“I’ve seen people killed,” Eaton said. “One guy I saw was shot over a quarter.”
He witnessed a drug dealer murder another man by injecting him with battery acid.
“The whole time, I’m sitting there watching this, I’m still sitting on the dealer’s sofa froze,”
Eaton said. “I keep telling myself to ‘run, run, get out of here, run,’ yet I can’t move.”
But his legs kicked into gear after the dealer turned his eyes upon Eaton. His feet didn’t stop
kicking up gravel for about five miles.
Because of his time in the court system after being arrested on multiple misdemeanor charges,
Eaton is receiving specialized outpatient services for substance abuse. Eaton said he has not used
substances for 13 years.
He said he would rather be treated at Red Rock Behavioral Health Services, where he was before
for anxiety, suicidal depression, schizophrenia and PTSD.
Red Rock could no longer treat Eaton, as conflicts arose with billing, he said.
“Nobody who is an addict, wants to be an addict,” Eaton said. “Being controlled by it, nobody
wants that. What they need is help — they need counseling.”
After several attempts to commit suicide, Eaton said he gave up on trying to leave his physical
life.
“I said, ‘OK, God, fine, if you’re not going to let me kill myself, then if I live just another day,
it’s going to be all because of you, I’m not even going to bother to feed myself,’” Eaton said.
Hours later, he received a Christmas dinner from locals.
Eaton has also received help from churches throughout his journey. When he arrived in Clinton,
Eaton encountered a church who took up collections to purchase him the vehicle he has today.
Tears pooled to his eyes as he remembered the first day he received the $1,300 vehicle. He also
was provided $1,200 in cash to make a trip with his dog, Baby Taz, to Colorado to see a friend.
When Eaton returned to Oklahoma, he remained near Woodrun Village in Yukon, as that is
where his father lived. He took care of his father during the last years of his life.
After his father died, Eaton said he believed he was homeless then. However, since he lives in
his vehicle at an area church, Eaton said it’s a different kind of home.
“There’s other people out there who are worse off than myself,” Eaton said. “It’d be great if they
knew the kindness of the people who are in churches that want to help.”
Because of the kind acts people have shown him, Eaton makes it a point to tell everyone he
meets how loved they are by people they don’t know.
Eaton has been with the area church since May 2019. Since then, he has helped some of the
church members by cleaning their properties.
He also continues to find work where he can.
Although local providers offer food, Eaton said Mustang is limited
in homeless services.
“Some of them, like myself, this is the life they choose,” Eaton said. “But then there are others,
they just get put in this situation and they don’t know how to handle it ….”
He added that people experiencing homelessness could benefit from having a local shelter in the
city.
“A lot of these people need someone to actively watch over them to make sure they don’t go out
and use — give them alternatives to do with their time.”
To Eaton, kindness must spread itself out.
“People just need to learn to watch out for other people,” he said. “Not look at somebody and
label them.”

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