Homelessness: The person behind the label

%28Photo+by+Kristin+Gallagher%2C+digitalBURG%29+Jon+Weitzel+spent+three+years+of+his+life+homeless+but+now+has+a+place+to+call+his+own+and+a+steady+income.

(Photo by Kristin Gallagher, digitalBURG) Jon Weitzel spent three years of his life homeless but now has a place to call his own and a steady income.

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(Photo by Kristin Gallagher, digitalBURG) Jon Weitzel spent three years of his life homeless but now has a place to call his own and a steady income.
(Photo by Kristin Gallagher, digitalBURG) Jon Weitzel spent three years of his life homeless but now has a place to call his own and a steady income.

By KRISTIN GALLAGHER
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG)

Part Two: Jon Wetzel – No longer homeless

Editor’s Note: This is the second story in a six-part series that offers a glimpse into the lives of the homeless in our community.
 
It’s Friday night and Jon grabs his coat to head downtown. Cigarettes in hand, he leaves his house and begins his walk to Pine Street.
An hour later, he arrives at his favorite bar, Molly’s, and gets a Budweiser, his favorite beer. After walking more than two miles, he can use it.
“I walk because I don’t have any car,” he says.
Jonathan Rovert Weitzel is 30 years old and has lived in Warrensburg since he was in high school. He lives in a mobile home with one of his good friends, but he hasn’t always had that luxury. Jon spent four years of his life homeless – from the age of 17 to 21.
“I stayed at Hardees in the basement when I was 18 and worked there,” he said. “That was the worst part of when I was homeless. I didn’t have anything to lay on.”
But Jon hasn’t been homeless in nine years, and it isn’t a title he is proud of.
“I never really got treated any different,” he said. “But I am sure people stereotyped me.”
And the truth is, most people do.
“A lot of times we think (homeless people) are dirty or scary – they look disheveled,” said Pastor Joel Kurz, advisory board member of a group in Johnson County that strives to help the homeless people in the area. “But a lot of these people are very industrious and resourceful, and are working every day to get what they need for that single day.”
Now that he has a steady home, Jon spends most of his time hanging out with his roommate and watching his favorite shows – “Charmed,” “Supernatural,” and “Walker Texas Ranger.”
“I wish I could have a job,” he said. “I like to work.”
Jon claims disability now due to his mental health and joint problems.
“(The doctor) told me I was mentally retarded,” he said. “But I don’t seem that way to most people.”
Jon also said since he is getting older, his knees cause him a lot of pain.
Unlike Jon, though, some homeless people choose not to obtain jobs.
“I knew a homeless man who said he did not want to be trapped by ‘stuff,’” Kurz said. “He cares more about people than things.”
Which is what Jon sees as one of his best characteristics – kindness.
“I think I am a kind person,” Jon said. “That is what I like best about myself.”
So, despite his past and what others may think of it, Jon is just like any other person in this town. His favorite color is blue. His favorite food is chili (although it used to be pizza). His favorite beer is Budweiser.
“A lot of times (homeless people) just need to be treated like human beings,” Kurz said. “They need someone to talk to and to understand them.”
And most of all, Jon is grateful for all the things he has in his life that make him feel human.
“I am happy and content,” he said, “ because I got a place to live finally.”