At some point, everyone has seen or been exposed to homelessness in America. But?how many have stopped and asked a vagabond how he?s doing?
If one were to travel to U.S. Highway 77 south of Florence, they could ask Roy Gleiter, who has been camping along the roadway in Marion County for more than a week.
Homeless prior to finding employment and a mobile home in Gulfport, Miss., before Hurricane Katrina, Gleiter returned to the streets after Katrina hit after being denied aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
?It was never a choice for me,? Gleiter said. ?Poverty subjects you to things that put a lot of elements out your control.?
At the time, Gleiter packed his belongings in a cart and set out on a ?mission from God? to inspire people to stand up for change in American politics. He travels with Debra Cowden, a family friend with mental disabilities he calls Mom. Gleiter said he has taken care of her for 25 years.
?I decided it was time to accomplish the impossible,? he said of his mission. ?I?ve watched them kill my country. We?re going down the same roads that happened to Germany in the ?30s and ?40s.
?My generation (Baby Boomers) is going to be the first one that?s not going to be able to advance their kids 50 percent,? he added. ?(Generation X) is going to be expected to be able to support three-quarters of the population.?
He said the government?s position is clear: ?We want you to do it at the highest tax rate, least amount of possibility for advancement, least amount of rights. With a business, bureaucratic, governmental institution and media working against your best interest.?
In the last half-decade, Gleiter has zig-zagged his way from Mississippi to Washington D.C., back through the south, then to Colorado, Oklahoma and now through Kansas and Marion County. He?s made the trip pulling a 5,000-pound cart filled with his belongings.
?I?m the homeless guy that don?t believe in food stamps, I don?t believe in welfare,? Gleiter said. ?I don?t ask anyone for anything. My Heavenly Father sends me what he wants me to have. Hell, he makes my wagon heavier. So, I?m in a pretty good place just asking him.?
Crossing the Marion County line in late June, Gleiter is moving a mile or two a day. He said he plans on turning west at U.S. Highway 56 en route to Salina.
His final destination is Washington State. Gleiter said he arrived in Marion County courtesy of a tow from Butler County law enforcement.
Dealing with law enforcement is nothing new for the nomadic Gleiter. He said in Colorado he shutdown a 911 switchboard because of calls from highway travelers.
?It?s amazing how many laws I break for breathing,? Gleiter said. ?I average 50 cops in any given county. This one?s been amazing. I ain?t met one of their cops. That tells me they?re the greatest police force in the country.?
Gleiter pulls the cart with a make shift yoke designed to fit around his shoulders and complete with a brake system. But he said he?s not too proud to accept tows.
?If someone offers me a tow, I do put this damn thing on it,? Gleiter said. ?A?five-minute tow saves me three days of ball-busting work.?
He added, ?I never said I?d pull it every inch of the way. I said I?d get it there, and I?ve kept my word.?
Having migrated through southern Kansas on U.S. 77, Gleiter said he choose the Kansas route for a specific reason.
?Kansas doesn?t realize how much power it weighs in the world,? he said. ?If Kansas farmers stopped growing one season, a big portion of the world starves to death.?
Gleiter is an Internet sensation?even though he said he?s never turned on a computer. A quick search of Gleiter pulls up more than 50,000 links and several videos. Many are news stories from local television stations in the areas through which he?s passed. The videos average around 1,000 views.
?I?m the most documented man in the world next to the president,? Gleiter said.