We finished at the recycling about 12:30PM. It was an unusually hot day and Fritz seemed a bit agitated by the heat or his obvious desire for another beer. He turned to me and said, “ well are you done or do you want to see more of what life on the streets is like? Robert and I are going to the Bat Cave. It’s where I camp. It can be rough going but I’ll take you there.” He looked at me with a serious stare and I felt a twinge of apprehension come over me. It was if he was daring me to go with them or testing my commitment to telling the whole story of life on the streets. I had only known Fritz for about a month and Robert even less but something inside me said it would be safe to go.
I parked my car by a loading dock behind a large grocery store, grabbed my camera and followed my two guides down a steep, overgrown embankment, which led to a small creek bed. We followed the path along the creek about 50 yards and came to a highway underpass. The area was littered with trash, old rusted out bedsprings and a shopping cart. I asked Fritz if this was where he slept and just motioned me up and pointed to the highway underpass in the distance. The path was covered with large protruding roots and boulders and had a steep grade toward the creek. It was difficult to navigate during the day and I couldn’t imagine managing my way at night. The cars passing overhead were loud and I thought no one could hear you down here. We came out from the underpass, climbed another steep embankment and came out on a highway off ramp. Staring at oncoming traffic, we edged our way along the shoulder only to cross the guardrail and down another steep slope. Under that highway underpass was the “Bat Cave.”
Robert and Fritz settled in at the highest point between two bridge abutments, opened their beers and started to rummage through their bags from the morning recycling trip. I asked Fritz how long he lived here and why? He told me that this was his camp for the last 8 years or so. “This place is off the beaten path and it gives me cover when it rains and most important it gives me some protection.” He went on to explain that the bridge abutments and concrete foundation provides protection on three sides so the only way someone could approach him was from the front. “I’m at the highest point and there is a steep slope down to the creek. I could easily push someone down the bank and get away if I needed to especially at night”
I spent about an hour or so with Fritz and Robert in the “Bat Cave” taking photos, asking questions and learning about who they are and how they ended up on the street. But that will have to wait until next time.
If you have a question for Fritz or Robert please submit it via the contact form or the comments section.