Rex “Wolfe” Thompson, 55, says he’s been homeless for 39 years. For the last three months, Thompson has lived in a tent at the 13-tent encampment behind Kwiki car wash and the Sonic fast-food eatery, which are along West Colorado Boulevard in west Colorado Springs. He grew up in Florida and has lived in the Springs since the early 1990s.

Thompson’s possessions include a bike with a trailer, a mattress and blankets, a portable toilet, and a propane stove he uses to brew coffee, cook food and heat his tent.

Using food stamps, Thompson buys food at the nearby Safeway, and also gets canned goods and beverages from Christian groups who stop by the camp. He said he doesn’t panhandle, but that now and then people give him money when he’s on the streets. He also makes money doing occasional day labor for Labor Ready. He washes his clothes at Westside Cares, a nonprofit outreach to the homeless.

Thompson’s normal day begins at 6 a.m. He brews his coffee on his stove and eats breakfast on a table outside his tent. Some days he sits at the nearby Starbucks and reads the newspaper.  His major journey on most weekdays is by bus or bike downtown to the parole office to drop off a parole form, he said. Thompson is on parole for assaulting a friend, he says.

Since his parents kicked him out of their Florida home when he was 16, Thompson’s been in and out of jail 16 times for crimes such as assault and burglary, he said. Since 1998, he’s been arrested six times for having an open beer container in public. He participates in weekly Alcoholics Anonymous classes at the Sacred Heart Church on West Colorado Avenue and Westside Cares, a homeless outreach. He denies being an alcoholic, though he admits to drinking several beers a week.

“You can’t help it out here,” Thompson said. “You drink to relax, to forget the things on your mind.”  

His future plans go no further than trying to get his disability checks that he said were stopped years ago. He claims to have “a left arm injury and two bad legs” that preclude him from working. It was unclear if he’d ever held a full-time job in his life.

“I don’t know where I’ll end up,” Thompson said when asked where he’ll be in a year. “I could still be out here.”

Thompson said the homeless need to be treated with dignity and respect. “I’m no different than you,” he said. “I just don’t have a home.”