Mike Peterson, 44, has been homeless since last summer. He’s lived in Colorado Springs for 12 years. He was vague on how he became homeless, only saying he went through a bad divorce about 18 months ago.

Peterson lives in a tent behind Sonic fast food that he got from a man who left the camp to live with relatives, he said. He sleeps on a double mattress that takes up most of the room inside his tent. He stays warm by covering himself in five thick quilts.

Every day, he said, he makes his bed. Then he heads to Apprentice Personnel in hopes of getting day work, and has been somewhat successful. He uses the money he makes to eat at fast food restaurants and sometimes shop at nearby Safeway. He has no refrigerator so he doesn’t buy perishables, he said.

He does not panhandle. “I just can’t bring myself to do that,” Peterson said.

When Peterson first began living by the creek last summer, he thought “it was fun,” he said. But now he’s tired of the cold. When he spoke with the Gazette, he had plans to leave for Alabama to live with family before the end of January.

He’s enjoyed the community within the 13-tent encampment. The group shares cigarettes, beer and some food, he said, and they try to watch out for one another.