Hatteberg's People - A Passion For The Homeless: Bob Johnson

By: Larry Hatteberg Email
By: Larry Hatteberg Email

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

We see them, but we don't. The homeless evoke reactions from all of us, mostly based on our political leaning. But they are a people who won't go away. Wichitian Bob Johnson knows that first hand. The homeless call him Breakfast Bob.

"I just want to reach out because they are in pain. Whatever happened to the Golden Rule; Do unto others as they would do unto you? And I ask myself the question, what if that was me. And I have to do something," said Johnson.

You'll see him in the mornings, searching. On these hot days, Johnson has water bottles hanging from his arms. He's looking for his friends who are homeless.

"And to be able to see what Mother Teresa used to call, 'Jesus in his disguise of the poor.' I can look beyond that and I can see human beings, and the humanity. But that's my desire, I just want to reach out to people in pain," said Johnson "How many times when we walk down the street and see a homeless person, what do we do? First of all, we walk by on the other side of the street, God forbid if they ask us for a dollar. We pull out our phone, we look at our phone, we pull out our billfold, but we ignore them. We don't want to be ignored. How hard is it to walk up to them and say, 'Hi, my name is Bob, how are you doing?"'

Gary is one of the homeless Johnson visits with almost daily. Gary lives under one of the many bridges located in Sedgwick County.

"He's always been good people; he's always done a lot for the homeless," said Gary, a homeless man," said Gary. "People out there start stereotyping all of us the same, which isn't fair. But all at the same time, you can't help but understand why. I may be homeless, but I'm not ignorant. It's one thing to be homeless, but it's another thing to be a bum."

Nearby, Johnson looks for more homeless under the bridges that provide their only shelter.

"Here's his bathroom, his mirror and comb. This is his life. It breaks my heart so much. How can you look at that and not care, Wichita?"

Johnson's real job is working at the American Red Cross downtown. Each day, the organization collects some 500 pints of blood. Johnson's job is sorting and shipping blood throughout the Midwest. He's just a guy with a home and regular job, but in his free time, and with his own money, he's on the streets finding those who society passed by.

Johnson doesn't care why they are there.

"We all have to live in this world; shouldn't we make it a better place for everyone?" said Johnson. "By going down there and taking him water, companionship, just being there, letting him know that I care. Did you see he was crying, in tears? It's because he doesn't feel loved. He needs to know sometimes that somebody loves him. If we drive over these bridges every day, how many times do we stop and think that underneath these bridges, there are human beings? They are suffering in pain and anguish and we need to do something. People either don't know or they don't care... A man can live a long time deprived of every bodily necessity, but a man can't live without hope."

Johnson wears his heart on his sleeve, and he's passionate about what he does. The homeless know him well.

He's looking for other like-minded folks who would like to help out. He's not with an organization, so far it's just him and a friend named Jim Gardner. If you'd like to help Johnson, call him 316-258-7470. Or you can call Gardner at 316-558-1161.

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