St. Augustine’s travelers: The things they carry

By Sarah Williamson |

On Washington Street in St. Augustine, men and women sit outside the St. Francis House. They sit close to the things they carry, in fear that they can quickly be taken away. One homeless man said, “It’s a different society. When things go missing, we can’t report them.”

Maybe it’s by choice, circumstance, luck or loss, but take away a home and we’re left with what fits in a backpack, a bicycle basket or a locker at a shelter.

Some are light travelers. Others carry memorabilia that can never be replaced, such as photographs. It may be as simple as a photo ID or a social security card in order to get a job or be recognized by the law. Identification seems to be the most common object that people carry with them, from all walks of life.

Outside of identification, what are the things they carry?

Michael Lee Sparks, 47, has been on disability for nearly a decade after being hit by a drunk driver, leaving him temporarily paralyzed. Although able to keep his home, he can’t work due to severe injuries in his hands.


“Some people want to live simply and other people, they hold onto things. But for me, I am a light traveler,” said Sparks.

Michael Lapaille is another light traveler. He showed me his social security card that he has carried with him for 40 years. On the backside, there is dried blood and burn marks from a car accident he survived in Kentucky years ago.


“Most everyone has lost their drivers license, social security card and photos. It’s like losing glasses. You set them down for a second…” said Lapaille, who wants to move to larger city with more opportunities.

Kathleen McGlashing, a St. Francis House resident, carries her mother’s 1958 high school yearbook and her son’s baby book. McGlashing lost her son when he was eight years old.


“You can’t replace photos. It keeps me going,” said McGlashing, chuckling as she turned the pages of her mother’s yearbook, pointing out their 1950’s dress.

Jason Wall, 28, arrived in St. Augustine this fall. He left Nashville, Tenn. bringing his sitar with him, an instrument he has played since he was 15 years old. Nashville was never the place for him, Wall explained. He watched his abusive fiancé disappear in the rearview mirror and hasn’t looked back.

“As painful as my life has been, I can sculp something with it,” said Wall, who has struggled with Asperger’s and been on medication for most of his life.


He said of the sitar: “It isn’t much, but it’s mine, ya know?” He plays it masterfully.

And then, there are sobriety tokens. Jon Ellis, 27, is from Detriot. At the time of our meeting, he had been sober for 97 days. Ellis turned his life around after leaving the city and is a student at St. John’s River State College.


“It’s a reminder of where I have been. It’s a little bit of home,” said Ellis about the tokens.

Not all things carried have a monumental meaning or a connection to what has been lost in their lives. For Henry Moore, a man who grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, it is a necklace with two charms.


“When I was in Jamaica, a guy had some manatee necklaces in his pool and they looked unique,” said Moore. “A friend of mine got me the shark tooth. I want to get a bigger one soon.”

It’s a simple necklace, possibly bringing him back to warmer weather and brighter times. As one man said, after declining to be photographed, “All that I carry are my memories,” he said, pointing to his temple.

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