Martin Peeples

Martin Peeples had a strong disgust for homelessness until he chose the lifestyle himself. He found himself sleeping various places downtown and generally outcast from the community despite his various backgrounds.


Location: 530 Main St.

You know, I’m gonna tell you a bedtime story. You know I was born, well, raised up as a Catholic. I went to parochial schools, I went to private high schools – all twelve of us did, I was adopted. When I started to be aware of my surroundings, you know this is my world view of people I seen a lot of homeless people. I just told myself, you know, I’m not gonna – hell no I’m not gonna be like that! Look at that, you know – disgusting! I ain’t got no money for you. Homelessness was learned, okay? It’s not that I just one day, you know, boom, became homeless. It’s a different survival mechanisms that you must use. You know, all the way, before I even went to school; being beat as a child was a survival issue. So, that – that’s going to be with me all my life. The problem, I mean the good thing out of it is I know how to survive.

Well, you could say I chose the lifestyle, it’s not only in La Crosse I lived this lifestyle. I mean, we’re talking about almost 39 states I lived this lifestyle. The only loving part was the, the churches. So I slept pretty much in the street. I slept in laundry mats, I slept in stairwells, in the parks. I guess my major, uh, activity was panhandling. And that’s where it really, next, for the next four years I lived downtown.

The places I mostly stayed was at the Cathedral. They have a little, it was a garden back there that had like a chair and a table. And Father Gorman was the pastor; he did not mind. I told him I was Catholic from the start, and so I built up a rapport with him. So he let me sleep out there, and that was, um, Winter, Summer. You know when it got too cold I find me a stairwell. There were some people in the downtown area that would even bring me blankets, you know if they caught me, you know, sleeping on the landing.

The bad side was that I was, you know, still an outcast, you know; because you know, get a job, do this, do that. It’s like I have a college background, I have a homeless background, I have the jail background. I’ve been in their shoes, I’ve been out of their shoes.

My name is Martin Jude Peeples, I live here at 1918 Denton St. I’ve stayed here for four and a half years. My role to the community is not really much. That’s about as truthful as I can get. I don’t really have a role. Mostly I’m just undecided what’s gonna happen in my life, particularly you know, um, I am disabled. What is my sense of direction, I don’t know if I have one, you know – I used to. Pretty much that’s my story.