William Floyd, known as “Baldy” to most people, died late Sunday night after a fire spread through a camp near Mehring Way and Sixth Street downtown. Baldy was 44 or 45, according to different records.
A former welder and truck driver, Baldy had problems with alcohol and was divorced. He told CityBeat that he didn't like formal homeless shelters, like the Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine, because “nobody can tell me what to do in here,” he said, referring to the camp.
As Baldy told writer Stephen Carter-Novotni at the time, “I don’t know what the future’s gonna bring. I can’t predict the future, but I think I’m gonna die soon. I’m not in good shape. A lot of things happened to me.
“I mean, I could be wrong. Hell, I might live another 10 years but if you want to ask me my prediction, I think I’ll probably be dead soon,” Baldy added. “I mean look at me. I’m scuffed up, beat up, scarred up. I ain’t no kid no more. I might live 10 years, I might live one. But if I was going to guess, I’d be in the one category.”
Listen to the audio file of Novotni's full interview with Baldy using the control at the top of this blog item.
The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless said Baldy's death stresses the need for the city to fund an emergency cold shelter where homeless people can keep warm on frigid or wet nights.
Until winter 2008-09, Cincinnati's cold shelter — the Over-the-Rhine Recreation Center on Republic Street — didn't open unless the outdoor temperature reached zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower. For the past two years, the shelter opened when temperatures reach 10 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. The shelter is used by people who don't feel comfortable in a normal shelter environment or when other shelters are filled.
In 2009, the cold shelter almost was closed because City Council hadn't allocated sufficient funds for its operation. This year, city staffers, emergency service providers and the Homeless Coalition have teamed up to improve the cold shelter and is attemping to raise money for the project. Their goal is to keep the shelter open every night during winter.
Last year the cold shelter kept between 80 and 140 people warm each night it was open, the coaltion said. It will take $20,000 just to operate the shelter on nights that are 10 degrees or colder.
Josh Spring, the coalition's director, is urging people to contact Cincinnati City Council and ask for funding for the cold shelter. For more information, contact the coalition at 513-421-7803, ext. 13, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although the need exists for a cold shelter, the sad reality is that Baldy probably wouldn't have used it even if one had been available, said people who knew him.