By: Katie Sobiech
Lenny King recently celebrated a birthday. This year he plans to move on, leaving the memories of his past behind him.
For eight years Lenny lived under a bridge and in the woods of Akron. This all goes back to one night he wishes to forget.
Nine years ago Lenny was on a Greyhound en route to a better future in Knoxville, Tennessee. He planned to stay on a friend’s inherited 500 acres of property after 10 years of living on the streets in Ashtabula County.
“Let me start from the beginning,” Lenny said, “This is how it all started. This is how I ended up where I’m at today…”
Headed towards a brighter future, that future took a twisted turn as Lenny was dropped off in Akron during a two hour lay over. Little did he know the choice he was about to make would nearly cost him his life. He took a trip into a local bar, only to find it was more than a bar. It was also a strip club.
On arrival he had $3,800.00 on him. By the end of the night his pockets were empty.
“Next thing I know I wake up, the bus is gone and my moneys gone. The lady in the strip place robbed me and I said ‘I will not leave this town until I find her’.”
He wasn’t kidding.
“I’ve been looking for her ever since, and that was nine years ago,” he said, “That’s how I ended up under the bridge over here.”
No Bed of Roses
And it wasn’t just this. Tragedy after tragedy led Lenny on a downward spiral. It began with the death of his daughter years before he even came to Akron. She would have been 29 this year. This was followed by a divorce and then the incident which left him empty handed and homeless in Akron.
As if this wasn’t enough, while living under a bridge for 8 years, Lenny was shot between the eyes and set on fire by complete strangers.
Yet he survived it all.
“I give a lot of credit to John Soza,” Lenny said, “I am so grateful for him because him and his searchers found me under that bridge. I’ve been attacked over 15 times under that bridge, and they found me.”
John Soza, Program Coordinator at the Salvation Army, Captain Jim Betts, and Mark Powers all took the Salvation Army Canteen and went out on a search for Lenny after reading the story about him being set on fire in the Akron Beacon Journal.
“I give John and the Salvation Army so much credit. See these clothes I got on? These new shoes? It’s because of him and the Salvation Army,” Lenny said, bundled up in a warm sweater jacket.
“How this all ended up is a very tremendous miracle and I dedicate my life to the Lord Jesus Christ because of it. He has blessed me so much, tremendously, from where I was,” Lenny continued with enthusiasm.
A Day in the Life
Lenny is now staying in one generous man’s basement for the winter.
“He is a very good, Christian man and he tucked me under his wing,” Lenny said, “I don’t pay no rent. It’s a big blessing to me. I’m going on 19 years on the streets so I thank God for this man.”
Much of what Lenny survives on comes from what he finds on the streets.
“I find a lot of pennies on the street. Every now and then I’ll get lucky and find a dime or a nickel. One time I found a quarter, and that means a lot to me,” he said.
The Salvation Army also helps
“John will bring me hygiene items, clothes…everything which I have lost over the years. They found me. They found me under that bridge, and it was horrifying down there wasn’t it?” Lenny said, looking at John.
“It wasn’t the Holiday Inn that’s for sure,” John replied.
That was two summers ago.
“Basically I’m a lonely, lonely man,” Lenny said, “I’ve been divorced 18 years, on the streets going on 19 years, but I’m not a quitter. I’m a winner and I don’t quit anything. I wanted to find that lady from the strip club.”
But now he’s ready to move on.
“I’ll stay here (in the basement) for the winter and then I’ll move on my way, another journey. Hopefully I will get to Tennessee,” he said.
Lenny never stays in one place for too long.
If you would like to volunteer or make donations of any kind to the Salvation Army to help other’s like Lenny, please contact the Salvation Army at 330.762.8481.