Tahlequah Daily Press

Z_CNHI News Service

December 11, 2013

A place to live: Dover man helps homeless friend

Randy Matthews has known Ralph Wilson for many years, and recently proved his friendship by taking Wilson out of the cold and finding him a place to live.

But that isn’t the whole story.

Matthews, who is from Dover and lives in Oklahoma City, recently sent Wilson to Colorado for a job. That did not work out and Wilson spent time in a Colorado homeless shelter. He made his way back to Oklahoma, but was homeless living in a bar ditch. When the temperatures dropped into the 20s, he stayed in an unheated shed. Matthews heard about his situation and tried to help him out.

“I told him he only needed four walls, a roof and heat,” Matthews said.

The deal was to purchase something for a small amount of money. Matthews said money is tight and he wanted something reasonable he could afford and that he could make back his money on.

Matthews found a trailer listed on craigslist and said it was perfect. He said Jeff Jackson, the trailer’s owner, told him the trailer was in poor condition and was not a good place to live.

“I told him Wilson didn’t have any place to live,” Matthews said.

Jackson, a car salesman at Stevens Ford in Enid, said he purchased the trailer as a project and bonding experience for him and his 18- and 19-year-old sons. He has owned it three or four years and periodically has used it for camping trips with his sons.

Jackson was asking $950 for it, but when he found out what Matthews was doing, he dropped the price about $200.

Matthews told Jackson that Wilson had nothing but the clothes on his back and no coat. Jackson and his wife put all of the trailer pots and pans back in and also equipped it with a cooking stove. They put food in the cabinets and placed some sausage in the refrigerator, and gave Wilson a space heater.

“I started the heater about 10 minutes before they got here and it was warm in the trailer,” Jackson said.

The trailer has a bunk bed and they left the mattress. Jackson found out Wilson is about his size, so he put some clothes, including some long-sleeve shirts in the trailer’s closet, along with shoes, socks and a heavy work jacket that he had. They also added sheets and blankets.

Wilson’s trailer is parked behind Matthews’ work office and has electricity extended to it. He also has water, although there is no bathroom in the trailer, Jackson said.

Matthews said Wilson told him he could not believe anyone would do that for him. Matthews said Wilson told him that Jackson doesn’t even know him, yet he took food from his own home and clothes from his closet to give him.

Jackson said it is odd that the story has become a big deal, because he is just doing what he considers normal.

“We took some food from the pantry, and I had some sausage in the refrigerator,” he said. “All of us find ourselves in a spot, either from a poor decision or just the way life swings. I may be in the same situation next month.”

Jackson said car salesmen sometimes do not have good reputations, but he works hard to be honest. When he started receiving texts and the gesture began being recognized, his son Chandler commented, “It’s odd it’s such a big deal, it’s what we’ve always done,” he said.

Matthews said he has received nearly 90,000 likes since the event went viral on Facebook. He also has received some hate mail criticizing him for helping someone like Wilson, who has had legal problems in the past.

“I told them it was the guy in Enid who took clothes from his own closet and food from his own refrigerator and gave to another. Times are hard, everybody needs a little help,” Matthews said. “I don’t have a million bucks, but I have a million reasons to give thanks. That’s enough reason to help somebody.”

Jackson also doesn’t understand why the things he did have become so well known. He counted more than 80,000 likes on Facebook.

“I’m just a regular Joe trying to make a living. I’ve had great blessings with the attention. I had zero idea anyone would ever know,” Jackson said.

Matthews said Wilson is working around the yard to pay for the trailer.

“He’ll continue that until he finds a job or gets something else going on. I’m just trying to get him on his feet so he can get ahead. That was the main purpose,” Matthews said.

Wilson was unavailable for comment.

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