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Man Living On Gahanna Sidewalk 'Adopted' By Community

Hamilton Road at Rocky Fork Dr. S.jpg
Debbie Holmes
Alexander Cash leaves most of his possessions on the sidewalk on Hamilton Road when he visits a nearby business.

It’s about 4:30 am on a weekday when store owner, Amrut Patel arrives to run his donut shop in Gahanna. Out front on the sidewalk 61-year-old Alexander Cash lies on his back with his crumpled jacket wrapped around to keep him warm.

“Alex, hey, you want coffee," Patel asks.

A cool night in late summer is nothing compared to the winter months he’s spent on the streets. I live in Gahanna, and I’ve seen him outside either sitting, sleeping or walking on the sidewalk for at least two years. It’s not something typical in this or many other suburbs.

I introduce myself to Cash. He’s polite and quiet, and doesn't want his picture taken. But he does offer his thoughts. Cash doesn’t call himself homeless.

“I pretty much see myself not with the label of homeless because being a U.S. citizen as so many others, I do probably the same things and or similar things that most U.S. citizens do,” Cash said.

Patel said Cash visits his business every day.

“Yeah, I talk to him every morning, like a couple times a day,” Patel said. “You know he comes here for coffee, doughnut. But I give him coffee free every day, no charge for coffee. And he’s nice guy. He don’t bother nobody.”

During the past couple years, while Cash has lived on the Gahanna sidewalk the community has kind of adopted him.

Gahanna Police Chief Jeffrey Spence said Cash spent some years on the streets in Reynoldsburg before coming to Gahanna. Spence said officers interact with Cash several times a week.

Cash said he appreciates the police offers to take him to a shelter, but he’s not interested.

“I’ve enjoyed talking to them, Cash said. “And it’s a pleasure from time-to-time socializing with them and listening to their perceptions.”

Chief Spence said Cash knows that he can stay on a public sidewalk. He doesn’t panhandle or bother those walking by. The biggest concern is occasionally trash will pile up.

“Our residents have been very generous,” Spence said. “I’ve been down and interacted with him when people will drop off meals and sometimes several meals within a very short period of time, beyond what he can eat, consume, so the trash is really sometimes beyond his ability to manage.”

Cash is aware of the ongoing pandemic. He wears a mask to pick up his coffee. He said he has not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

Mifflin Township Fire community paramedic, Kenny King has visited Cash several times.

“He’s of sound mind,” King said. “He’s of good health. He’s actually since he’s been there, he’s had his cataracts done. He stays at a hotel when he’s really cold.”

Donut shop owner, Patel said some of his customers have given Cash money to stay at a nearby hotel.

“They help him,” Patel said. “A lot of people they give him cash money. Somebody gives him gift card.”

Cash is appreciative.

“I was over there quite a bit at the Holiday Inn last winter and that got me through the colder months,” Cash said.

Cash said he’s from the Canton area. He worked as a computer operator in the 1980s and 90s. He understands that his skills are outdated, but he would consider working in the field again.

Cash said he never married and doesn’t have children. He has siblings but hasn’t seen them in a few years.

Patel though is troubled that Cash remains outside.

“I’m worried about him, but he’s an old guy and why does the government not take care for him,” Patel said.

Cash said he’s trying to move into a studio or one-bedroom apartment, but he realizes that goal could take a while.

“I hope folks could say that I’m doing something right also,” says Cash. “To be able to co-exist peacefully and get along with people and not be a socially proud person probably is a plus for me. Quite a few of them are very positive, warm-hearted people.”

Until Cash moves, the Gahanna community likely will continue to lend him a hand.

“I realize I’m blessed abundantly and shouldn’t take my blessings for granted,” he said.

Debbie Holmes began her career in broadcasting in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. She left the Buckeye state to pursue a career in television news and worked as a reporter and anchor in Moline, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.