Man living in car since '00 upsets neighbors
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[August 10, 2007]
(AP) -- Steve Graham might not be in the doghouse over a dispute with his wife, but as far as his neighbors are concerned, he's not far from it. For the past seven years, Graham, 55, has been living in his car parked in the backyard of a house he and his wife, La Donna Graham, own.
Graham said the two have "been having troubles" since 1999 and that he's been out of the house since about 2000. His wife still lives in the home.
"She's not going to support me not having a job and bumming around," Graham said. "I'm trying my best to get a job and get up out of this rut."
But his neighbors, who say Graham plays loud music, often spouts obscenity-laced tirades and uses his yard as a toilet, aren't amused. They have asked the city to prohibit such living arrangements.
"You can't enjoy your backyard," said Linda Sanders, whose backyard is across the alley from Graham's property.
Sanders and her family are among more than a dozen neighbors who presented the Pittsburg City Commission with a petition in July asking it to prohibit people from living in their cars on private property within city limits.
Kenny and Cathy Waring live in property adjoining Graham's, near a park and across the street from Lakeside Elementary School.
"Every day he's out there. He never goes into the house," Kenny Waring said. "He sleeps out there, he eats out there, he watches TV, he plays guitar. ... Everything that you do in your house, he does out there."
Graham acknowledged that he watches TV, listens to music and sometimes sleeps in his blue, 1989 Buick Century. The car is parked on a concrete slab, mostly covered by a large, blue tarp that is secured with bricks and cinder blocks.
An extension cord from the house to the car provides power for a 13-inch TV, an oscillating fan and a radio.
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"I get better reception there than I do in there," he said, pointing at the house. "I listen to Rush (Limbaugh) every day, just about."
The Warings said they tried at first to get along with Graham, but by the second year, they were calling the police on a regular basis. At first, they were the only neighbors upset by Graham's living arrangement, but now they say more neighbors with children are moving into the area.
The neighbors say one of their biggest complaints is that Graham may be using his yard for a toilet.
Sanders said when her son-in-law was back from Iraq in mid-June, Graham began to burn trash and other debris across the alley.
"I walked out there, and (the smell) was terrible," she said. "Then Ronnie came out the back door and said, 'It smells just like back in Baghdad.' He said he'd been on detail where they have to burn excrement and said that was exactly what it smells like."
Graham denied that he used the yard for a toilet.
"No, I go elsewhere," he said. "I don't expose myself to people."
Information from: The Joplin Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com/
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