BISMARCK , N.D. (AP) — A homeless man who was given a bus ticket by a shelter in Colorado to find a job in North Dakota said he will return to the tony ski resort of Aspen.
“I won’t live in a state that doesn’t want me,” said Jimmy Baldwin Jr., 32.
Last week, and just one day after he stepped of the bus in the booming oil town of Williston, Baldwin was arrested for disorderly conduct at a hospital. He was taken there after he was found intoxicated and urinating outside a strip club.
Baldwin was sentenced Thursday in Williston municipal court to 30 days in jail, with 23 days suspended and credit for the seven days he had served. He was ordered to pay a $350 fine, through a payment plan established by the court. He also must undergo daily alcohol tests, but can request those tests be given in the community where he resides.
Baldwin downplayed his actions in Williston and said he would hitchhike to Aspen immediately.
“I was just blowing off some steam after that long bus ride, got a little drunk, blacked out and had to go to the bathroom,” Baldwin told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from the Williams County Jail, shortly before his sentencing. “Any other place, I would have just gotten a ticket for disorderly conduct or taken to a drunk tank. But in North Dakota, they put you in jail for a week.”
He spent Christmas in jail but it wasn’t the first time. He said he had spent “two or three” Christmases in lockups in other states, but could not immediately specify where.
Baldwin, who is originally from Modesto, Calif., said he has spent his adult life drifting around the country, working odd jobs and camping. He claims to have a tattoo of the U.S. on his neck, with all but North Dakota marked with a permanent red dot documenting where he had been.
Baldwin had been living in Aspen for about four months, and by his account and others’, had acquired a list of misdemeanor crimes, typically stemming from alcohol.
A friend in Aspen told him about the oil boom in North Dakota and Baldwin was determined to find a job in the oil patch. He told shelter officials in Aspen that he intended to hitchhike to North Dakota to find a job. Instead, the shelter gave him a one-way bus ticket to Williston.
The move grabbed headlines in North Dakota and angered many residents and officials. Housing is scarce in Williston because of the oil boom and the few shelters are full, Mayor Ward Koeser said.
“I was disappointed in their action,” Koeser said of the shelter in Aspen that provided funds for Baldwin’s bus ticket. “They got rid of their problem. They didn’t do us justice and they didn’t do him justice. There is no available housing in the city — no room at the inn for this guy.”
Shelter officials in Aspen did not return repeated telephone calls from the AP.
Baldwin said he planned to stay in his tent in Williston, and said he did not fear North Dakota’s brutal winters. But he said it’s moot now.
“If they want me to go, I’ll go,” Baldwin said. “People aren’t very godly or friendly here anyway.”
Baldwin faces a trespassing charge in the city of Aspen and charges of menacing, disorderly conduct and marijuana possession in Aspen’s Pitkin County. A court date for Baldwin is slated for Jan. 17, Pitkin County Deputy District Attorney Richard Nedlin said.
“I don’t know that Aspen will welcome him with open arms,” Nedlin said. “But our court doors will be open.”
By James MacPherson, AP Writer (© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)