Faithful Through Homelessness

Homeless for five years, Thomas Clifford spends his time traveling and playing his guitar, but has not lost his faith.



A Note From the Author:

I met Thomas Clifford one day while walking through Maplewood, Mo. I was on assignment and gathering photos of Maplewood and its cute, small-town feel. I came across Clifford playing music on the sidewalk and asked for a photo, as street musicians are a flavorful part of St. Louis. After clicking a few photos, something pulled me to introduce myself and ask him his name. He then asked if I wanted to hear a story. From there, Clifford told me his entire story and shared with me his faith as we sat together on the sidewalk. He and I walked to a small diner in Maplewood, enjoyed a burger and sodas together and parted ways. I gave Clifford a burger, but he poured his heart out and gave me inspiration.


Clifford makes any money he can by picking his guitar as he travels.

“I dropped out of society five years ago,” said Thomas Clifford, known on the streets as Drifter.

Clifford, 55, originally from Dogtown in St. Louis, travels the streets as a picker, just him and his guitar.

Homeless for five years, Clifford has spent his time hitchhiking throughout the United States, stopping to play his guitar for a few dollars.

Clifford worked for many years as a chef and culinary instructor. He also owned and operated a painting business, but as the bottom dropped out of the economy, he couldn’t find work.

“I couldn’t give a job away,” Clifford said. With the lack of income, Clifford struggled to make his child support payments and found himself owing $16,000.

Clifford was sentenced to two years in the Moberly Correctional Center, an all-male correctional facility.

After his two-year sentence, Clifford had to make a plan.

“I’m not gonna let it get me down,” Clifford said, and this is where he began hitchhiking through the country.

There are many stereotypes that come along with homelessness: alcoholism, drug abuse and mental illness to name a few.

Something that might not be expected of the homeless is faith. For Clifford, it is the only way he gets by.

He believes that God is taking care of him and watching over him, even if it’s just a single penny at a time.

“It’s like my mantra, I pick each penny that I see up and send him up a prayer,” Clifford said. He sees each penny as a way that God is taking care of him and offering him a means of living.

Clifford has a different belief in God. While some believe that God is someone to be praised and feared, he believes that God is his buddy.

He shares his fears, worries, joys and anger with God because they are friends. Each penny he finds is an opportunity for him to praise God for looking out for him.

Through his years on the streets, Clifford has come to learn that everything happens as it should.

When he wandered into a concert at The Pageant, he was brought to tears, as the show was a benefit for the homeless hosted by Big and Rich.

“They were there to take care of the homeless,” he said, choking back tears. “That was the most meaningful concert I have ever been to. If God ever blesses me with a place on the stage, that is what I want to do. It’s not about the money, it’s about the people.”

Clifford plans to make one more “tour” before finding home again. “I just want to enlighten the world and show them Jesus,” said Clifford.

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Rebekah Rutledge

Rebekah Rutledge

Rebekah Rutledge, Social Media Editor of MBU Timeline, is a senior seeking a major in journalism, as well as a minor in public relations. In the past two years, Rebekah has founded and lead MBU’s Circle K International, a global service organization. Rebekah loves all things social media, as well as photography, writing and editing. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in public relations and account management.


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