Alex was standing in line waiting for a hot meal when I asked him how he got to be homeless. He told me he just spent 6 months in a state hospital. He said that he was there because he was diagnosed schizophrenic. The state released him after six months. He said he was in another temporary program and they were trying to prepare him for the future by showing him the places he could get a free meal. Like Alex many of the homeless are mentally disadvantaged. Unless they have money for long-term care the state puts them out on the street, and they learn to survive.
I met Richard in Grants Pass Oregon. He was in a Park talking to himself and waving his hands. I introduced myself, asked his name and asked if I could talk to him. He said he didn’t talk to strangers and he didn’t want to tell me his story. He said, “I don’t have a story.” I continued to explain who I was and what I did and he began to share. He told me he thought he has been homeless for 30 years and was originally from San Francisco. He wasn’t sure how old he was. He said that he was kicked out of the local shelter and has been sleeping in the woods near the park. I asked if I could take his picture. he consented, but obviously was uncomfortable. He continued to talk and followed me around the park as I talked to other homeless people. He was both lonely and frightened. He is an example of our disenfranchised and mentally ill homeless population.
This is Wrightman. I met him at Pinewood Park in Ft Pierce. When I asked how long he has been homeless he said he didn’t know. I asked if I could take a picture of him and he said yes. When I asked him to turn his head to the side he didn’t understand and continued to look straight at me. He was not able comprehend any of my directions until I gestured with my hands. He seemed uncomfortable talking and could only answer yes and no questions. I asked him if he wanted a hot meal and he said yes. So I walked with him to the Canteen and gave him a hot meal.
Yes, we really have homeless veterans. I met Lynn the last Thursday at North Ft Pierce. He heard from other homeless that he could get a hot meal from us. He told me he served 8 years in the Marines mostly in Afghanistan. He said he gets VA health care and partial disability. He said he was just traveling through from West Palm on his way to North Carolina. “I have no money so I’m going to walk all the way,” he said. He had a friend there. He said, it was easier to be homeless than try to survive in society. He walked with a cane and was often slow organizing his thoughts. He thanked us for the meal. One of our volunteers offered to help him find transportation.
Dennis lives in a tent camp north of Ft Pierce. Dennis said that he was a victim of a violent crime six years ago. His house was broken into and the thief hit him in the head with a baseball bat. The blow crushed the right side of his head. He said that it took him 14 months to recover. He lives on social security and has no disability. He has been homeless for over a year. He can’t ride a bike because he gets vertigo, so he walks everywhere. He can’t hold a job, but he asked me if he could help clean up at one of our soup kitchens. He is going to help at Sarah’s Kitchen, Notre Dame Catholic Mission on Fridays. Dennis died homeless Jan. 2019.
Pat is a homeless woman. Pat has been homeless for several years. She's 58 years old. she worked part-time for Walmart for nine or ten years. She said she had to quit because her husband got really sick and she needed to take care of him. He was a handyman at a trailer park and when he became ill they lost the trailer that they were living in. So they moved into a tent and she's been in a tent ever since. He died several years ago and she is alone. She doesn't have any insurance or any income and because of an injury early in her life she has terrible memory loss and is not able to hold a job anymore.
Tucker and Jack. Tucker is from Texas. I met him in Ft Pierce. He said he has been homeless for about 5 years. He told me he is an iron- worker and the company he worked for shut down several years ago. Since then he has been doing odd jobs to survive. He is 59 and can’t get social security yet but is a Navy Veteran, so he has VA health benefits. He thanked us for the food and dry socks. He said that he is heading towards Lauderdale by bike and when I was driving home I saw him peddling south with Jack in the basket on Highway one.
Dave is a navy veteran and homeless. He got laid off and is having a hard time finding a job because of his age. He is 62. He said he works on Motorcycles and is a biker. He also said the food was great , but didn't want to talk anymore.
I saw Robert sitting alone at the Homeless Veterans Stand Down in Ft Pierce Thursday. I ask him if I could take his picture and ask a few questions. He said Ok and told me he was in the Marines: an infantry sniper. He told me he saw some ugly stuff…. like a buddy being killed with his own grenade. He said he had PTSD and suffered from substance abuse. I’m going through rehab with the help of the VA in West Palm Beach and the Salvation Army, he said. The Salvation Army provides meals and a place to sleep and the VA provides therapy and teaches me life skills. He said he was feeling better and learning a lot. I asked him if it was really OK for me to share his story. He answered, “sure, maybe it will help someone.”
Yes, I met Gary at the Veterans Stand Down in Ft Pierce last Thursday. He served in the Army as a Demolition Specialist from 1977-1983. He said he has been homeless for about six months, His truck caught fire and his tools were destroyed. He is a painter and carpenter by trade. He lost the contract that he had and became homeless. He is at the Stand down to get help. Since his discharge he said he has become more of hippie……” like I’m into peace and love.” He was grateful for the meals and help he received.
Mike was also at the Veterans Stand Down last Thursday. He was in the Army from 1982-1985. He said he was a Tank Mechanic. He told me he has struggled with alcohol, but is staying sober.He is homeless and just moved to a new tent camp north of Ft Pierce. His old camp was bulldozed by the new Brightline train people.
Manny was at the Veterans Stand Down in Ft Pierce. He served in the Navy from 1985-1010. He said that he was stationed all over the world. He was in the gulf during Desert Storm. He did search and rescue. "I was a Sonarman," he said. He told me he is retired and has been occasionally homeless.