One Man’s Story – A Homeless Odyssey
One Man’s Story – A Homeless Odyssey
Ruth Ann Angus
Is it safe to say that no one sets out in their life to be living on the street? If that is so, how does it happen? Here is one man’s story. In the interest of privacy, I will call him Chrys, short for Chrysoberyl, the name of a gemstone known popularly as Cat’s Eyes, for the eyes of the cat see in the dark and life on the street can be dark indeed.
Chrys was born in Porterville, an only child of alcoholic parents. While his mother managed to hold it together enough to keep a job at the local Thrifty Drug Store, his father would just lie around the house all day and drink. When Chrys turned two, his father left for good and Chrys never saw him again. During most of his childhood, he was left alone to fend for himself while his mother worked. His grandparents lived in Morro Bay, California and his grandfather worked at the golf course there. Chrys spent summer vacations with them.
“I don’t know what happened in my mom’s life,” he said, “but for some reason we moved here to live with my grandparents, and I went to grammar school at the old Morro Bay Elementary school.”
At the time of his birth his mother contracted Hepatitis C and needed many blood transfusions. Later in life she developed a condition akin to hemophilia and could no longer work. Chrys took over her care as a State of California caregiver for ten years, earning a small income. “My mother died in my arms in 2010 from an aneurism,” he said, “and I lost the caregiver income and was evicted from the house we had been living in. I went into a spiral then and took drugs to kill the pain.”
With $6,500 dollars, he inherited from his mother, Chrys bought a used trailer. He was in Porterville again and placed an ad on Craig’s list stating that he would work in exchange for space to park the trailer. A couple in Bakersfield responded, and he moved to their property to take care of their animals. “It was great,” he said, “I had the space and TV and the Internet. I lived there for three years.” However, tough circumstances took over again when the husband of the couple began to use heroin, a drug he had been addicted to previously. When Chrys saw their child crawling on the floor with a sticky black substance on its arm, he knew immediately that it was heroin. The man, afraid Chrys would turn him in, evicted him from the property. He had to sell the trailer getting only $700 for it. It was October 2013, and he was homeless. He has been on the road ever since.
At one time Chrys had hoped to attend the California Culinary Academy because he loved to cook. He was accepted, and his grandmother was planning to pay the $35,000 tuition. However, before being able to start at the Academy his grandmother passed away and the opportunity passed away with her as other relatives refused to let him have the money.
Chrys’ wanderings have taken him to San Francisco and Garberville in California, and Brookings in Oregon. With fond memories of his former life in Morro Bay, he traveled back there. However, alcohol and drugs became part of his street life until one day he “got busted.” “This turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me,” he said.
Rather than sending him to prison with a sentence that could be as short as 34 months or as long as six years, the judge offered him a special program funded by a legislative proposition. The court placed him on probation, and he underwent testing to place him into appropriate group therapy sessions to deal with his specific issues. From drinking a fifth of Vodka a day and using Meth, Chrys finally reached more than 70 days sober. Should he fail three tests in a row the court would send him immediately to prison. “I’m so thankful,” he said, “because now I have accountability. I must test regularly and go to group, and I’m doing great.”
Unfortunately, people are not so kind, not knowing or understanding his situation, and Chrys meets with a lot of prejudice and stereotyping. It comes with the territory of the street. He would like people to know that all homeless are not dirty. Chrys showers somewhere on the waterfront and with the funds he garners from panhandling, launders his clothes regularly. He wishes people had more compassion and that there were warming centers that could accommodate the street people during the inclement weather. He is grateful for the help he has received from the Resource offices in Morro Bay and Los Osos. “We just try to survive one more day,” he said, “it’s real compassion that’s needed to help us get on our feet again.”