• Homeless Chronicles

    by Erika Fiske

    Erica Fiske is a Pacific Grove resident and former journalist. She tasted homelessness herself when, after being an in-home caregiver for years, her patient died and she found herself unable to secure another client. When her landlord raised her rent from $1,800 to $2,500, homelessness was a real spectre. With her background in journalism, Erica became interested in the stories of local homeless people and has written a series. Her stories will appear weekly for the foreseeable future, as there are many, many homeless out there.

    « Previous Entries

    Drinking away the pain in beautiful Monterey

    by Erika Fiske

    homeless luisAt 50 years of age and homeless, Luis is a mess, and he doesn’t seem to care. In fact, he says he hasn’t cared in a long, long time.

    Luis was born in Oakland to a father of Cuban decent, who liked brandy, and a vodka-drinking mother of German decent. Luis likes beer. Over the years he’s had plenty of it—enough to kill more than a few brain cells. Enough, in fact, to land him along a road north of Watsonville recently, where he thought he was walking on a Monterey street. “I was delusional,” he said, chuckling. “I didn’t know where I was.”

    Much of Luis’ past has disappeared from his memory. Read more…»

    Former navy seal fighting his last battle on the streets of Monterey

    by Erika Fiske

    homeless jonathanAfter a cold night that dipped into the 20s, Jonathan stretched out on a bench at the downtown Monterey bus stop on Tuesday afternoon to sooth his aching legs in the warm sun. He proudly wore a cap from the USS Wisconsin and closed his eyes. A cane rested against the wall beside him. Jonathan, 56, was a sniper for the U.S. Navy SEALs and a Navy intelligence officer until a bullet passed through his legs many years ago. When he was put at a desk to shuffle papers, he left the Navy and returned to the U.S. For the past 18 months, Jonathan has been homeless–and dying of stomach cancer.

    He could be the poster child for a country that uses its soldiers, and then throws them away. But Jonathan displays no bitterness, even as his life is coming to an end. He’s proud of his service to his country and that of his father, who was in the military for 30 years before his death.

    “I did 14 confirmed kills, and they all deserved it,” Jonathan said, recalling his past as a sniper. “It was me and a spotter.”

    Read more…»

    Homeless vet trades a moldy carpet for a college education

    by Erika Fiske

    homeless danielDaniel probably hit bottom the night he tried to stay warm by rolling himself into a damp, moldy carpet beneath an underpass in San Francisco. Cold, hungry and homeless, his life seemed to be over. But then, he really never had much of a life— growing up without love, shuffled from place to place. This past Monday a very different Daniel sat in the Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company in Pacific Grove, having a coffee and dessert while discussing his journey from life on the streets to life as a student at Monterey Peninsula College.

    The secret of his success was the love he received from some strangers in San Francisco who found this dirty, hopeless veteran living on the streets and offered him love and a place to live at Grace Healing Home. Later, in Monterey, he was taken in by I-HELP and given a place to sleep. Some caring individuals working with the homeless helped Daniel find a place to live in Pacific Grove and access to military benefits to continue his education.

    Read more…»

    Homeless again, but standing his ground

    by Erika Fiske

    At 51 years of age, Kevin looks like he’s been through some hard times in life. He’s always managed to pick himself up and start over, and he has no doubt he’ll do it again. But in the meantime, Kevin lives in a tent on the hard ground, gathers with other homeless by Del Monte Shopping Center and hopes the old girlfriend doesn’t show up, wanting him back.

    “All she wants to do is use drugs,” he says, sitting down in a sunny spot overlooking a small gathering of homeless men and women on this New Year’s Eve. The group appears to be having a feast brought by good-hearted people in the area–with platters of veggies, cheeses, cake and many containers of prepared food. Those partaking of this abundance are smiling and laughing. The holidays are good.

    In fact, a steady stream of well-wishers have been bringing all kinds of foods and gifts over the days, including bags full of necessities, clothing and modest monetary gifts. A kind policeman took Kevin aside one day and asked that the homeless try to pick up after themselves and keep the area as neat as possible. Kevin smiles and turns toward the others, pointing to neat surroundings and a lack of trash.

    But the smiles hide lives of heartache and tragedy—from a fisherman to a business owner, an engineer, a cook, heir to a donut shop and a taxi driver. Read more…»

    Fisherman blames Sanctuary guardians for his plight

    by Erika Fiske

    It’s Monday morning, December 24. This evening, many will be gathered around lighted Christmas trees, with hot drinks and cookies, gifts piled high and happy children awaiting Santa. Others will be seated with their Bibles in churches and homes, reading words put down on paper thousands of years ago. Missing from these gatherings will be the increasing numbers of homeless among us—people like those under the trees by Del Monte Shopping Center, talking, smiling and graciously accepting the occasional gift dropped off by locals wanting to share their joy.

    It should be no surprise that there’s a 48-year-old fisherman among this gathering of homeless, telling tales of the sea. His name is Jeffrey, and until two years ago he was a commercial fisherman off the California coast, a job he has loved for more than 30 years.

    Today Jeffrey lives in a tent, shares meals with other homeless and still goes out on the water to fish for his food. Like so many fishermen, and Americans in general, jobs and money aren’t so plentiful anymore. But Jeffrey’s lucky. “I can still feed myself out of the ocean,” he says. Ask him about his life as a fisherman, and he’ll gladly oblige, telling tales of monster fish with sharp teeth living in deep caves, or dangerous storms on rough seas. Jeffrey loves the sea.

    Drying out after days of rain, he wears a shadow of rough stubble across his face and a camouflage cap and clothes to keep himself warm. He smiles and laughs a lot and doesn’t seem to mind that he has no family to go home to for Christmas and New Year’s. Jeffrey appreciates the people seated around him, men and women of all ages, each with their own story. As he speaks, a large, black pickup truck pulls up and a young man brings over a gift for everyone. The contents are divided, and Jeffrey continues on with his story—and how he got into fishing.

    Read more…»

    Homeless man embraces life of simplicity and peace, but accepts whatever comes

    by Erika Fiske

    The weather has been cold lately,with icy winds, dark clouds and lots of rain. Those with warm houses and cars run from one door to another, wrapped in coats and scarves. The homeless, however, stand in the elements, wet and cold to the bone. They crawl into wet tents with damp feet that never seem to warm. Some just turn their backs to the wind, while others look for a tree to lean on for protection.

    Monday is one of those gray, wet days. A group of homeless men are gathered under trees by Lake El Estero, their dogs wearing T-shirts for warmth. Two homeless men and a woman try to stay dry under a large cedar tree across the street, at Window on the Bay. A few feet away are two empty police cars in the parking lot. Beneath some eucalyptus trees, by a picnic table, officers approach a homeless man and ask his name. He is placed in handcuffs and into one of the cars.

    So it goes, as another homeless person is taken away to jail, an all too common scene these days on the Monterey Peninsula. But it’s a fitting aftermath to an interview at this very spot just a day earlier, when a homeless man talked of a war on the homeless.

    It might also be called a war on the helpless, and the voiceless.

    Read more…»

    Harleys: One she road, the other kept her going

    by Erika Fiske

    She was running an errand with her car in Los Angeles when she passed the little black dog, dead in a puddle of blood, hit by a car. But as Joanne returned home a while later, passing the dog again, he struggled to raise his head. He was still alive.

    “A security guard across the street said he’d been there all night,” she noted. And that was enough for Joanne. With the help of a vet, the Patterdale Terrier’s fractured jaw and broken bones were healed, and Joanne—who loved Harley-Davidson motorcycles – named the animal Harley.

    For the past several months, she and the dog have been homeless and living in a car, although they don’t look the part. Harley’s healthy coat shines, while 51-year-old Joanne is neatly dressed with jeans and a blouse, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. The pair looks fine, but sometimes Harley is the only thing that keeps Joanne going. As she told her story, a rumbling sound came from the distance. Suddenly, a group of motorcycles passed on Del Monte Boulevard. “When they sound like thunder, you know they’re Harleys,” she said, smiling ear to ear.

    Read more…»

    Smiling in the cold wind

    by Erika Fiske

    MONTEREY— For 24 years Nancy got to work among the very rich—among the golf courses and hotels of Pebble Beach.

    And during those years, the very richest in America, and the multi-national corporations and corrupt politicians shipped jobs overseas and sucked up the money and resources of America.

    As the middle class disappeared and the economy faltered, so did Pebble Beach to a certain extent. Despite all her years with the company, and working herself up to supervisor in housekeeping, Nancy was laid off with other Pebble Beach workers over the past year.

    She thought she’d be able to find work right away, but that didn’t happen. Suddenly—at 60 years of age—she was without an income and without a home.

    Today she was seated on a plastic crate behind Whole Foods, smiling with a bad tooth protruding from one side of her mouth and her long grey hair tied back in a ponytail. Like all the others here, she sleeps in a tent up in the hills by Monterey, coming into town for food and friendship.

    Nancy admits homelessness was scary at first. Read more…»

    No rest for the greybeards, no bed for the Hopi

    by Erika Fiske

    Camille, a Hopi Native American, sits on the ground beneath a tree and smiles widely, stroking her dog and speaking quietly. It’s a sunny, chilly morning. She’s with a small group of homeless people, also seated on the ground behind Whole Foods. Nearby are two older men she refers to as the Greybeards, one with a parrot on his shoulder, and using a bucket for a chair, the other on a tree stump, with a dog chained by him. Under a nearby tree, another young man sleeps in the sun, his face partially hidden by the hood of his jacket.

    “The Greybeards are the leaders of the people,” Camille says, as if speaking to a hushed circle of tribesmen. “They make sure we keep the area clean.”

    Most of these homeless slept in tents on the hillsides across Highway One until recently, when they were moved out by the property owners. Gathering up their few belongings, they moved to another area within walking distance of Del Monte Shopping Center.

    Things changed behind Whole Foods as well. The crates everyone sat on were taken away, and the homeless were warned they’d be fined $1,500 if they sat on them again. Brush was cleared away, and the homeless were told to keep the area clean. A recycle truck that gave them spending money was moved away, and in its place was parked a police car. Every day the empty patrol car has its camera pointed toward the homeless, seated by the trees behind Whole Foods.

    Read more…»

    Will: Surfer and extreme athlete, now a homeless youth

    by Erika Fiske

    Will used to be the epitome of a California surfer— muscular, a boyish look, a pro in gymnastics. He could ride waves as easily as most of us walk. He could do it all. But not anymore. These days the 22-year-old wakes up on fire, with his feet in buckets of cold water, and his dreams gone.

    Will is one of many homeless youths who call the streets of Monterey Peninsula home. But unlike the others, he must deal with a rare and painful neurovascular disorder for which there is no cure— erythromelalgia. The disorder involves blood vessels which become blocked off and on throughout the day, causing severe burning pain in the lower extremities and feet. The heat and pain can be triggered by anything from high temperatures, pressure and mild activity to exertion, insomnia or stress. In other words, just about anything.

    Read more…»

    Funds for counselor who gives hope to lost youths has been cut

    by Erika Fiske

    Like so many in America today, Gary Thompson’s life is uncertain. Last week the counselor learned that an annual federal grant he’s counted on for years was denied. Now the Street Outreach Program at A Safe Place is reaching out to Monterey and surrounding communities for help, so people such as Thompson can continue to work with more than 600 homeless youths a year who walk through the center’s doors.

    This outreach program, funded by federal grants for the past 13 years, was recently denied because the local Safe Place provides no place for the many homeless youths to sleep. Every night kids can be seen sleeping on hillsides by Monterey, on beaches, at friends’ homes, in cars and garages, wooded areas, parks and abandoned buildings, or wherever they can lie down for a few hours. Just at a time when numbers of youths going homeless are on the rise in a poor economy, help could disappear—unless the community cares enough to act.

    Read more…»

    By saving others, she has saved herself

    by Erika Fiske

    Nancy Fountain sits in the Safe Place kitchen, talking about how she helped herself by helping others.Nancy Fountain lost her husband to cancer a few years ago, and then lost herself. She was ready to follow him wherever he was going.

    But life went on, and she managed to carry on. Nancy filled her time with volunteer work. She was proud of what she did and all the hours she gave, but there was a huge hole in her life. She felt unfulfilled.

    Then Nancy started reading a series on the homeless that began a few months ago and continues each week in Cedar Street Times. She was touched by the stories and decided to help.

    That decision gave Nancy a reason to go on, a purpose in life. She found a place full of homeless and runaway youths, young people who needed just what she could give—the love of a caring grandmother.

    Read more…»

    Fenced off in another world

    by Erika Fiske

    pictures 253SALINAS— I was lost and driving past when I saw the strange sight. It was an area near freeways and power lines, surrounded by a high, prison-like fence. There were small tents erected behind a brick building, shopping carts with belongings everywhere, trash. It looked like a scene from a Third World country, but this was Monterey County, home to some of the richest and most powerful people in the country.

    After an interview on the food bank, I backtracked with my car to that squalid area, at the intersection of California and Market. The scene reminded me of a movie a friend took me to more than a year ago at the Osio Cinemas in Monterey—a film about Ayn Rand, the Russian philosopher said to have influenced conservatives in the Republican party. The film depicted an America of stark contrasts, utter poverty and decay versus wealth and beauty, the haves versus the have-nots. It was the scene before me right now in Salinas, the America we are becoming.

    Read more…»

    From a life of privilege to being a homeless radio show host

    by Erika Fiske

    “You write fast,” she said, taking a moment to catch her breath before going on at a record pace with her story of homelessness. I couldn’t count how many times she mentioned the jets she once owned, or the television shows she’s been on. Frankly, I was glad for the repetitions. They gave me a chance to catch up.

    Sarah, 47, was neatly dressed, with brown curly hair to her shoulders, seated on a curb near the volleyball courts at Window on the Bay. But she didn’t always look this way. That’s because Sarah was once Jeff.

    As she described her history of relationships, achievements and possessions, it became clear Sarah has enjoyed her female sexuality and fame-claiming to be one of the most famous people in the world since she underwent her sex change in the late ’80s. “In 1989 I was all over the media. I was on different shows, Sally Jessy Raphael, Larry King and many others,” she said. “I even turned down Oprah.”

    Read more…»

    Homeless veteran may get a happy ending soon

    After many dreams lost, homeless veteran is ready to settle down

    by Erika Fiske

    When Dale was young, he dreamed of going into the motion picture industry. Instead, he went into the Army. In March, at 64 years of age, he became homeless.

    Dale sipped on his cup of coffee at The Works coffee house and bookstore, his face slightly red and sporting some stubble, with blue eyes, white hair and an easy smile. The veteran spoke of his life, quietly answering questions, but rarely volunteering information.

    The Pacific Grove man became homeless in March, following a cascade of events that turned many Americans out of their homes – once their taxes bailed out the corporate banks and their CEOs. When the real estate market crashed and the economy faltered, Dale lost his income property, his investments and finally his home.

    With money he was given to vacate his Pacific Grove house, Dale bought an SUV, and that became home.

    Unlike so many stories of the homeless, it looks like Dale’s will have a happy ending. Read more…»

    Happiness is a comforter by the dumpster, a bagel and a hot cup of tea

    by Erika Fiske

    Lee is not your typical Pacific Grove resident.  He’s 6 feet 4 inches tall, very thin and African-American.  At 40 years of age, he looks like a young basketball star.  He’s also homeless.

    Although his family has been a part of Pacific Grove since the days when African Americans weren’t such a rarity here, Lee sleeps behind a downtown dumpster. Despite the recent cold, foggy nights, Lee says he’s warm beneath his thick comforter.  And sometimes he’ll start his day by dropping in at a local coffee shop for a cup of tea and a bagel.

    Lee was born in Hawaii and is of Samoan and Jamaican heritage.  He and his mother moved to Marina when he was six. His father, a Navy man, died of a massive stroke and heart attack 22 years ago. Not long ago, Lee’s mother also had a stroke, and a few weeks ago Lee himself suffered a mild stroke and was placed on blood thinners and morphine.

    Despite the recent losses and sadness, Lee doesn’t wear his troubles on his face—troubles that began when he returned home after a few days of looking for work and realized something wasn’t right with his mother. Read more…»

    A trucker who drove through hell before he found heaven

    by Erika Fiske

    Anthony doesn’t need to open his Bible to know what Hell is about. He lived there awhile.

    But the former truck driver, drug user and homeless man turned his life around a few years ago and now stands with the homeless on Sundays at Window on the Bay, sharing his Bible with those willing to listen.

    On a recent Sunday he filled in for the regular preacher, leading the outdoor service and later talking about his life. He made it clear he probably wouldn’t be alive today if not for God.

    Read more…»

    Home at last

    by Erika Fiske

    On the hillside behind Whole Foods, not far from a dumpster and some crates where the homeless sit and talk, there’s a grave site marked by a piece of marble. On the marble are these words: Marley Gwin, 6-2-09 to 6-3-11, Loyal Friend and Loved Companion, RIP.

    Marley was a bird, and he was indeed loved. He came into Timothy’s life from a pet store cage. Being homeless and having the time, Timothy would go each day to a local pet store to talk with Marley as the bird looked out from his cage. He brightened Marley’s long days behind bars.

    “He got attached to me,” Timothy admitted. So one day the shop keeper asked if he wanted to hold the bird. As she was reaching for Marley, he bit her.

    Then Timothy put his finger out, Marley climbed aboard and the bird was his. Read more…»

    Happy with little

    Homeless people who have learned to get along, and are happy

    by Erika Fiske

    MONTEREY— A group holding signs reading “Peace” and “Free Tibet” stand along Del Monte Avenue at Window on the Bay, hoping to inform drivers passing by of the Chinese threat. Across the grass, locals play volleyball in the sand on this cool, sunny day. At the stoplight, a long, black, stretch limo waits for the light to turn. Near the trees, some homeless park their bicycles and meet to chat about the news, or to share helpful information.

    Leaning against a fence is Levi, with his little rat terrier seated on his shoulder. I interviewed him days ago, but on this Saturday he’s passing the word that there’s a government-assisted wireless service for people like them, making phones affordable.

    I tell Levi that someone contacted me about benefits he would be entitled to as a vet, but the bearded former Green Beret declines. Levi is a proud man and repeats that he wants no more to do with the government after he was denied disability benefits years ago. Besides, he adds with a smile, if he could survive in Vietnam, he can survive in the hills around Monterey.

    Read more…»

    Trading a Harley for a good book

    Finding each other and the Lord, they’re satisfied living in a van

    by Erika Fiske

    MONTEREY— Riding Harleys, doing drugs, going to prison—Danny’s life wasn’t boring. But, maybe it was a little wasted.

    That’s what Danny says today, at the age of 62. He was sitting on a plastic crate by Del Monte Shopping Center on a Thursday afternoon, talking about his life and what went wrong. Unlike many of the homeless, he at least has a vehicle—a van. And he’s married.

    But he does miss those Harley motorcycles. He last sat on one of his own decades ago, in the late 1980s.

    As the homeless man spoke, his long beard bobbing with each word, he looked like someone out of the frontier days, one of those guys panning for gold in a rushing California stream.

    And then wife Katherine walked up in a long dress. She pointed out that the couple hasn’t had an argument in two years, even though Danny is her fourth husband. Why? For one thing, they’ve both found the Lord.

    Read more…»

    Give him a jelly donut, a cup of coffee and the courage to succeed

    Homeless special ed teacher sleeps in his car … for now

    by Erika Fiske

    It would be unusual not to see Mark dozing off on a couch at the back of Juice and Java coffee house. That’s where he naps during the day, after spending his nights in a car, or reading in a booth at a 24-hour-restaurant. When he finally stands to leave the coffee shop, he walks with a noticeable limp, with one leg two inches shorter than the other. But the limp is the least of his problems. Mark is a school teacher and homeless.

    Life hasn’t been easy for this 49-year-old California native who suffers from cerebral palsy. Despite being a special needs student all his life, and one of 10 children, he managed to earn a teaching degree and find work, until the economy ended his job and put him out on the street.

    Now he has to earn an advanced degree to find work again. But in the meantime, Mark’s had no place to live since the end of May. Read more…»

    Gay and homeless: Support is scarce

    by Erika Fiske

    Sage came into the Cedar Street Times recently after reading one of a series of stories on the homeless in this area. He wanted readers to know his own struggles not only with homelessness and unemployment, but also with the lack of acceptance of gay men among the homeless themselves. Sage is gay.

    People who meet him on the street think he’s just a regular guy out for a bike ride, a handsome fellow with a good job, a car and maybe a dog waiting for him at home. He’s always well groomed, wearing neat, clean clothes in browns and tans, to go with his brown hair. Sage is a good actor.

    The day he managed to get a locker in Monterey, he traveled out to Pebble Beach to retrieve his belongings. Just past the Pacific Grove entrance to the luxurious community, he followed a winding trail back into the trees and brush, where deer frequently search for tender leaves. Finally his campsite came into view, a tent, sleeping bags and other items that made this wild place in the midst of incredible wealth his home. After packing his belongings, he traveled back to Monterey and deposited everything in a locker.

    Sage was now a member of the Monterey homeless. Read more…»

    With a bible in one hand, he’ll be walking toward the light

    by Erika Fiske

    If you’ve known Joseph for any time at all, you’ve probably seen him with his tattered Bible open to a favorite passage. You might have seen him along a street in Monterey, playing his harmonica and looking like he just stepped away from panning gold in the Old West. He’s short and a little ragged looking, with a black hat, leather jacket, a grizzled beard and an easy smile.

    Joseph is a street musician, a minister and one of the homeless. He looks much older than his 57 years—-probably from all the alcohol and cigarettes. On this sunny, Sunday morning he joins a large group of people just like himself, waiting at Window on the Bay for the weekly prayer circle and breakfast for the homeless, led by another local minister, Brian Bajari.

    Many here look like they’ve lived hard lives and are tired of moving on from place to place. It’s a stark contrast to the wealth and beauty surrounding them— the snow white sailboats bobbing in the bluest of waters, the warm sandy beaches and the bustling wharfs.

    Read more…»

    Alicia: A Hippie in search of her dream

    by Erika Fiske

    Alicia is a hippie born at the wrong time. She keeps traveling back and forth across the country, looking for something that isn’t there anymore. Thursday morning she stopped in Monterey, but just for a moment. Tomorrow she’ll be gone.

    She managed to find the homeless community near Del Monte Shopping Center and was seated on a small crate by a young man named Josh. Even with a coat on and warm sunshine, the wind was icy. Josh explained that people like Alicia are known as “rubber tramps,” because they at least have cars.

    Thin and attractive, her hair held back by a long scarf, and wearing a long, multi- colored skirt, moccasins, six rings, three necklaces and a tiny ring in her nose, Alicia reminds me of my college days, when hippies were everywhere and protests were large and effective.

    She’s just 24 and sounds well educated, although she didn’t finish high school and never went to college. She travels with a handsome, three-year-old pit bull/blue terrier mix named Buckwheat.

    “My mother said, ‘You were definitely born in the wrong era,’” Alicia noted. “She believes in reincarnation because of me.”

    Read more…»

    Sandy: Sometimes you just give up

    by Erika Fiske

    (This encounter took place in February.)

    I almost drove by her. She looked just like all the other homeless, pushing her stroller full of belongings, carrying a small dog and holding another by its leash.

    Sandy also looked like she needed a bath, and her clothes needed washing. Her hair could have used a comb. She looked tired.

    In her 50s now, Sandy has spent the past two years on the streets, just trying to stay alive. The comfortable in society may think our safety nets work just fine—but they don’t. More and more people are winding up like Sandy. And they’re not alcoholics or drug addicts. They’re people who were barely making it and suddenly found they weren’t making it. But there was a time when she considered herself part of the middle class.

    Read more…»

    77 and toothless, former teacher holds on to hope

    BA in Social Services and a lifetime of helping others but no one it seems can help her

    by Erika Fiske

    The 77-year-old, grey-haired woman is sitting by the window at a McDonald’s near Costco. She’s thin, with blue bulging eyes and no teeth. Her skinny face appears to be caving in toward the toothless mouth. She’s finishing up her meal of mostly liquids. Her winter coat is zipped up to her chin. Beside her is a plastic bag with containers of water, juice and such. That’s all she has with her.

    Susan is homeless, one of many such people shuffling along the streets of this community of wealth, abundance and beauty. I didn’t come upon her by accident. Someone called and told me this woman spent the night at a Denny’s by the Motel 6 in Marina. She’s eating and staying warm at McDonald’s until she can make her way to the Ocean View Baptist Church in Seaside—a long walk from here. There, at a 7:30 p.m. service, she hopes to find a woman she knows who might give her a place to stay tonight.

    After introducing myself and telling her why I am here, we begin to talk. It isn’t easy to watch her try to speak without teeth. Her mouth is coated with many meals and organisms. Once in a while a morsel of food makes its way to her lips and falls off. Many times I have to ask her to repeat her sentences. Sometimes she has to take my pen and spell a word I simply can’t make out.

    Susan is no stranger to this area. Although born in Los Angeles in the 30s, she has lived here for many years, teaching in elementary schools and caring for elderly in their homes, often in the Carmel, Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove areas. Read more…»

    Guardian of the Tide Pools and Friend of the Ticks Loses Her Home

    by Erika Fiske

    She’s been as much a fixture in Pacific Grove as the Post Office, or Lover’s Point. For years, residents have passed her big, old motor home parked each day by the ocean, near the tide pools, not far from the lighthouse.

    But not anymore. Recently, someone crashed into the back of Tricia’s home on wheels and fled, leaving his car behind. The driver was never found, and the owner listed on the registration says he sold the car. Tricia was listed on the accident report as a “transient,” and her old motor home with its leaky roof, and the words “All Life is Sacred” scrawled across the back, couldn’t be fixed and was towed away.

    After removing her belongings and putting them with friends and in storage, Tricia and her old black cat Maui (pronounced Mooe) became homeless once again.

    Read more…»

    Go ahead, throw a coin to the disabled vet

    by Erika Fiske

    MONTEREY— I made the mistake of asking him about Vietnam. His eyes filled with tears as he looked down and said he wouldn’t talk about it. Not one word, he said.

    Levi is one of those homeless guys you try to avoid. Ragged looking, his backpack on his bike, sporting a beard of many years and a little dog on his shoulder. They can be seen in parking lots or on street corners holding signs seeking help. While he wouldn’t discuss the war, he was happy to talk about his dog earlier today.

    “Some boys gave her to me in a parking lot. They said they would have to give her to the pound if someone didn’t take her,” he said. Levi’s heart went out to the rat terrier pup named Scrubby, who’s now nine months old. So she goes with him everywhere, riding that shoulder.

    In April, Levi will be 55, but he isn’t expecting anything special on his birthday. People are more likely to give Scrubby a gift than Levi. “They’ll give my dog an $8 bag of dog food or $15 in dog treats, and they’ll give me 25 cents,” he said. But the homeless vet manages to get enough to meet his basic needs when he pulls out a sign at a parking lot and waits.

    Read more…»

    Out of sight, out of mind

    by Erika Fiske

    With his fractured heel, 48-year-old Lee walks along Pacific Grove’s tree-lined streets on this wet Wednesday, heading toward a motel near the cemetery, where deer have found a place to live. That’s more than Lee’s been able to do. Walking beside him is Baby, a 17-year-old terrier mix.

    Baby has stood beside Lee all her 17 years. Whenever he stops, she takes the opportunity to lie down and rest her old bones. She’s quiet, and her eyes tell a story of years of moving on.

    Lee can be found on weekdays at the Sally Griffin Center in Pacific Grove, where he uses a computer to look for jobs on Craigslist. But Lee never seems to get a bite. His last job, washing dishes at Asilomar state park, ended when a big corporation took over and let a lot of workers go—the usual story in America these days, he says. Chances are, Lee will never find a job again, like so many of the homeless.

    Read more…»

    The Few, The Brave, The Blind

    by Erika Fiske

    The few, the brave, the Marines. Those words paint a picture of trim men in uniform, standing at attention by the American flag. Brave men like Rafael, who left home at the age of seven and made his way into a strange country to begin a better life.

    Until he was dishonorably discharged, that is.

    I ran into Rafael on a Tuesday morning at Window on the Bay. The 53-year-old homeless man with short brown hair and a mustache was sitting on a low, wooden fence. But something wasn’t right about him. Then I saw the eyes.

    Rafael is blind.

    His story began in Leon, Mexico, where a small boy grew tired of beatings by an abusive father and struck out on his own. After hitchhiking across America, he settled on the streets of Chicago, where an alcoholic homeless man took him under his wings.

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