• 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.

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    He’ll go out the way he came in— standing up

    by Erika Fiske

    Jai and Buddy are quite the pair. Both old, one on oxygen, one having trouble getting up after a cold, wet night–and sometimes falling over as he walks.

    They’ve been living together by the lake across the street from Window on the Bay for many years. I heard there was an old dog limping around this area that might be put down this week, so I sought him out on this sunny Wednesday morning.

    I found his owner, Jai, standing by a tall tree–actually leaning into it, as if part of that tree. Jai gave his age as “older than dirt,” but actually he’s 65. From the moment he spoke, I felt I was listening to one of those old wise men high on some secluded mountain range.

    And standing just a few feet away was Buddy, a 16-year-old Staffordshire American Pitbull. He looked well cared for, although he was tilting a little to one side. Buddy was wearing a nice red coat.

    Read more…»

    Talking philosophy in a homeless camp

    by Erika Fiske

    I’m sure the classy women with high heels, bleached hair, expensive jewelry and a Mercedes parked at the curb have no idea they are walking on sidewalks put there by a city engineer who now lives homeless in the hills by Monterey.

    That’s all I know about this man, because the small group of homeless men seated on plastic crates under the trees behind Whole Foods won’t say another word about him. Their honor code includes protecting one another from unwanted publicity. I would have to find him myself if I wanted to know more.

    On this sunny Sunday morning in March, the four men, all bearded and wearing well-used clothing, sit in a circle talking about whatever comes to mind. Tied close by is Mickey, a nice-looking English bull terrier who stands at attention, making certain her bark isn’t needed to ward off this stranger to her place.

    The men meet here almost daily, although if it’s raining they may stay at their camp on the hillside. They’re all middle-aged and drink too much beer. Read more…»

    Just imagine all the love

    by Erika Fiske

    MONTEREY— Dorra is no beauty. And like so many who don’t have the looks or brains or charisma society worships, her life hasn’t been easy. But the love she has for her dog makes up for all that.

    As I sit near some plantings by the parking lot at Window on the Bay, with my back to the cold wind, I talk with this 49-year-old homeless woman. She smiles easily, although her teeth don’t look quite right. She wears a thick winter coat and a knit hat, and says it stops the wind.

    Her little dog, Willey, is sitting on the sunny side of my legs, leaning against me and absorbing the warm rays. Her coat is thin and funny looking. She’s an 8-year-old mix of poodle, terrier and chihuahua, black in color with white and gray hairs sticking straight up off her head and down from her chin, giving her the look of someone who needs a shave. I have to laugh.

    Dorra is eating breakfast, provided to the homeless each Sunday here on the beach, along with some words from the Bible. Earlier, a group of homeless and volunteers were standing in a circle near the giant eucalyptus trees, and Brother Brian Bajari asked everyone to share what they were thankful for, or what they would like to see happen in the world.

    Words seem to carry more meaning when spoken in such a beautiful place, with nature all around–especially in the midst of people whose lives have been so hard. Brian asked everyone to listen to God through the sound of the wind and the waves.

    We listened.

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    Hey, Is That A UFO Or What?

    by Erika Fiske

    seaside— I was in a hurry, driving down Del Monte Avenue toward Monterey, when I saw it coming toward me. It looked like a grounded hot air balloon, or maybe a UFO. And it was moving fast, but not nearly as fast as traffic.

    I had to find out what “It” was.

    As I passed, I finally saw him, walking quickly, leaning into the huge mass, pushing a shopping cart covered with large plastic garbage bags attached to the sides, front and top— 16 bags in all. It was almost a comical sight.
    Once I turned around, I sped back to where he was, pulled ahead and stood by my car, awaiting his arrival. “Excuse me, could I talk with you a moment?” I asked, as the mass of bags approached.

    “Sure,” he responded, looking around his load. After moving my car to a side road, I asked him, “What is this?”
    This, he said, was many, many cans and plastic containers. David was on his way to the recycling center near Costco, where he expected to get about $40—money for his kids and their mother (his partner).

    “I takes me 2 ½ to 3 days to collect these,” he said. “I cover 3 to 3 ½ miles a day.”

    David doesn’t have to worry about diet or exercise programs, since going homeless nine months ago. He’s thin and more than six feet tall. Over the months, he’s lost 25 pounds traveling by foot the streets of Seaside, Monterey and Pacific Grove in search of his recycling treasures.

    “I get up at about five in the morning,” he said, noting that he lives in a tent somewhere around here. Many people have come to know him, as he searches through dumpsters and trash cans, and now stop to give him bags of cans or plastic bottles.

    Despite all his problems, David is cheerful. “I’ve got a lot of faith,” he said. “I can’t let things bring me down, especially with a family to care for. I have faith that things will work out for us.”

    Read more…»

    Rolling through life with nothing but a smile

    by Erika Fiske

    MONTEREY— It was a beautiful sunny morning at Window on the Bay. And there she was, a young woman stuck in the sand with her wheelchair, until another homeless person named Connor came to her rescue and pulled her onto the sidewalk.

    Black hair, blue eyes and only 20 years of age, Jo Lynn—who goes by Jade—now finds herself alone, homeless and unable to walk without pain. She boarded a bus to this area the end of December and arrived in January, still able to walk.

    “I came to finish re-inventing myself,” she said. “I want to love myself again, and heal from the chaos.”

    Read more…»

    Alone in a crowded world

    by Erika Fiske

    I first saw Connor at Window on the Bay, pulling things out of a trash can. He was alone and appeared to be talking to himself. I was speaking with some other homeless men at the time and was warned to stay away from him. “Why?” I asked. “Just stay away from him,” one repeated.

    Today I saw him again, wearing the same large sweatshirt with a hooded jacket. His head was hanging as if he was asleep, his face hidden by the hood. He was seated at a table in a corner at McDonald’s, near a trash can— alone once again. The food in front of him was long gone, and only papers remained. I bought an ice coffee and went to my car, but was filled with an overwhelming sadness. I could not imagine this man’s life, so alone, so unloved and with nothing except an old bicycle he bought at the dump for $5, a backpack and the clothes on his back.

    After trying to save a pigeon in the parking lot with string wrapped around its legs, and failing as it flew away with its crippled feet, I decided to take a chance and approach Connor. He looked up at me with the must stunning blue eyes. He was a tall man and quite handsome. But he looked like he hadn’t shaved in a few days, and his short fingernails were black. I wondered how long it had been since Connor had a hot shower.

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    Following the geese

    by Erika Fiske

    David hopes to be living on a farm someday, growing food, chickens at his feet, an old dog lying in the sun. But that’s a few years down the road.

    Right now, the 54 year-old homeless man from federal Way, WA continues his annal trips south to Santa Barbara in September and heading back to Washington in February. This will be his ninth year of “following the geese,” he says, looking out on the bay as he speaks.

    On this beautiful March day, he’s riding his bike in the wharf area, checking what fishermen are catching and stopping to talk. The thin man has a thick head of white hair and matching beard. He pulls  one of those carts behind his bike that children usually ride in. Only his “child” is a 12 year-old black shepherd mix with sad brown eyes, named Jasper. She’s been with David for three years.

    Jasper is lucky to be alive. She went through a few families and was brought back each time to the shelter in Kent, WA.  “They were going to put her to sleep,” he says. “I asked them to let me try, since it would be a misfit with a misfit.”

    The misfits have been together ever since. Read more…»

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