38 year old Mike is an ex-convict from Chino prison during the prison riots a few years ago. He is quiet, and speaks only when he really has something to say and after he gets to know you for a while. Mike spent his childhood in and out of foster homes. He was raised in a Christian family of sorts, he knows the Bible really well, and he has some faith in Jesus and God. He is El Salvadoran. He grew up in LA. While he sounds and looks Hispanic, he only speaks English. This sometimes creates a problem with people who he comes into contact with, and he has been turned down for jobs because he didn’t speak Spanish. One time he was in a van that was pulled over and the police told him to translate for the other passengers because they didn’t speak good English. He told them what the police said….in English!!!
Mike is trying to dry out. He didn’t use drugs, he has smoked, but his worst problem with dependence is alcohol. He has been homeless since he got out of prison. He spent time in some shelters and tent cities in LA, and became familiar with the Skid Row area of the city. He would get a job and travel, leaving his girl friend behind either in a shelter, a tent city, or a motel if he had earned enough to stay in one. He has been dry for about 9 days. His girl friend says he has a temper when he gets drunk. I never saw Mike angry. He seemed pretty easy going. He and his girlfriend traveled with me for a few days from one part of the state to another.
Mike likes to cook. He volunteered as a cook at the Salavation army in California and did pretty well. He would like to buy a van that he could convert into a moving cafeteria and make a living that way. He would go around to the homeless and serve them if he could…..good food, not just pizza and fast food. He had a fight with someone and messed up his knee around Christmas. He was planning on getting a job in the oil fields in Texas, but because of his leg, he can’t. He has to wait until it gets better. In the meantime, he and his girlfriend are doing the best that they can. His girlfriend wants to get a job as a nurses aide somewhere. The challenge for both of them is finding someplace that they can live cheaply until they can get about two months rent saved so they can move on. Shelters aren’t always available for long term. Those that are may require that you are a resident of the county for a year in order to make use of the shelter.
If you can’t afford a place to live, and you have a trade that you can work, how can you keep yourself presentable to go to work? How do you live? What do you do with your stuff like your bedding and so forth during the day while you are working? You have the desire, but you don’t have the resources.