• 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.

    Thomas takes the information on phone service from Levi. Fifty-two-year-old Thomas can’t seem to stand still for long. He admits to being Bipolar and suffering from post traumatic stress. One would never know he was homeless from his appearance—neat, clean, slim, nice clothes, short hair, sober. But in fact he’s been homeless since falling behind in his rent in August.

    The disabled vet has an interview soon for Section 8 housing. He was born in Munich, Germany, an Army brat whose father gave 27 years to the military. Thomas was married once for two years and has a son in Texas.

    Like all the homeless, he carries his small radio from Rite Aid, $14 with batteries, and tries to keep up with the news. It helps get his mind off life on the streets. “The most difficult part of this is our vulnerability and exposure,” he says, apologizing as he moves away. Thomas just can’t stand still.

    Nearby, another homeless man searches through a trash can and collects what interests him. Seated nearby is a much calmer 56-year-old Ziggy. He smiles a lot and seems content. He became homeless 12 years ago, when a roommate began selling drugs and Ziggy didn’t want any part of it.

    Today Ziggy is among a community of homeless who live among the trees on the wild lands around Marina. They live in tents, and are able to get a shower at a Baptist church once a week, or with the Salvation Army in Seaside. He bikes down here from Marina a few days a week.

    “Let’s see, there’s George, Chris, Nancy, Frank, Mike, another Mike and a family that lives back there,” he notes, squinting and looking up as he tries to recall all the tent residents.

    Ziggy refuses to complain about his life. “I don’t have a whole lot, but what I have I appreciate,” he says. Ziggy appreciates the food, bikes, clothing, sleeping bags and tents donated for the homeless in this area. “The people are good at heart. That’s where my hope comes from.”

    Despite living in a tent, Ziggy wears a clean shirt and jeans and smiles broadly. His family came to the U.S. from the Phillipines long ago, and he was one of eight children. Over the years he held a variety of jobs, working in a 7 Eleven, a liquor store and working for friends. Now he collects cans and makes around $50 a month.

    Ziggy gets up to leave. As he turns to walk away, I see a long, thick, gray braided pony tail reaching to his waist. With a shy smile, he notes, “I’ll probably donate it to the Cancer Society.”

    posted to Cedar Street Times on August 3, 2012

    Topics: Homeless Chronicles

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