• 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. “Ty over there is an awesome chef,” Kevin notes, pointing toward a young man with his dog, sitting beneath a tree.

    Wearing a warm, grey coat, blue jeans, jogging shoes and a wool cap, Kevin looks like someone you might see on a boat, pulling in fish. But his life has never been that colorful. He hopes to return to taxi driving, if he can find some better housing.

    “I’ve been professionally homeless in this town for a long time,” he says, adding that he was born in South Carolina and moved here in the early ‘60s. Kevin was graduated from Carmel High School despite a major car accident that left him with a massive concussion, broken bones and the possibility of not walking again.

    “I rehabilitated myself with surfing, but my back hurts till this day,” he says. When he was on his feet again, Kevin studied music briefly at Monterey Peninsula College, then quit and went to Hawaii to work in a deli and surf. He lived with his brother, but in the ‘80s, when Kevin’s brother married and Kevin had to move out, he returned to Monterey and caddied at the Cypress Point Club, while living with his father and then in a van.

    When he got tired of sitting for hours without money, as he awaited golfers, Kevin decided to drive a Yellow cab and made about $150 a day. After that, things went sour. Kevin left his job and drugs became a part of his life. Finally, he entered the Oasis Treatment Center in Los Angeles, got off drugs, returned to this area, became homeless off and on, took care of his failing father in his home and managed to lose the house. Then, the girlfriend came into his life.

    “She started doing drugs, and it was no fun. She was disappearing for days on end,” Kevin says, adding that be became so upset that he got drunk one day and wound up in jail for a few hours. “So now I’ve been in a tent in the woods for a couple of weeks. I can’t do this anymore. I’ll probably brave out the winter though. If I can get rid of the love and jealousy person, I’ll do a lot better.”

    Kevin’s goal is the drive a cab again. “You pay $380 a week for a dispatch fee, with $100 toward the car, but on a good day you can make $500,” he says. “Now you have to buy the car, but they’re old cop cars that are refurbished and cost $1,800 to $2,000.”

    With his back injury, Kevin hopes to be eligible for SSI. He already has food stamps. “Now I need to get centered. I’m not going back there, to my girlfriend.”

    No, but he is going back to his tent in the woods to sleep each night, in the rain and cold. “It’s all built up, with padding on the bottom. It’s all waterproof,” he says. “But I’ve lost everything I’ve built up in my life.”

    Kevin struggles to stand from his seat near the ground and shakes his head. “What happens if the love of my life comes crawling up that hill, wanting me back?”

    What if, indeed.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on January 4, 2013

    Topics: Homeless Chronicles

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