• 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. He just learned that as a vet with little income and only a car to live in, he has been approved for HUD housing in the Santa Cruz area. Several times during the interview, Dale noted that many vets don’t realize the benefits they’re entitled to – from income to medical care to housing.

    “You’re considered more of a risk by the VA if you’re sleeping outside or in a car. Then they move you to the head of the list,” he explained. “You pay one third of your income for rent, and they pick up the rest.”

    Dale’s happiness shows on his face these days. He’s looking forward to relocating to Santa Cruz, with higher temperatures, more sun and more activities – from art and theater to alternative medicine. Not only will the apartment feel like a palace after months in a car, but it’ll allow him to do his artwork again.

    “Plus, it’s an easier town to navigate in, because it has a good bus system,” he added, sipping his coffee.

    And hopefully Dale can finally settle down. In the past, he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, which could explain the many jobs he’s held. He grew up in the Sierra foothills and joined the Army in 1968, to avoid getting drafted. After spending most of his three years in Germany, he returned to the U.S. and left the military.

    “I floated around for a while,” he said. “Then I went to MPC (Monterey Peninsula College) for a couple of years in the early ‘70s, taking a little bit of everything.”

    He graduated in 1974 with a major in history, but continued to move from job to job. In 1976, Dale relocated to the Berkeley area, worked on computer assembly, and enlisted in the National Guard and Army Reserves. In 1986 he returned to this area and worked for a company that manufactured scale models, but soon went out of business. After bouncing around to various temp agencies here and in Reno, Nevada, he finally returned to this area when the economy faltered.

    Dale worked in maintenance for a while and then invested in real estate and the stock market—both of which cost him money and eventually his home.

    And so, Dale found himself living in his car. “It’s not that bad, but my back is stiff from sleeping in the fetal position,” he said, explaining that he suffers from degenerative disc disease. “I found places to park where I’m not bothered. And I’ve learned the places to go for showers and cooked meals.”

    One of Dale’s better memories was a two-week period of house sitting here in P.G., which gave him a taste of what he was missing. As he works on putting his life together again, Dale tries to pass the word to other vets in need of help.

    “There are a lot of folks out there at risk, sleeping on sand dunes with fleas and ticks around,” he said. Dale recently saw a homeless man with a bad spider bite that needed attention. He always directs vets to the VA for help.

    “Right now they’re being inundated,” he said of the VA, noting that the faltering economy has left many Americans without health insurance. “A lot of people who never used the VA are now using its services.”

    Dale finished his cup of coffee and prepared to leave. He pointed to his car and noted that he doesn’t keep it too shiny these days, because he doesn’t want to draw attention when he parks. He’s heading up to Santa Cruz this week, to try out a new parking space near the Veteran’s office.

    Soon that space will be outside his very own apartment. And Dale’s car will be polished once again.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on September 14, 2012

    Topics: Homeless Chronicles

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