Homeless =/= Voiceless

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47-year-old fights his past

by Cassie Klapp

Lunchtime at St. Vincent de Paul on one December afternoon brought in Jack Tucker, 47, who has been in and out of jail, living uptown and downtown, and in and out of gang life. He was born in Kansas City, Mo., and raised in Los Angeles. As a kid, he was forced into the Crips gang because of the neighborhood he lived in.

“I had to fight three members to get in,” Tucker said.

Tucker said he felt pretty tough while he was involved in the gang. He said no one bothered him, including the police, and he didn’t bother anyone else.

“One time I was walking down the street with two, you know, big rifles, a 9mm right here,” he said, gesturing to the front of his pants, “and a 357 next to it.”  He said he became romantically involved with a girl who unbeknownst to him was dating the leader of another Crips sect.  At a party, he was beat up by both that sect and his own gang because of the relationship.

“I had a busted lip, my head was banged up pretty good, but somehow I got out,” Tucker said. He received treatment at the hospital and that was the end of his involvement with the Crips.

But he said that was not his last time he was involved in criminal activity. Tucker said he was wrongfully convicted of aggravated assault when a man said Tucker had attacked him with a knife. Tucker said he was just “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

He was behind juvenile-detention bars from age 14 until he turned 18. After he got out, he went to live with his mother and sister in Compton and “it didn’t work out,” Tucker said. It didn’t work out with his Auntie in downtown Los Angeles, either, so he decided to strike out on his own.

Tucker said he was sucked into what he calls “the life,” which included pimping, selling weed and stealing. He said after a while he became tired of it all and moved to Arizona to start a new life. He lived with his older brother, Thomas, bought a car, and had a construction job.

“I was straight, until I found out about this part of town,” he said. Tucker added that he was once again sucked into the life of pimping and doing drugs, getting high on cocaine now.

He lost his job, he said, and started going in and out of jail: He served four years for drug possession, was released, and then served four and a half more years for drugs. He was released but then went back behind bars for six years for armed robbery. In 1991, Tucker said, his mother died of ovarian cancer. He happened to be out of jail then, and went to see her before she died on Christmas Eve. He again was pulled back “into the mix,” and went away for three and a half years for possession of cocaine. Another release. Most recently, he said, he served a year and a half for possession of cocaine and methamphetamines.

“Just nine days ago, I died right over on First Avenue and Fillmore Street,” Tucker said. He said he died from an overdose of meth that he said was “cut” with “bath salts.” Tucker said he was rushed to the hospital and brought back to life. He said he has been clean and sober since then.

Tucker mentioned that his dad is not doing so well.

“He has a pacemaker and a bad hip and is pretty weak,” Tucker said. He said he will be on a Greyhound bus on Wednesday morning heading back to California to be with his dad and help him out.

Tucker said he hopes not to get “sucked back in” to the life he had been living through up until nine days ago.


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From bad to worse

by Anne Stegen

by Lindsay Ivins

by Lindsay Ivins

Experiencing homelessness is a bad situation in itself, but one man said that the services for those living in homelessness are doing nothing to ease their lives.

Douglas Bachman, 52, found himself in Phoenix in 2008 without a home, a job, family or friends. He’s angry. He said no one helps the homeless.

He lives in a local shelter.

“It isn’t what they say it is,” Bachman said.

Bachman said the social services tell donors and contributors that conditions are nice and the resources help the clients, but in his mind it isn’t so.

Bachman said he is not satisfied with the services for people experiencing homelessness.

“I’d rather be in an alley,” he said. “It’s bad all the way around.”

Bachman said he has slept on shelter floors, and seen toilets filled to the top with feces.

“It’s like jail or prison,” he said.

If Bachman were in charge, things would be different. He would improve services, screen clients and give out more bus passes for homeless job seekers.

Bachman said he would improve the laundry services, the showers and the bathrooms.

by Lindsay Ivins

by Lindsay Ivins

Bachman worked as a painter, but he said he couldn’t find work in Arizona without certification. Certification, Bachman said, requires education that is above what he has. Allen said he could not get the education without a paying job.

Bachman said that shelters give no incentive for people.

“They make you feel like you’re nothing. Worthless,” Bachman said.

But shelters are where the homeless man still chooses to be.

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Veteran works to rise above homelessness

by Jamie Warren

Throughout the hustle and bustle of the 11 a.m. lunch hour at the St. Vincent de Paul food bank, sat a humble, chatty woman named Regina. While her posture was slightly slumped, her smile was bright and her eyes lit up at the first mention of her son.

Her son, like his mother, has a passion for serving his country. He is currently stationed in Afghanistan. Regina spent two years in the Army as well and says she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. She proudly wears her U.S. veteran’s shirt underneath her zip-up jacket.

But Regina said she doesn’t want her son to know that she is living in a shelter. Her daughter knows, but her son, she said, shouldn’t have to bear the burden of his mother’s struggles while stationed overseas.

To Regina, everything is a learning experience and there is a reason for every situation in life. Life, she said, is just full of adjustments.

“I have no regrets,” she said.

As she described it, Regina lived a long, productive life. She said she earned  college degrees in psychology and nursing. During  college she got married, had kids and then joined the Army at 30. After she left the Army, she worked at a federal agency but has since struggled with many medical problems. She said those medical problems have caused her homelessness

She only recently started going to St. Vincent for meals, and she has been living in the shelter next door. She has been trying to receive veteran’s aid, but it has been slow going. It’s a process, she said.

But to Regina, just seeing all the different clients at St, Vincent is fascinating. She said she feels safe here, but the street lifestyle isn’t her thing. Until then, she will continue to wait for her benefits paperwork.

“I look at everything as an adventure,” Regina said. “It’s humbling and that’s something I need to learn.”

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Retired, disabled and homeless

by Desiree Toli

Retirement is ideally a time to relax and live comfortably, reaping the rewards of a long productive life. The ideal mode is retirement homes, vacations and relaxation. Not everyone, however, is so lucky.

by Lindsay Ivins

by Lindsay Ivins

Elaine Griffith, 63, worked in Phoenix for 25 years. She once volunteered at St. Vincent de Paul. Now she’s using their services. She’s retired, disabled and homeless.

She will celebrate her 64th birthday in January, but in the meantime she is planning to find a place to live once her much-anticipated $600  disability retirement check comes in.

“I’m stressed,” she said. “My check was supposed to come in on Friday, but it didn’t so I have to wait until Monday.”

“All my family is out in New York, so I’m here by myself,” she said.

Elaine is planning to get an apartment with two older men who are also retired, disabled and homeless.

“I’m used to being independent, but the check I get is so small,” she said.

Elaine said she was forced into early retirement after incidents in the workplace with management.

“I lost my job, my career, my home, my car, everything.” She said. “That’s how I became homeless.”

Things got worse on the streets.

“I also have a brain injury,” she said.

It happened one day when she was  robbed by a stranger on the streets and beat to the point of unconsciousness. She ended up in the hospital with a coma. The beating also caused problems with her sight.

Elaine said the state of Arizona gave her early retirement status and disability. “This place [St. Vincent de Paul] is a godsend,” she said.

Elaine visits St. Vincent for meals, but said she keeps to herself because she said people come to socialize; men to meet women, and women to meet men.

“Guys here want me, but I don’t want anyone who doesn’t have their stuff together,” she said. “And I don’t want to be with anybody if I don’t have myself together.”

After years of working and being her own support system, Elaine finds herself struggling with her current situation as a homeless and disabled retiree. “People think it’s so easy to bounce back at my age, but it’s not at all,” she said.

“Can I regroup, I don’t know, but that’s what I’m trying to do,” she said. “I’ll try my best.”

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Lack of relationships, alcohol abuse commonly affect homeless people

by Jamie Warren

While the noise of the lunch-hour rush buzzed throughout the cafeteria at the St. Vincent de Paul, Carl Landis, 47, kept to himself, rarely peering up from his wide-rimmed glasses.

by Lindsay Ivins

by Lindsay Ivins

Like many of the clients, Landis said he has faced a wide range of medical problems that have restricted his ability to work. He has been coming to the food bank for just over two months now.

His trouble started when he injured his hip and in 2003 while working at a trucking company. Some days, he said he can barely stand up.

Carl has tried looking for work since, but he said his past run-ins with the law have made him ineligible in most cases.

He recounted a time when he applied to work at Amazon. Although the job had nothing to do with driving, his three convictions for driving under the influence automatically disqualified him. He’s been struggling ever since.

According to a 2003 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 38 percent of homeless people have been dependent on alcohol and 26 percent have abused other drugs.

Landis said he’s been sober for three months now, but added that he doesn’t think there is anything wrong with an occasional drink during the holidays.

Not having an education has also held Landis back when trying to find a job. He dropped out of high school at 16 and he estimated that he has had about 10 to 15 jobs since.

He has never been married and doesn’t have any children, he said. A survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2007 found that 76 percent of homeless people were single.

“You have to have a lot of money for that,” Landis said.