Friday, October 24, 2014     Volume: 29, Issue: 13
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New Times / Community

The Homeless Project

At New Times, we believe that homelessness is not a problem that can be attacked with money or plans. When we think of homelessness, we don't think of statistics; we think of people. We think of people who've had problems in their lives, and they all have a story to tell. We believe that common sense is the only way we'll ever come close to ending homelessness. This is our common-sense approach, and these are their stories.

Mike Masters

Mike Masters moved from Indiana to California with “visions of palm trees and girls in bikinis.”

He left his hometown and headed west because he was getting in too much trouble back there, he said. Once on the West Coast, Masters started working as a truck driver.

He began work in Los Angeles, then moved to Bakersfield before landing on the Central Coast about two years ago. For a while, things were good. He was wor...

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Brian Lee

"It all fell apart for different reasons.”

Brian Lee, now 45, grew up in Los Osos. For 17 years, he ran a nursery, growing plants and handling sales. He was a husband and a father.

But Lee admits that he’s long battled alcoholism and is no longer with his wife. And in recent years, he said, he’s had at least two strokes and two seizures.

“I should be 70-something by now,...

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Isabell Hope Garcia

Isabell Hope Garcia has suffered greatly because of her condition.

“Believe me, if there was a way for me to get out of my own skin, there’s times I really would,” she said.

Garcia has type 1 bipolar disorder, a condition that has made it difficult for her to hold down a residence or a job. At a recent interview, she said she was camping for the first time in San Luis Obispo after getting kicked out of a semi-...

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Will Longfellow

What would really help Will and Ginet Longfellow in the short term is to have a home for their two chihuahuas and their pug.

For the couple, who’ve been married about four years, they just need “to get out of the damn shelter,” Ginet said.

In the long-term, they’d like to “find something steady.”

The couple met in Montana, where Ginet grew up. Will is actually local and met Ginet whil...

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Ginet Longfellow

What would really help Will and Ginet Longfellow in the short term is to have a home for their two chihuahuas and their pug.

For the couple, who’ve been married about four years, they just need “to get out of the damn shelter,” Ginet said.

In the long-term, they’d like to “find something steady.”

The couple met in Montana, where Ginet grew up. Will is actually loc...

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Sherry Phillips

It all started in Yucca Valley. The job market was dismal, so Sherry Phillips decided to go back to school, study phlebotomy, and find work drawing blood for medical testing. She and her daughter couldn’t afford their own apartment, so they split the rent with a roommate.

“Things with the roommate were getting really bad, so I had to let my daughter go live with her dad here in San Luis [Obispo],” Phillips said...

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Savannah Smith

If you passed Savannah Smith on the street, you might think she’s just another punk kid.

The 21-year-old, with dyed and spiked hair, her face punctured with piercings, has all the outward symptoms of your average archetype rebellious youth who fled home to live by her own rules.

Actually, Smith has a close-knit family back where she grew up in Riverside, spending most of her childhood living with her grandpa...

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Dane Senser

At age 56, Dane Senser believed he had finally found his dream job. While working at the Manse on Marsh in San Luis Obispo, Senser was offered a six-month job at a resort on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Senser was told that he would be paid $15 dollars an hour and would be able to live at the estate he was going to be overseeing virtually rent-free.

In preparation for the trip to Hawaii, Senser sold man...

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Barbara Walker

As Barbara Walker tells it, she’s got it a lot better than many of her homeless friends in San Luis Obispo County. In fact, Walker said, she’s technically not even homeless.

Walker has a motor home, which she shares with her husband and their trusty canine, Max. She has her health, and she has a remarkable network of friends. Yet things are still hard on the couple, she said, and getting harder all the time.
<...

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Richard Nunez

Richard Nunez is a smiley, affable guy who gives two-handed handshakes before he pulls you in for a hug.

If there’s one message he could get out to the world, it would be this:

“Be kind to one another and listen to one another,” he said. “Really listen.”

And if it weren’t for a history of mental illness, Nunez’s life probably would have been much different. ...

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James McAuley

Generally, James McAuley calls the streets home. He’s currently staying at the local homeless shelter, and says he frequents the Prado Day Center most mornings for breakfast. McAuley is no stranger to sleeping outdoors; as a younger man, he was prone to sleeping outside in frigid temperatures, often despite a wad of cash in his pocket. But things change after six decades on the planet.

McAuley, who painted automobiles for...

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Ricky Lang

Ricky Lang’s fall from fully employed family man to homelessness was more literal than most. Six years ago, the professional painter took a 70-foot tumble from a tall building that put him in the hospital for an extended stay and multiple surgeries.

“I was away from the family for so long and on so mu...

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Brex Owen (pictured) and Velma Hunt

Following a brief four-day stint living at Sunny Acres, Velma Hunt and Brex Owen were told they’d have to leave when a judge ordered Dan De Vaul, proprietor of the sober-living facility, to clear the residents off his property.

Owen remembers it as evening, and Hunt recalls it as morning when De Vaul returned to the ranch and essenti...

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David Marshall

It's rare to find someone as versatile as David Marshall. A native Pennsylvanian, Marshall has been everything from a county worker to an ice cream truck driver. He admits that at 73 it’s hard to find the motivation to search for full-time employment, but his age hasn’t stopped him from searching for an opportunity to prove himself.

“I know I haven’t been working as much...

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Robert Jackson

The older you get, the harder it is to get back on your feet,” Robert Jackson lamented.

Jackson was released from prison in February of this year and has been on the streets since he got out. He had never been homeless in his life, but a week after his release, with nowhere else to go, he turned up in the local homeless shelter. But he said he caught bronchitis during his brief stay there. Since then, he has preferred to live on ...

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James Coleman

James Coleman likes to talk. Fortunately for his listeners, he’s acquired the gift of charming gab. Even when he's clearly talking nonsense, you can't help but smile and enjoy the show. He hails from Somerville, just outside Boston, and when he gets going his home brogue tumbles out.

Coleman is a jack-of-all-trades. He has a part-time mo...

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Angalina Cofer

Most people would contend that living in a shelter, as a single adult, is difficult. Now imagine trying to raise three children in that environment. This is what Angalina Cofer, 26, faces every day.

Cofer and her children have been living in the overflow section at a shelter ...

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Phyllis Hamilton-Domico

If you ask Phyllis Hamilton-Damico where she’s staying, she’ll give you the cross-streets to wherever she pitched her small tent the night before.

Hamilton-Damico hasn’t always lived like this. She had a family years ago, but that dynamic came to a stressful end, and now she’s on her...

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Vanessa Smith

She lived in a comfortable apartment and never had to worry about hunger. Her son was in school, her boyfriend had a good job, and she finally had the time and freedom to pursue a job that made her happy. It didn’t feel like the brink of homelessness.

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Kevin Stitt

Kevin Stitt hasn’t let circumstance get in the way of his determination. He’s been living in a North County shelter for some months and is using public transportation to get around. Despite these facts, upon request, he will reach into his backpack and pull out two large, full binders of personal background in...

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Theresa Cinaglia

Moving hundreds of miles to a new city is seldom a smooth transition.

Theresa Cinaglia, who moved to San Luis Obispo from Northern California about five months ago to support her niece and niece’s daughter, is stuck in ...

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David Burk

When he was 15 and living in Ventura, David Burk said, his parents gave him an ultimatum: He could have either his family or the drugs.

“I told them, ‘Drugs are my family,’” Burk remembered.<...

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Bruce Kopp

From the way Bruce Kopp tells his life story, he’s been on the move ever since he could move.

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Allen Oliphant

Allen Oliphant had a nice, steady gig fixing up old houses. An investor would buy run-down properties and let Oliphant, a jack of all trades, live on site while he worked to refurbish each place before moving on to the next.

After that set-up e...

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Susan Perez

For Susan Perez, finding work has always been difficult. She dropped out of school decades ago, when she was in just 7th grade. The work she could find was physically demanding, but she was happy to have it.

For a while, she provided in-home care for a retired officer from Atascadero State Hospital. He suffe...

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Megan Samuel

Megan Samuel has a lot to look forward to. She said she’s 38 weeks pregnant with her first daughter, Mykenzie. It’s a time when a lot of women are finishing up touches on the nursery and settling into the idea of having a new little person around the house. But for Sa...

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Ronald Dieringer

Ronald Dieringer said he was on his own at just five hours old, and spent 18 years bouncing through group homes.

When he legally became an adult, he joined the Navy and was eventually deployed to Iraq for the first Gulf War, he said. His best friend was shot in the head and killed before his eyes, and Dieringer chokes back tears when he recalls ...

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Ayla Ortiz

A SLO County native, Ayla Ortiz has been homeless for two years. She said she and her mom were living with Ortiz’s grandmother, but when she passed away, the family lost the house. Since then, Ayla and her 3-year-old son have been bouncing between the homes of friends and family, and local shelters. Sometimes, however, there isn’t a place for both of t...

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Jason Pimentel

“I’m glad I’m going through this, to be honest with you,” Jason Pimentel leveled with a New TimesRead More

Guinevere and Crystal Simko

Ninety-six days before New Times spoke with Guinevere and Crystal Simko, the mother and daughter were evicted from their San Luis Obispo County home. Ten days after that, they were rear-ended in a car accident, considerably worsening their financial situation.

Guinevere, a laser machinist by trade, also suffers from hearing loss. Not long before our interview, Guinevere's hearing aid had broken, and she had difficulty understanding peo...

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