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. Since 2002, he’s struggled with homelessness. More recently, he hasn’t had a place to live for about six months. Nunez is now camping behind a restaurant in Atascadero, but he hopes to get out of there.
He used to live in a motor home with his girlfriend in Morro Bay, but the two split after an on-and-off relationship of about five years. In fact, he moved to San Luis Obispo County to support a previous girlfriend, who had to come to the area to be with her ill mother.
But Nunez suffers from mental illness, and he’s had problems in the past with alcohol. However, Nunez said he’s finally committed to staying sober and off of the street.
“This time I believe will be my very last time being homeless because I’m really going to make a serious run,” he said. “And I’ve never said that before.”
He’s making serious strides toward that goal. Following his interview with New Times, Nunez said he was going to get a countywide bus pass, which might sound trivial, but it was clearly a big step for him. He was also getting help from a friend to qualify for a public-housing program.
While Nunez would say that he doesn’t need anything, with a little pressing, he’ll admit he needs help. His shoes are worn and starting to give. A pair of size 11-and-a-half sneakers would help, Nunez said, encouraging people to donate to local shelters before he’d ask for a hand out.
He’s had trouble holding down a job in the past because of his mental illness.
“I can get a job, but never hold a job,” he said.
But he used to be a barista, and loves working with coffee, if anyone’s looking.