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 a living for 25 years, quit high school to go to work in the 10th grade, following his father’s death.
Though he struggles with alcohol problems, McAuley traces the origin of his troubles to his addiction to hopping freight trains. His death-defying hobby was effective as a boredom cure, but also led to his falling in with a nasty crowd, he said.
Over the course of his life, McAuley’s roaming tendencies have led him to seek day labor jobs in Mexico and construction in post-Katrina New Orleans.
“I’ve done just about everything,” he said.
In Los Angeles, he found himself caught in the middle of an ugly protest and became the victim of a hit-and-run incident, and he can still faintly feel the impact of the vehicle colliding with his right leg. He needs a comfortable place to sleep.
“I’m tired of living outdoors,” he stressed, looking for all the world like he means it.
Asked if he was in need of anything else, he shook his head before adding, “Finding a new hobby besides drinking.”
At the time of his interview, McAuley said he’d gone a week without a drink and 37 days without a smoke, and he hopes to continue the positive trend.
In exchange for a roof over his head, McAuley is able to offer his expertise in roofing, cattle ranching, gardening, auto painting, and pretty much any other outdoorsy, hands-on work.