Saturday, December 20, 2014     Volume: 29, Issue: 21
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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.

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 much medication that it really strained my marriage,” Lang told New Times.

By the time he left the hospital, he still wasn’t well enough to work or drive. He had a pile of medical bills, but no wife and no home. The experience might make some men bitter, but Lang seemed to accept it with zen-like serenity.

“It’s only natural,” he said. “Life happens even while you’re out of commission.”

Lang exhausted his couch surfing options pretty quickly and now spends his nights at either the homeless shelter or in a tent in a friend’s backyard. He rises each morning at 5 a.m. to search for work, and with decades of experience in painting everything from houses to skyscrapers to 400-foot cooling towers, he often lands job offers, only to turn them down due to his lack of transportation.

 “I’m a workaholic, but I’m also a man of my word,” Lang said. “I can’t take a job if I can’t promise to get to the jobsite on time.”

Dependable transportation would make a huge difference in Lang’s life.

“I’m actively sober,” he said. “I just want to stay in the church and do things that help make the community better.”

One such project is Lang’s plan for a benefit concert for the homeless. His father and brother helped organize many of the major festivals in San Francisco’s counterculture heyday, and the lessons stuck with young Lang. Fifteen years ago, he planned a trade event with upward of 5,000 attendees, and now he’s hoping to bring eight or nine local bands together for a concert and barbecue with a food and clothing drive for the needy.

“I ran the plan by my dad, and he says it’s all there,” Lang said. “There’s nothing left to do but to do it.”

Though Lang has the permit process and planning aspects under control, he’s looking for bands willing to play cheaply or for free, and he could use someone with computer knowledge and skills to help with flyers, tickets, and promotions.

 “I’m not computer literate at all,” he said. “I’m reasonably intelligent and smart enough to know I’m stupid.”

Joking aside, Lang takes his predicament quite seriously, especially because he sees more and more people finding themselves in the same situation these days. He hopes to hold the concert in mid November and bring in plenty of food and clothes before the cold winter months. ∆

 

Send offers of assistance to homelessproject@newtimesslo.com.

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