Saturday, August 30, 2014     Volume: 29, Issue: 5
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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.

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.

It’s been roughly 40 years, and Burk hasn’t had a steady home ever since. Like Al Joad from Grapes of Wrath, Burk can hardly keep his hands out of engines. He told New Times he used to build mopeds for neighborhood kids with deadbeat, drunken dads and said that by the time he turned 23, he’d amassed 500 cars in a wrecking yard and was making a decent living stripping engines and selling parts.

That didn’t last long.

“I just go in circles,” he said. “I get a few things going, but can’t keep ’em because I didn’t have other things.”

After the wrecking yard went to pieces, Burk moved around a lot, looking for a place to start over. He ended up in SLO, when he heard a rumor about a friend’s dad who had a broken down truck to give away. By the time Burk got here, the truck was gone, and Burk was stranded. Then, he said, he was hit by a car.

“I lost everything,” he said.

Now, Burk is struggling with heart problems, pinched nerves, and other unhealed injuries from the accident. Without insurance or a stable home, he’s been unable to wade through the bureaucracy of Medicare to get the physical therapy and treatments he needs. He could use some help with the forms.

Burk vacillates between sleeping at shelters and in bushes by the creek. He wanders around town with a backpack full of his medical history and pictures from his younger days.

He pointed to one and said, “See? I used to have a truck and be a person.”

With a truck, Burk says he could haul laundry, lock up possessions, sleep safely, and—most importantly—earn a living. He’d be happy to fix any abandoned wreck. ∆

 

Send offers of assistance to homelessproject@newtimesslo.com.

DISCLAIMER

 

New Times is publishing profiles of certain individuals as a service to the community, but without making any warranty or representation as to the background or qualifications of any individual profiled herein for employment, residence, or other purposes. The information provided herein is offered on an “as is” basis, and is provided with the understanding that New Times is not engaged in rendering any professional advice or service. In no event shall New Times be liable for any damages whatsoever, whether direct, indirect, general, special, compensatory, consequential, and/or incidental, arising out of or relating to any use of this service, or from communications or meetings between users of this service, including, without limitation, lost profits, bodily injury, emotional stress and/or other damages.

New Times does not guaranty the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information contained in these profiles, and individuals are encouraged to make their own independent evaluation of any statements made herein. New Times is not responsible for the conduct of any individuals who may use this service, and New Times makes no representation or warranties and expressly disclaims any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person providing or using any information offered herein.

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