Monday, December 22, 2014     Volume: 29, Issue: 21
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Oil-drilling and processing.
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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.

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, with all I’ve lived through,” he said.

After his first stroke, Lee said, he fell and hit his head. He explained that he spent four days in his car, essentially dead, and then 17 days in a hospital—though his memory of the experience is fuzzy to nonexistent.

His now hands shake. He can’t read well or fill out stacks of papers. He has trouble remembering things short term, long term.

“It’s terrible,” he said. “I can’t remember most of my plants. I used to know every plant in the world.”

It’s his mind, he said.

“I’ve had so much sobriety, it’s brain problems,” he explained. “I know the difference.”

Still, he marvels that he went from near death to walking and talking. He wants to get back to life, though he said he realizes that he’s not getting any better.

He’s been homeless for almost a year at this point. He’s sleeping in his van, though he’s found a bed at a shelter in the past. And he’s trying to get on disability, which, he said, is a fight.

His other long-term goals include earning a stable income, finding a place for himself in Los Osos, and eliminating whatever burden he represents to those who’ve been close to him.

In the short term, he simply wants to move on, move forward. His current condition and situation are hard for him to accept, but he wants to do what he can, and is even considering volunteer work. His hope, however, is tempered by his daily challenges.

“Part of my brain still says I can do everything I’ve ever done,” he said, “which is not the reality.”

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