James has never had a stable home in his 45-year-old life.
Adopted into an abusive family, James ran away at age 16. But he was still able to get through high school, staying with friends and studying on his own. After a 3-year stint in the Marine Corps, James moved to Hollywood, where his life took a darker turn.
James started using drugs and was involved in two burglaries. His arrests triggered a three-strikes law sentence of 25 years to life. In prison, James launched a letter-writing campaign to authorities to appeal his sentence. The Santa Clara County Attorney’s office brought his case back to court, and James was released a year ago after serving 13 years. Unfortunately, he returned to living on the streets.
The San Jose native is challenged by mental and physical conditions that have been worsened by chronic homelessness. He has been diagnosed as bipolar and hears negative voices that keep him in an anxious state and make communication difficult. James is taking medication for his mental condition and for blood and liver diseases that sap his energy.
But through it all and with the help of Housing 1000, James has a sense of hope for the future. His case managers have helped him receive food stamps and general assistance. He is able to receive health care at a local clinic. He hopes to soon be in his own apartment. The waiting is difficult.
“I know I can do it,” he said. “I’ve gotten this far.”
James will not be able to work, but wants to be a volunteer counselor “to help people with what I’ve been through.” He said he recently met a young man in a park whose scarred arms indicated heavy drug use. “He’s just a kid,” James said. “I told him, ‘it’s going to kill you in five years.’ He really listened to me.”
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