Ray, 46, has been homeless, off and on, since 1987. He has called many places “home,” including creek sides, abandoned buildings, truck trailers and various shelters. But what he really wants is a permanent address.
“I want a steady job and a stable place to live,” he said. “I don’t care what it is or where it is. I just want a normal life.”
Ray’s most recent episode of homelessness began 2.5 years ago after he lost a job as a forklift operator at a warehouse. He also had been in and out of jail on drug-related crimes and has struggled with addiction since he began using methamphetamines at age 14. Ray worked hard to overcome his drug dependency. He has been clean and sober for seven years.
“My brain told me it was time to stop,” he said. “I got tired of it.
The San Jose native said he is a good worker and likes to work “behind the scenes” on night or graveyard shifts. His criminal past has gotten in the way of getting jobs, he said. Employers didn’t look past the criminal record to give him a chance to tell how he has turned his life around.
Homelessness also gets in the way. He has had callbacks for graveyard shifts but didn’t think he could find a place to sleep during the day. “You can’t shower,” he adds. “You can’t plug in an alarm clock.”
Ray has been staying at EHC/LifeBuilders’ shelter for eight months and says he tries to be a mentor to newly homeless clients, advising them to stay out of trouble. He does janitorial work at EHC. In exchange, he gets bus passes and access to computers. But he dreams of leaving homelessness behind forever.
“That was the hardest part,” he said. “Not having an address. You can deliver nothing to a creek.”
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