Bobby, who has been homeless for the past 18 years, sought shelter in East Palo Alto after a rainy night in a tent full of holes. From there, he went to the Opportunity Center in Palo Alto and joined the Downtown Streets Team, a program that provides food and housing vouchers for the homeless in exchange for their volunteer work of sweeping and cleaning the streets. Bobby, 54, saw that other homeless people were able to turn their lives around through this program. He is now a Downtown Streets Team leader, and believes that with housing, he could rebuild his life.
Originally from Eritrea, Bobby was adopted by missionaries when he was 16 months old. By age 18, he had visited 23 countries. He has worked as a ride foreman at a carnival, responsible for setting up the rides and making sure they were safe and properly maintained.
He had aspirations of becoming a chef until he became the victim of a violent attack in 1987. Bobby was beaten so severely he suffered a traumatic brain injury that impaired his memory and his senses of taste and smell. The attack destroyed his dreams of becoming a chef. “Everything went downhill after that,” he said.
Bobby is waiting for his naturalization paperwork to be completed, so that he can receive assistance and get back on his feet. He looks forward to a “normal life” and a chance to learn to work on computers.