Putting a face on the homeless: Dave’s story continues
Dave himself says it best: “It took a while, but I can live like a human being now"
Earlier this year I told the story of Dave and Biscuit, a homeless man and his little dog. You can find that first installment here. Since then, many readers have wanted to know how it all turned out.
Let me catch you up: last summer, my partner Jimmy Pendergast and I came across Dave and Biscuit living in a truck near the DMV. Over the next several months, we and community liaison officer Kenneth Rock worked to find a place for Dave to live. It took a while, but as of this writing Dave is living in a three-bedroom home in Stockton, California. The old blue pickup he used to call home is now sitting in his driveway. Unfortunately, Biscuit had run off and is still MIA.
IT TOOK SOME TIME
The key to finding Dave a permanent place was Pendergast’s friendship with the outreach coordinator of a community program called STAND (Stocktonians Taking Action to Neutralize Drugs). Last fall, Pendergast told the coordinator, Art Flores, about Dave’s situation and Art took it from there. Art worked with Dave to complete the necessary paperwork and had him set up in a former Motel 6 in Stockton. For the first time in years, Dave had a roof over his head.
A few months ago, Pendergast and I visited Dave at the motel. He opened the door with a big smile on his face. He explained he was still undergoing treatment for lung cancer but things were looking up. He had his own room and everything that went with it. A maid came by once a day to clean and meals were delivered to his room three times a day. He looked healthier than we’d ever seen him.
A few more months went by and Art found a house for Dave. The application process took time but Dave eventually received approval to move in.
A couple of weeks later, we met Art and Dave at the house in a quiet West Stockton neighborhood. Dave came bounding out with a big grin on his face. The house was older but was freshly painted inside and out. Dave proudly explained he lived there with two other men. Each resident had their own room. There was a new television on the wall in the living room, two new refrigerators in the kitchen, and a new washer and dryer set in the garage. Dave smiled and pointed to the washing machine churning in the garage. “My clothes are in there,” he said.
Art went on to explain that a local health provider had written a sizable check and basically told STAND to take the money, cut through the red tape, and provide as much housing as they could as quickly as they could for as many people as possible. STAND used the funds to buy three homes and a small apartment complex in the area. That gave housing to eleven men and women. The residents pay 30% of their income and must comply with rules set forth by STAND. If they do so, they will be able to move into their own apartment someday.
Art said a lot of the success they’ve had comes from interacting one-on-one with the client more than most government agencies. STAND wades through the bureaucracy as fast as possible. I can attest to that. I witnessed Art working closely with Dave over the months, which sped up the process of getting him a place to stay.
‘LIKE A HUMAN BEING’
STAND is making significant progress using private and public funds to acquire existing houses with the goal of making more homes available to the homeless who are ready to transition to permanent housing. It’s a great program; we saw their results firsthand.
But Dave gave us all a reality check when he said, “They’re (the state of California) spending billions on this but it’s just going to get tied up in red tape. It won’t make it to the people who really need it.” Maybe it’s time to cut back on the committee reports and PowerPoint presentations and get more help to the folks living in the bushes.
Dave’s situation is a great example of how a focused approach by a group of dedicated people can have positive results. The guy was living in his truck last summer and now he has a room in a nice home in a quiet neighborhood.
We shook hands and turned to leave. Dave then summed it all up eloquently. He smiled and said quietly, “It took a while, but I made it. I can live like a human being now.”