February 16 at 10:26pm
Say “Hello” to Earl
Meet Earl. After living on the streets for over two decades, Earl found housing and now volunteers at Interfaith Community Services and The Escondido Community Center. He’s lived a remarkable life and now enjoys writing. This is his story:
What’s Your Story?
I was raised in a privileged world, (being a white male in the 50’s and 60’s made it easy) without consequences that amounted to much. Smart, but unfocused, I found my isolation (mom worked, dad drank, brothers and sisters well older) was not so lonely if I was high.
Not knowing what to do with her now legally-impaired son, my mom kept rescuing me, even buying me a house when I was 26, and supporting me until she died when I was 34, at which time I cried like a baby for days, wondering how I was going to make it. But I owned the house outright, so it took seven or eight years for my life (by now, doing Crystal Meth and letting them cook it at my house – I had a stroke when I was 34 from all the dope, as well as the chemicals in the air) to finally catch up with me. The house was condemned, and sold for the back taxes.
Did not really work steadily until I was 42, I believe it was, and, not having any marketable skills (even though I’d taught myself to program simple computers in 1982), I had to work as a Construction laborer out of temp agencies, about the lowest rung that legal work goes to in this country. And I was ‘competing’ with 20-year-olds who had not spent all their lives abusing their bodies. So, this only lasted a few years.
Spent the better part of 22 years living outside, with two brief stretches of 3 years each inside – once in an apartment paid for at first with proceeds from the sale of my house for the back taxes, then with my laborer wages, and the second time with a friend who invited me to visit, but I wore out my welcome quickly.
When I could not get work anymore, I turned to dumpsters and shoplifting for food, and found places that were sheltered when it rained.
How did you connect with Interfaith?
When I first moved into Jesmond Dene (where the house my mom bought me is – a lovely wooded area just north of Escondido) I heard about a place, an old house on Mission, behind Wendy and Dave’s Hamburger Tree, where you could get enough food for a few days if you needed extra help. At the time, I’d heard it was called the ‘Crisis Center’, and run by the North County Interfaith Council. We used their services a couple of times, but, when I started doing narcotics regularly, I transitioned away from food, as many tweakers do, and lost track of it.
Once, a few years later, I had Thanksgiving dinner at the Rose Street location, but that was the extent of my interactions with them. But then they moved to their current location, on Washington at Quince in Escondido, just as I was moving out of my last apartment, which was in the same block on Quince Street. When I lost my home, I had quit hard drugs, but still found myself homeless and seemingly pointless. Over time, I began coming into town (I slept about two miles north of town-all downhill to walk in the morning, with a bus that stops right out front in the afternoon) for breakfast, and to brush my teeth.
Back when we had a local paper in Escondido, I would occasionally write things about Interfaith that would be printed at the bottom of the Editorial page. I believe my last one was printed the day that Suzanne Pohlman (‘Fearless Leader’) retired. That’s how I got to know everyone there, as they liked my writing, and once in a while it led to donations and such from those who read them.
Why do you volunteer?
Of course, I worked in the kitchen 20 years ago, when Ron Price still ran it (singlehandedly, mind you – now we have a different cook every day!), but he pulled me out of line on an emergency basis when I was there for breakfast, so I’ll talk about when I started volunteering about three years ago.
I must confess that, at first, it was convenience that brought me back into the kitchen. We had just expanded to weekend breakfasts, and they needed people to come in, so, because I was usually in town by three anyway, I volunteered. It was a nice way to warm up early, and I always ended up with the pick of whatever we were having. But, it was fun, too, and even after I got back Inside (and fell in love in the process!) I continued to come in on Saturday and Sunday to make the sack lunches and help with breakfast. Eventually, I got my girlfriend to come with me – and she loved it as much as I did!
Of course, things changed, and, being that my girlfriend was a nurse for 20 years, she insists that, as I have several ‘pre-existing conditions’, I cannot go back there, or much of anywhere else, until the world is back under control again. And, as I get older, I seem to deteriorate faster than someone without my history of chemical abuse, so, it looks like I may not be going back at all. But, I have some great memories, from both sides of the steam table, and have made some great friends there, too.
There are a million stories at Interfaith Community Services. This has been one of them.