James' Story

He was born on 10/6/1991, has a military background, from Anaheim, and was diagnosed with ADHD at age 4 ; ever since then the mental illnesses have wreaked havoc in his life. It wasn’t until the age of 25, when he started to take care of his mental health, that things started to get better.

“I am homeless because I’m bipolar and have anger issues. I’ve been going to church lately and I draw a lot ; I do poetry and art ; everything I can do to express my emotions and bring awareness to others of mental illness and homelessness. If more people hear and are aware of our stories it will will open their eyes that we’re human too. I’m not someone you should look down upon, even though there are people who say “oh, they’re homeless because they just don’t want to do anything.” It's not the case. I’m intelligent. I have a very high IQ. People just always told me “you’ll never amount to anything.” Society has always just brought us down, and never helped us. Recently I went to jail because I got into a fight, but I’m now out. I am homeless because my mother is currently dying of stage four cancer. She has brain cancer and lung cancer. She is in hospice and will pass away before her next birthday, and she will be dying at a very young age, 54 years old. The reason I am homeless is because I do not want to burden my mom in this situation. She just needs to go in peace. I know God and Jesus will take care of me. It’s hard out here, but Gilroy is one of the best places I’ve ever been. People are very nice, kind, caring, helpful, understanding. I just wish people wouldn’t just look at us, and would stop and talk instead. If you open the book and read it, you’ll find something you’ll like to see. Something you’ll like to read.

A home for me means a place safe and secure. The people around me help me create my home. If I’m around people that I care about and with people that love me and care for me then that is home for me, even if I’m not in my place. Home is where my heart is.

Yes, I feel safe. There are bad apples, there are bad people, but it’s not as bad as it could be. We all take care of each other, we do. It’s a community . It’s hard though, it’s a stressful life. You have homeless people that are the most kind generous golden hearted people who, because this life is so stressful, sometimes become someone they’re not really. When they do start to become something they're not, they mask those emotions and feelings with drugs or some type of substance, to put away the pain and struggle.

I’m only 27 and I’m homeless due to multiple suicide attempts. When I feel bleak I don’t feel like there is any other way out. But now I guess you could say that I’m growing up and maturing, realising that suicide is no longer a solution to the problems. The solution to the problems is “don't give up and move forward each day” instead of falling backwards. Now I fall forwards so I never have to fall back.

Faith is what keeps me going each day, even at times when I don’t know when I’ll get my next meal, or if it’s going to rain today. It’s stressful, very stressful, being out here, but it’s a process. Life’s hard and people need to know. I’m highly intelligent, very articulate. With my IQ and how I speak to people, I should be able to be anything, but because I’m here I don’t have a place, and no one is going to hire someone that’s homeless and looks intimidating, being 6’4”, 250 pounds, with tattoos. People are put off because I’m a big guy and I have a big voice. It’s very hard for us because we have to build a shell around our hearts and around us, as a community, so this world will no longer take what we do have left - our hearts.

Independence is a big thing for me right now. I’m at the Armory right now. I called Gateway to try to get some sort of transitional housing or some place where I can at least start to do better. There’s a lot of job opportunities out there for someone like me but first I need somewhere safe before I can do a job because if I go to work and come home to where I sleep, all of my stuff could be missing. I would no longer have a blanket, sleeping bag, food, anything it could all disappear in the blink of an eye. So sometimes we can’t do things. We don’t steal things.

I do smoke weed, but I don’t do drugs. I’ve never done meth or amphetamines. My biggest addiction in life has been candy. I love candy. And it’s hard.

If I’m at the Armory, it’s easy to take a shower. If I don’t make it to the Armory then I will bird-bath. I’ll go into the bathroom and clean the essentials and brush my teeth, put new clothes on. It’s kind of hard but it gets easier. I’m a human. I’m a person just like you and I deserve respect just like everybody else.

It’s a harder life for the women. Sometimes it’s easier for them, because society would rather take care of a woman over a man. Just like they would rather help a kid over a man. But if you’re just a single woman, you need someone to keep you safe. You can’t just be out here by yourself. No one can. You need a group of people that know you, know your face, that will keep you safe, because I’ve heard stories there are women out here who were beaten, and now when I see them their brain is not there, they’ve been jumped. Physically, it is harder for women. But they are the most emotionally strong people out here. They don’t complain, they just keep going and it’s a beautiful thing. Perseverance in adversity.

It’s a lot harder for men out here because we’re considered role models. We’re supposed to take care of the family. So when we don’t do it they still don’t help us, not even when we’re with animals. I had a service dog because of my PTSD, and when I was homeless in Oregon I had a German Shepherd, a most beautiful animal. People would always bring my dog food.

We are a community: if someone needs help we help them out, if someone needs food, clothes, a sleeping bag, we give it to them. We help each other out because no one else really does. We teach the people who are fresh to the streets where to go and how to do things to help themselves out, and show them how to get started.

The nature of my character has made me more respected, even though I’m fairly young. People do steal, we get stolen from all the time, things go missing. Though I’m only 27, I was raised by very good people, my grandparents, and my mom got sober when I was 9, so I had a good childhood with some destructive background. I was duct-taped to the car-seat when I was younger, but my parents taught me how to give respect and the common courtesy that I expect to receive from other people. I’m not treated differently, I’m not treated as a youngster. I’m the person people come to if they have questions, intelligent questions. A lot of people ask my how I’m on the street, since I’m so intelligent. But life’s hard. I don’t have a college degree. I have the college smarts, but not the degree. If I had the degree, it would be easier, but I’ve never been given the opportunity. I have tried, but they never got back to me. I can decipher in my head, I can do algebra in my head. I can solve calculations and math problems in my head. I paint pictures with words, with poetry. I have a poem about never giving up no matter how hard life gets. It’s about expressing emotions through words to bring awareness.

We need more places like the Compassion Center and the Armory, but also better environments. The Compassion Center is great, but the Armory doesn’t serve great food. That will give you bathroom problems. They kick you out at 6 am and you can end up having accidents that you just can’t help. It’s hard, but we have each other. We always take care of each other no matter what. It’s difficult at times but it makes me who I am.”