At a Christmas party a last week, I ran into an old school friend whose home backs up onto one of Walnut Creek's waterways that has become an unofficial site for campgrounds for some of our homeless residents.
Or instead of the term, "homeless," how about "residentially challenged?" This term was introduced to me by a local homeless guy I once met. It turns out this guy, whom I'll call "Sam" actually went to the same high school, and he grew up about a quarter mile from me. He laughed and called himself "residentially challenged." We ran into each other during one of my visits to Fresh Start Walnut Creek, the respite and services center for the area's homeless at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Trinity Avenue.
The school friend I ran into at the party had bought the house he had grown up in near downtown Walnut Creek from his siblings. During our chat over cocktails and appetizers, this friend complained about some creek campers wandering onto his property, and some other transient-looking guys once wandering up his street in the morning, just as he was leaving for work. He felt like they are casing out his home. Self-employed and needing to meet with clients, this friend was reluctant to leave his home.
At the time time, this friend also spoke in good terms about some of the "regulars" we all see around town.
One is this guy we'll call "Bob." You might yourself be acquainted with Bob. He is a slender 60ish fellow. I often see him near the California Boulevard bridge that crosses over Las Trampas Creek near Trader Joe's.
I've talked to Bob." He's friendly, articulate, forthright. When he and I both get the time, and if he were willing, I'd love to hear his whole story. In passing, he has told me that he's a long-time central Contra Costa resident and has been living on the streets for about 20 years. I gave him some money once--which I had been told is a "no-no" from when I was living in San Francisco, because you don't want to be giving money to a guy who might use it to feed a drug or alcohol habit.
I knew Bob would use it for good purposes. He expressed profound gratitude, saying that the money would help his friend, a disabled woman he looks after. He lives with her in a makeshift structure he built under one of the creek bridges. Without him, she might not survive.
After the holidays, Bob will be getting hip replacement surgery. He's got the surgery all set up through the county's medical services.
"Bob" is also a Fresh Start client, and said he himself was not pleased about some noisy, messy people who had moved in across the creek from him. "Talk about crazy," he said, when I told him that I ran a blog called Crazyinsuburbia. Sam, the Fresh Start client I met on one of my visits there, explained how the homeless always try to police themselves and look after one another in the encampments.