COAT, or Community Outreach Assistance Team, is an outreach group cooperatively managed by Creating Housing Coalition and CHANCE. The outreach work is largely done by volunteers from these two organizations as well as several other organizations in the local community. COAT provides food, clothing, hygiene and medical kits, and other supplies to people experiencing homelessness in our local area. The outreach program also works to connect people to resources and housing by interfacing with assisted living facilities and other various agencies in town. As part of this outreach effort, COAT has conducted interviews with some of the people they serve so that we can become familiar with our unhoused neighbors. We will be publishing the interviews over the next few issues of News and Views.
This interview is with Hawkeye, who is a member of CHC Board as well as being an unhoused individual in our community.
What’s your name?
Hawkeye. My father was a volunteer firefighter for the San Francisco fire department as well as being firehouse chef. He was Big Hawk and I was Little Hawk.
How old are you?
Are you a veteran?
Yes and I am a VFW member. I spent 58 days in Korea.The (Korean) “war” never ended; they just called a truce so any service there was considered wartime.
Do you hold any unique identities?
My eyebrows. Funny story about my eyebrows. I was in Oceana helping my brother move. I went to church and was helping a gentleman there named Bill Brown serve the coffee. As I was serving a woman came up to get coffee and stopped and stared at me. She came around the table and had to touch my eyebrows. Her name was Gloria and she had a thing for me (and my eyebrows). I also remember that there was a beautiful stained glass in the church and at the bottom it said “Home for the broken.”
How long have you been without housing?
I lost my job in 2007. I was working for a lighting company in Eldorado Hills, California. One day I showed up to work and was locked out. I was still drinking then, I’ve been sober for 7 years. Eventually, in June of 2009, my house was foreclosed on and my wife left me. I’ve been in and out of housing ever since. I’ve lived with relatives and helped them with projects and always was told I could stay as long as I like. But after a while there’s always another need for the room I’m in. In June of 2015 I moved to Oregon and got a job that July at LBCC. For a while, I lived with a couple until the husband passed away.
Where do you typically get your necessities from? Food, water, hygiene supplies, etc.?
I work and collect social security.
What kind of dangers do you tend to face in your day-to-day life?
I used to live in my truck and people would try to break in. I’ve had my identity stolen – three times starting in -1985. It’s a hassle and I have to get an identifier from the IRS each year. Now- I’m a volunteer overnight security guard.
What kind of work do you currently do, or what kind of work did you do before you became unhoused?
I’d say I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none. I’ve had a lot of different jobs.
I was a volunteer firefighter with Crescent Fire Protection District in California.
I was in the army for 4 years.
I worked for Davis Surveying during summer vacations until I graduated from high school –
When I first moved up here, I worked at LBCC. I’m still there part-time.
In 2016 I worked at Target for about 7 weeks. They wanted you to be a robot. In a 10 hour shift you had to move 3850 garments.
In January of 2020 I worked at Brookdale for about 3 months, then Mennnonite Village for 4 months
I’ve worked at LBCC since 2015.. I only missed the year 2020 working there due to COVID.
What kinds of interests do you have?
I’m a model railroader. I have model railroad cars, engines, & tracks. My collection is in a storage locker. I have no place to put it out.
Aside from providing housing, what more do you think can be done to support unhoused folks?
It would be helpful for dentists and chiropractors to give a discount when someone is paying with cash. I can get all other services through the VA, but not those.
What can people in the community do to make you feel more welcome?
I’d like people to know that just because a person is in his 60s and works part-time or volunteers he’s not all that bad.
Do you have any stories about your life that you’d like to share?
I’ve been married twice and have 3 sons. I lost one son who was in the service. He served in Afghanistan, came home and died here in the US. I’m closest with my middle son Ben. He and I are into model railroads. He got a job with ACRT, which is a subcontractor for PG&E. He walks the transmission lines that bring power to the cities. He got the job without a college education because he worked with me in the woods learning about things. He passed the test with 93%. He said he knew so much about doing surveying from watching me. He is now taking classes to be an arborist.
My grandfather was – born in Salem and my grandmother was born in Harrisburg. My mom was born in Florence. In essence, I came back to my roots in Oregon.