Reality Check: Living on the Streets of Pasadena

Homeless Man Opens Up About Living Rough

Published : Thursday, October 12, 2017 | 5:53 AM

Coexisting, hidden in plain sight, struggling in distressing contrast to the lifestyle expressed vividly by so many of Pasadena’s beautiful tree-lined neighborhoods, 600 homeless people also call Pasadena home.

One of those is 47-year-old man named Joseph, who on Tuesday was among dozens of fellow homeless at the Salvation Army’s Connect Day event.

Joseph arrived in Pasadena four months ago after skipping around California, rambling from the beach city of Santa Barbara to the rural San Joaquin Valley, trying to live as comfortably as one can without basic necessities and family support.

Riddled with unfortunate life circumstances stemming from over thirty years of drug abuse, depression, and a stint in prison, Joseph said that Pasadena has exposed him to a network of resources that may possibly, one day, ease him out of life on the streets and into a permanent living situation.

“This ain’t for nobody. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy, you know what I mean? But it’s hard to get out of, especially if you use drugs,” said Joseph. He said he has been homeless for five years.

Joseph claims he was “relocated” to Pasadena by Santa Barbara police who felt that he overstayed his welcome in their city.

“They don’t put up with homelessness. I lasted only maybe a month in Santa Barbara,” said Joseph.

He heard from fellow homeless peers throughout his travels about Pasadena being a destination where the homeless are not only more welcome than in other cities, but is a place where they also have access to helpful resources.

“In the five years I’ve been homeless, they spoil all these people here,” said Joseph.

Joseph made sure to visit the Salvation Army Tuesday morning for its annual Homeless Connect Day, where he was able to pickup a pair of eyeglasses for his depleting vision, get a fresh haircut, and have his aching mouth examined by dentist–all for free.

“I’m getting up in age and you know, you don’t last very long being homeless. It doesn’t last very long,” Joseph explained.

Joseph also migrated south to Pasadena to prepare for the winter season. The chilly change in temperature is a already being felt.

“The temperature’s dropping. Last night it was cold, the temperature dropped last night. That was the coldest evening so far,” said Joseph.

These issues are just some concerns that Joseph has learned to deal with over the past five years without a home.

According to Joseph, he traces the root of his homelessness to severe depression he experienced as a teenager which evolved into drug abuse — something he admittedly still struggles with today and does not want to seek help for “just yet.”

“My dad, he never believed in depression,” said Joseph. “That was our battle, with my dad, because I’ve been depressed and he just said, ‘you’re just being lazy’, but depression is real.”

Fresno-born Joseph found himself abandoned from his family and two daughters who are now ages 25 and 11 after being released from prison in 2012 where he spent three years behind bars in northern California.

Joseph attributes his time in prison as a valuable experience in that he identifies himself as a more clean and respectable homeless individual when compared to most of his peers.

“I learned how to keep it clean wherever you go, because I have two wonderful parents, but I learned respect and how to be clean in the penitentiary,” explained Joseph.

Cleanliness is important, according to Joseph, who expressed his frustration with business owners’ refusal to let him use the restroom without paying for food or products.

“Ninety-nine point nine say ‘get lost’,” explained Joseph.

“Keep it clean and it’s all good,” Joseph added.

Joseph said he loves the Paseo Colorado shopping mall area of the city in particular, and that he hopes to establish friendly relationships with businesses and customers who enjoy the space as much as he does.

“There’s a restroom around Paseo Colorado, there’s a fancy mall right there, and those poor people, they look at all the homeless people trotting at that restroom. It’s all shiny and those people they clean everyday, at least, I keep it clean. I learned how to keep it clean wherever you go,” said Joseph.

Joseph spends his days in between Highland Park and Pasadena. He uses various homeless services such as laundry washing and food distribution.

He always spends the night in Pasadena near his favorite Paseo Colorado where he feels safe and welcomed.

According to Joseph, everyone faces the risk of being homeless in a moment’s notice as he offered words of advice for readers.

“I tell them this: ‘this could happen to your children, God forbid. This could happen to you’. Don’t go by and judge, you know what I mean? We live in the mightiest country in the world where I sleep in the sidewalk everyday for free,” he said.

Joseph plans on toughing it out in Pasadena through the winter months before he heads north to a new city.

“I’m going to go to Seattle and I do want to stop being homeless,” said Joseph.

For now, Joseph looks forward to seeing the Rose Parade for the first time in the new city he calls home.

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