Friday, December 7, 2012

LOUIS VERDUGO - "I didn't realize that this was going to happen to me."
     Louis Verdugo used to live in an apartment over on Pine Street, not far from Hilda’s Bakery, in Auburn.
     He was working for a contractor that specialized in jacking up old, historic houses and rebuilding their foundations. Louis was a waterproofing specialist. He was in training to become a journeyman carpenter, and then, to become a general contractor himself.
     But his contractor’s last job got red-tagged by a government inspector, and Louis got laid off.
     Then, he got evicted from his apartment.
     He’s been homeless for about three years now. He is fifty years old. He is part Native American, and part Spanish.
     Louis talks about reaching a point where all he had left was seventy-five dollars.
     "That’s when you really start budgeting," Louis says. "You watch every single nickel. For a long time, I lived on a Jumbo Jack (hamburger) that I could get for $1.75, and two tacos for 99 cents."
     What’s the hardest part about being homeless for Louis?
     "When you’re cold," he answers.
     "You have to forage for everything. Searching for food at places like churches, and food closets.
     "I once went without a shower for eight days," Louis says. "Then, I couldn’t take it no more. My skin started dying on my feet. And you start scratching yourself, all over.
     "I went to Dollar Tree. I took the money that I got from canning (collecting cans and bottles from trash cans to sell back for the deposit money), and bought some shampoo, and some dish soap for a dollar. I got some free plastic bags from a park. I put on my swim trucks, and found a water spigot. I took a plastic cup, and poured cold water over myself, washed myself off with dish soap, and then rinsed off.
     "Now that I know how to solve that shower problem, I feel more confident.
     "The more times that you are confronted with a problem, and you come up with a solution, the more confident you get.
     "I used to get depressed. But now, there’s no time for that. Now, my life is getting depressed, versus, where do I get a shower now?
     "And I don’t worry over any of the small stuff any more. I used to worry over little things like, should I buy Irish Spring, or Dove soap? Now, it’s just give me a bar of soap. I don’t care what kind."
If Louis had a magic wand, so that he could be or do absolutely anything, what would he be doing?
     "I’d be a rock and roll singer," he says. "Either that, or I’d have my own business."
     Does Louis have a message for the world?
     "It doesn’t matter what anyone else tells you. If you have love in your heart, you can do anything. You must stay confident. And you have to keep going forward."
     I ask Louis what he believes makes him special and unique in the world.
     "I have learned to be patient, to stay calm, and not to panic.
     "Also, I take pride in my work. You should always take pride in your work.
     "There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
     "I didn’t realize that this was going to happen to me."

     This is the one-hundred-and-fifth article in a series of articles about Auburn-area homeless people, written by local attorney, author, and Sierra College Instructor Bob Litchfield.

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