Homeless count reaches all kinds | NevadaAppeal.com

Homeless count reaches all kinds

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Phillip walks down Carson Street just after 6 a.m. asking for change. Phillip said that he wasn't homeless but claimed to have slept on a bench the night before.
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Curlie Williams said he isn’t looking for a handout, he’s looking for a hand up.

Since his arrival in Carson City two weeks ago, the 46-year-old North Carolina native has been working as a bricklayer with Labor Finders on Long Street and sleeping at the city’s only men’s homeless shelter.

About 5:30 a.m. on Friday, Williams waited outside the temporary employment service’s front door, sipping coffee and smiling easily and often as he talked to volunteers taking part in the Point in Time homeless count.

The morning chill was a reminder of what fall in the desert can feel like, and Williams admitted he’s not big on cold weather. But when he left Fayetteville after catching his wife with another man, he wasn’t looking for anyplace in particular.

“I just ran,” he said.

He ended up in Oakland, Calif., then moved on to Reno and a job in concrete.

One day as he was forming up a curb and gutter, he said his employer told him, “No black men do construction here in Nevada,” and Williams was let go.

He said he could tell the boss was expecting him to flip out.

“But I prayed for him, and just sat down and waited for my friend to come get me,” he said.

Following that incident, Williams came to Carson City and picked up the gig with Labor Finders. He said he doesn’t plan on being out West much longer. At least not the northwest. His aim is Arizona where once again he’ll pull out his tools and get a job.

“Ain’t doing wrong by working,” he said.

But Williams isn’t in a real big hurry.

“I like my job right now. God blessed me with a good guy to work for.”

Twenty-four volunteers, some civilian and some city workers, took to Carson streets in an attempt to count the homeless in Carson City.

They visited parks and rivers. Downtown and uptown. The numbers gathered Friday will be added to counts taken all week of the people living in motels, shelters and transitional housing.

In addition to counting people, those wishing to participate in an interview on why they are homeless and what services they think are most important, were given a free blanket, a hygiene kit, free immunization and a meal.

The totals are sent to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which uses the numbers to allot funding.

Carson City Health Department caseworker Frances Ashley said the difficulty in counting is that people don’t want to admit they’re homeless.

Ashley, along with Nugget Motel manager Chris Frizzelle, and Lynn Gondorcin with Nevada Rural Housing, spent three-and-a-half hours in Ashley’s truck Friday morning driving in their quadrant between Bowers and Lompa lanes from Highway 50 to Arrowhead Drive.

They stopped people walking on the street, approached those standing in front of temporary-work services and searched for camps in fields of sagebrush and cottonwood.

The experience was an “education,” said Frizzelle.

As he walked away from one vacant camp where a bedroll was surrounded by pristine copies of ESPN magazines and a book on Larry Bird, Frizzelle shook his head.

“I would have never thought to look for people living in the places we’ve found them.”

The Point in Time count in 2005 found that homelessness in Northern Nevada was primarily due to job loss or poor money management. Fifty percent of those interviewed indicated that a job would have prevented them from being homeless. Seventy percent said they were actively seeking employment.

At a temporary service on Highway 50 East where some six men assembled for day labor, a man in a hard hat identified only as Lou said he was homeless because he lost his CDL license for his third DUI.

“I’m going to prison this time,” he said.

On South Carson Street, Phillip, 42, said he wasn’t homeless.

When asked where he slept Thursday night, he said, “on a bench.”

Phillip was wrapped in a blanket from his head to his ankles, like Little Red Riding Hood.

“You got a dollar?” he asked, then mumbled something about genocide and a government conspiracy. He said he wasn’t interested in going to Friends in Service Helping for a meal.

“I’m just trying to get to California,” he explained. “Want to take me to California?”

For Curlie Williams, his present predicament isn’t anything to get excited about.

He was surprised by the help he received at the Wiley House, and the first chance he got, he said, he gladly paid the $35-a-week rent.

“This is the first time I ever been by myself and the first time I ever traveled,” he said, smiling that Curlie smile. “I’m just trying to live. All I need is a boost.”

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.