David L. is only 26 years old, but like most chronically homeless, he appears at least ten years older. I asked him to come in and speak with me after seeing him hanging out at The Salvation Army Shelter after the daily Love Lunch noontime meal.
His story is sad. His mother died when he was at the impressionable age of eleven. His father also passed away the same year. He is from Baltimore, and ended up living in Lumberton with his elderly grandparents. He quickly admits that his grandparents were "too old to handle him" when he went to live with them and he started hanging with the wrong crowd.
He claims to have been homeless from his early teen years, never finishing school and choosing to live on the streets after becoming addicted to drugs. As he sits in my office, he has scratches up and down his forearms and a hospital bracelet. When asked about this, he sheepishly smiles and says he's been really depressed and started cutting himself with his knife. He just got out of the county's mental health hospital four days before.
David has with him a bag full of oranges and some bread he has picked up from the tables of donations inside the shelter's kitchen. He's munching on a large bag of chips, even though he has just finished lunch. I ask where he has been staying at night and he says he's found an abandoned transfer truck where he's been sleeping and keeping his things. I asked why not stay here (at The Salvation Army), to which he replies "I have been in here and left to take care of court and felony issues that came up."
David talks about walking the street and watching others "score" drugs in the surrounding neighborhood. It's not clear if he has the desire or mental capacity to help himself at this point, which is a shame considering he is only 26 years old. For now, he is one of the 1,600 homeless in our community struggling to survive each day.