The stories of two homeless Westside men whose lives were cut short by grief

My name is Jeffrey and I am 60 years old. I stay here during the day, under this highway overpass, because it’s cool and it’s breezy. I sleep on the street. I don’t do damage wherever I go. I carry everything I need in this bag. Nobody bothers me because I keep it clean. If you’re clean and not causing any trouble, the police tend to leave you alone. I’ve been living on the streets for about three years, but I’m about to get Social Security – and they owe me seven years, so that will help get me back to Arizona, where I’m from. It’s close at hand. I just heard them. I should receive my money by October 3rd.

I grew up near Tucson. I came here for a job that didn’t work out. Then I started having problems with my hip, then my knee. I had a hip replacement and need a knee replacement. Also, three years ago I lost my wife to cancer. I had taken care of her for six years. After he died, I spent a lot of money that I shouldn’t have spent. I didn’t spend it on drugs or alcohol; I’ve never been a big party person. I spent it on things like staying in hotels and eating well. I missed her. I was in mourning. After that, I realized that I needed to get away. So I came here for work, but it didn’t work out.

“They kind of know where I am, but they don’t know everything,” Jeffrey said of his four daughters. “What they know is that I want to be on my own. I don’t want their help.

(Robert Karon)

I worked in the music industry – security, protecting bands from fans. Styx, Journey, Def Leppard. I did a Shania Twain tour. It was her first tour, and everyone was amazed that she was already a headliner. My dad was a cop, and he made money doing gigs. When I was old enough, he put me in. The main band I worked with, for many years, was Styx – one of the few bands that didn’t do drugs.

I graduated from the same high school as Linda Ronstadt – Catalina High in Tucson. I had a lot of friends there, and I’m still in touch with one, Pete. We met in third grade. We are still talking on the phone. I got my phone from the general relief fund, which you can get from social services. They also give you food stamps, and there is also a hot food program. The hot food here is mostly fast food so I tend to buy things from the store and heat them up myself. I have a one-burner stove. Sometimes I also watch movies on the phone. I just saw the new Elvis movie. The guy impressed me who played him. He doesn’t really look like Elvis, but he somehow captured his essence.

I don’t think I can get back to the safety of the concert. I still have to replace my knee. For concert safety, you need to be quick on your feet. After knee surgery, I could run a bar my cousin owns near Tucson. I’m not a drinker, so I would be perfect for this job. It would give me something to do where I wouldn’t be running up and down the stairs.

One of the reasons it’s hard is because I don’t talk to so many people. I used to talk to my wife.


How did I meet my wife? I was 22 years old, in New York. I was with Pete and we were walking around lower Manhattan. He lived there, showing me around. I saw this girl, and I said to Pete, “Wow, look at her.” She wore a white dress, a little above the knee. Pete said, “You would never have a chance.” I approached her and spoke to her. I told her she had the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen – because she did. Lisa was Italian, from Bensonhurst. After that, we stayed in touch. Eventually, I moved to New York. After the first winter, I said to Lisa, “I don’t know if I can live here, because I’m freezing to death. Tucson can get cold. Some days it can go down to 17 degrees. But in New York, the high maybe 17. Plus it’s so crowded, like here. That’s why I love Tucson; there is more room. And it’s so much more affordable. Anyway, after about a year, I asked Lisa to marry me, and she said yes. Then she said, “By the way, we can move to Arizona. I too am tired of this cold! (She hated shoveling snow.) In Tucson, she said, “It’s hot, but I can handle it. She became a nurse and we had four daughters.

The twins are in the Air Force now. They are abroad, so it is difficult to talk to them. But I talk to others two, two or three times a week. They kind of know where I am, but they don’t know everything. What they know is that I want to go out on my own. I don’t want their help.

I owned a house with Lisa. When she died, I sold her and gave all the money to the girls for their education. Still, I think they shouldn’t take the financial responsibility for me. I have been in contact with my sister in Arizona, however. I could move in with her in October, when I have the Social Security money. It’s getting hard for me here.

One of the reasons it’s hard is because I don’t talk to so many people. I used to talk to my wife. She knew me better than anyone. I also think I knew her better than anyone. Sometimes I still talk to him, in my head. Sometimes people tell me, you need to meet someone. I say I had someone. I don’t think I’ll find that again. We were kindred spirits. I think God put her in my way, really. If you are a good person, good things will happen to you. She was an identical twin, and once her sister bet her $100 that she could cheat on me. I came home and her sister was wearing one of her dresses. I said, “Hi, baby!” But when she kissed me, I knew. She said, “How did you know?” I said, “Because you don’t kiss me like Lisa kisses me.” And no one has ever done it.

When I arrive in Arizona, the first place I go is the cemetery. It’s not just to pay homage to Lisa. It’s for my parents, and my grandparents too. I have eight graves to visit. Even though my grandmother passed away in 1985, I still want to honor her. My father is there too. It lasted until 2007, when he was 78 years old. He died on Christmas Eve. He just fell asleep and he didn’t wake up. I told my sister that’s how I want to go when the time comes. Just sleep, no pain. I am the one who found it. At first I thought he was sleeping. Then I realised. I just sat there for a minute, watching him. He had a peaceful, serene look on his face. You know he wasn’t in pain, because you could see it.

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