I am constantly expressing how amazed I am by the individuals I meet through serving with Can You Spare A Story and Charlie is no different. Meeting Charlie, I was amazed by his resilience and his ability to remain strong through unfair trials of life on the streets. Charlie is an Arizona native who grew up within Casa Grande. Charlie today stands strong as a 70-year-old man battling life on the streets but at one time, he was a young boy living with his brothers and father whom he adored more than anything. As Charlie grew older, his father’s work made the family move quite often making it difficult for the boys to find a strong group of peers.

As time goes, Charlie grew from adolescence into adulthood seeking new adventures and finding new love. He married his first wife and move to the New England area to settle down. The couple continued on to have two children whom Charlie loved so much. Although his love for his children was strong, the spark in his marriage was not and the two decided to get divorced. Charlie then returned back to his roots moving back to Arizona for a fresh start.

 

Charlie expressed his love for precision as we spoke on the curbside. He mentioned that he spent the majority of his adult life working as an architectural draftsman where imprecision was not an option.  He loved that everything lined up in this career with the perfect pieces meeting. Charlie spent 20 years working hard climbing the corporate ladder, making an income solid enough for him to live peacefully. Out of the blue, when he thought he would be forever wrapped up in the love of his work, he found love elsewhere. Charlie fell madly in love with the woman of his dreams and who later became his wife. Although the two were inseparable, her family was less than pleased with Charlie and showed constant disapproval. His wife came from a very wealthy background and since Charlie did not, they did not deem him worthy for their daughter.

 

When Charlie spoke to me about his wife, he spoke about her like she put stars in the sky, commenting on not only her beauty but also her precision. The reason he loved his work aligned with the reason he loved his wife. She also served as an architectural draftsman and was very talented at the role she served. He didn’t care about the money in which she belonged, he cared about who she was and was drawn to her wisdom, beauty, and kindness. In 2005, after 18 years of marriage Charlie’s wife became extremely ill and Charlie decided that after 45 years of a career he loved, he was going to retire. Rather than a dream retirement of drinks on a warm beach, Charlie spent his time caring for his wife and there was nowhere else in the world he would have rather been.

 

Charlie’s wife sadly passed away which sadly left Charlie having to battle with her family over the couple’s shared finances. Charlie had been retired from work for the past few years to take the time to care for his wife. He had no income outside of their shared savings leaving this a battle of life or death for Charlie. A man who had recently lost the woman he loved was now being put through a battle to receive the ability to simply live. His wife’s family had extremely powerful lawyers and Charlie told me that he was left with nothing and nowhere to go.

 

Charlie first became homeless in 2010. Charlie had been through it, losing the woman he loved and the money they had saved together. Charlie was down in the deeps, but he did not lose his spirit. He remained resilient and continue to stay positive. He mentioned that at the beginning of his sprint with homelessness, he felt a sense of freedom for the first time in his lifetime he had no responsibility and no one to answer to. But as he approaches his 10-year-mark with homelessness, he has become quite tired and rundown. He mentioned that people tend to be quite cruel to individuals struggling with homelessness. He has been screamed at, ignored, and even arrested for simply existing. He mentions that prior to homelessness, he had no trouble with the law but now finding a place to sleep without being charged with trespassing is difficult. I was disturbed by this, when I lay my down at night I do not have to fear being awoken to handcuffs. I curiously asked what the best ways to survive on the streets are, to which he answered, “mind your own business and keep your eyes open.” As a busy slowly approached, I jumped in reaction and he commented that I need to be more aware of my surroundings. Homelessness truly teaches individuals things we never suspect. Charlie now holds signs in an effort to make enough to feed himself. After ten harsh Arizona summers, Charlie is ready for change once again. This summer he hopes to catch a bus to California and start over in a much more mild climate.

 

Although Charlie has seen rough days in recent years, he still remains dedicated to a full and rewarding life. His wisdom of the world and compassion for others is inspiring to say the least. I hope to live like Charlie and strive for a full life. Charlie, if you are reading this thank you so much for dedicating your time to speaking with me. Thanks for sharing your story willingly and opening up to me after such a short friendship. I hope you find happiness in all of your adventures and don’t hesitate to reach out. You will always have the Can You Spare A Story family.

 

Readers, thank you so much for making it to the end of this story. Charlie was so special to me and the fact you took the time to read his story means the world. I hope his story impacts your view of individuals struggling with homelessness and inspires you to get to know friends struggling in your neck of the woods. Can You Spare A Story is growing at rapid rates and none of this would be possible without your love and support. So thank you.. for everything! We are excited to announce that we are expanding and looking for new writers. If you are interested in becoming a writer for Can You Spare A Story please email me at sydney@canyouspareastory.com.

 

CYSS has also launched a new podcast, The Can You Spare A Story podcast shares the stories of individuals who have broken the cycle of homelessness. Please take a moment to listen to Renee’s story and if you know anyone who would like to share their story please let me know.

 

Thanks for reading, supporting, and loving us,

Syd

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