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Battling Bad Luck

A lifetime of unfortunate events

By Jane Lednovich

In a dimly lit cafeteria at St. Vincent de Paul Charity in downtown Phoenix, Ruben Seinz sits among his friends watching the Arizona Cardinals game. Around him are a variety of homeless people in a situation much like his: People who have no job, no money, and nowhere else to go.

"There's a lot of good people; there's a lot of bad people, and we're all mixed up in here," said Seinz, a 42-year-old man living on the streets for the second time in his adult life.

"We live here and do this because we have to," he said. "We do it to survive."

Living on the streets is a familiar lifestyle for Seinz. He lived homeless briefly as a child and was homeless again after losing his job as a car detailer, a job he had been working for almost eight and a half years.

But being homeless as a child made him mentally stronger, Seinz says.

"It showed me what's out there for you, and there's nothing," he said. "The only thing that's out there are the streets."

Before losing his first job, Seinz had to support a large family, including his two sisters, brother, niece, nephew and mother. After his townhouse was foreclosed, Seinz separated from his family.

"They went their way, I went my way… Why should I go live with them if that's going to happen all over again?" he said.

He lived on the streets for six months before hearing about St. Vincent de Paul from a friend. A few months later, he found an apartment and a minimum wage job at a fast food restaurant.

"Sometimes, I would work 40 hours a week. But at the end of each week, I would be left with $80 or less because I have to pay child support. I have to give my kids what they need," he said.

Seinz fathered two children when he was still working as a car detailer. Although he hasn't seen them since he lost his second job, he still thinks about his 8-year-old son and his 7-year-old daughter from time to time.

"That's an everyday thing," he said, "When you're not working and you're not around them, that's what you lose. You lose time with them."

The mother of his children refuses to let Seinz see his children, but he feels it's better for himself and his children that way.

"It'd be easier to stay away right now, try to get myself together and then try to pick things up with them," he said.

Looking back on how he ended up back at St. Vincent de Paul, Seinz said he does not blame his child support or his family for his current situation. He motivates himself by keeping his hopes up for the future.

"My kids aren't going to come over here and tell me, 'Daddy, get up! Go get a job!'" he said. "I've got to do it because I'm the one that's here. I'm the one living in a parking lot."

If there is one thing Seinz does not want, it is to avoid becoming what he calls a "professional homeless," someone who depends on donations and charity every year and refuses to work.

"Once you give up, it's over," Seinz said. "Once people come here, they think they're stuck here so they become a 'professional homeless,' and they steal from here. But you can't give up, that's the point. You have to keep on pushing."

Seinz is still looking for a job and an affordable place to live, but he doesn't want to leave St. Vincent de Paul until he knows his life will be more financially stable.

"I don't want to be here a third time," he said. "Three strikes and you're out."

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Mr. Red

By Anne Stegen

"I've had three good Christmases," said Kanga Red. Red has dark skin, whiskers on his cheeks, and his black gloves have holes, revealing wrinkled, calloused fingers. His eyes moved quickly. "I'm glad to have a facility that incorporates our lifestyle: being homeless."

Red had aspirations which he has since abandoned. "You dream of going to New York and becoming a businessman, of being rich and making people laugh. Then you're stick in Arizona, jobless, homeless and poor."

Red said he was fond of the Arizona climate, but not of the lack of opportunities. "There are the golf courses and we have palm trees. The crime rate is low. In Washington D.C. the crime rate is high and what's the opportunity there? To be president. And what's the opportunity in Arizona? Nothing. We should have something so fun and so fantastic that is makes Disneyland look boring."

Red is grateful for St. Vincent de Paul. "Regardless of what people think, this is still a place where you can feel good about yourself."

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Peter

By Daniel Escobedo

The economic recession of 2007 cost many people their jobs. Some people were able to find jobs again quickly, while others were left to search for years. For Peter Sehmittdiel, a native of Michigan, he had to endure hard times without a job and home for four years.

Sehmittdiel has been living in Phoenix for the past four years, hoping for better luck searching for jobs.

"I didn't like being in Michigan because when I lost my job, I had to live on the streets and it's way too cold. I needed to find a place that had better weather otherwise I don't think I would've survived out on the streets," said Sehmittdiel.

He was working at a local grocery store in Michigan when the recession first hit. He said that because he suffered from depression, his manager thought it was easier to fire him first.

Without a college education, Sehmittdiel finds it difficult to find any work around downtown, especially with his health problems.

"After I lost my job, I became more depressed and soon gained weight. I have high blood pressure now and high cholesterol and because of that, no one wants to hire me," said Sehmittdiel.

Still, he has hope that he can turn things around.

"My goal is to lose weight and find work as a security guard somewhere. I am looking forward to getting my own apartment and saving money," said Sehmittdiel. "All I know is that I don't want to be homeless ever again."
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Lonny

By Jamie Warren

Surrounded by the muffled noises of the St. Vincent de Paul cafeteria, 55-year-old Lonny Crumb sat alone at a round table, eating a piece of chocolate with one hand. The other steadily gripped a black cane. His long grey hair and beard nearly covered his face, as he sat hunched over in his blue plaid jacket.

Crumb has no job and no home. His home, instead, is the parking lot right behind the food bank. He's been living this way for about five to six years.

"I don't do good in day to day society," said Crumb.

And because of this, society has been his biggest challenge.

"People already have a set opinion," he said.

It's been a long time since Crumb has had a job. Once a structural engineer, he was forced to retire after getting crushed from the knees down while working on the job. His wife then died of cancer, and Crumb decided to give his house away to his only son. He's been living on the streets ever since.

He visits his son, along with his eight grand children, every so often. But with struggles of being a long time drug dealer, Crumb says it's easier on him to live his life the way he does.

"I kind of marked away from society," Crumb said.
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