“I was born at Fitzsimons (Army Medical Center) in Aurora in 1976. Right after I was born we went back to Virginia because that’s where my dad was stationed. Then, in ’79, we moved out here.”
“Out here” started out in Federal Heights and Thornton, where Justin went to high school. He moved to Loveland in 2008 and fell into trouble with the law. “I did two years at LCDC (Larimer County Detention Center).” He’s been living on the street “more or less” ever since.
He’s not bitter about his circumstances. “Loveland has been a good place for me. Being homeless means you’ve got to learn a lot of things, to be outside. The (137 Connection) Shelter took me in and treated me like family. They’re a good resource.”
Justin worked various construction jobs, and liked working in landscaping the best. But he suffered a whiplash injury, and isn’t able to perform physical labor duties anymore.
So, he’s a hoofer. He doesn’t have a car, or a bike. He doesn’t have a dog, as many homeless people do – for companionship and protection. He’s on his own, sleeping where he can or in camps with other homeless folk, when the weather doesn’t force him into the shelter. “I bounce around. I know a lot of the people. We have a creed. We stick together, help each other out…”
When asked what other resources he utilizes, Justin names the Community Kitchen. “I eat there every day, and on the weekends.” He also mentions the Front Porch Ministry and Disciples Ministry; both provide food, shelter and support to Loveland’s homeless population. “And the churches are really good. They let us stay there at times,” referring to a program run by the House of Neighborly Service. “This coffee shop helps a lot (the LoCo Coffee Shop, where these interviews are conducted). You can come in here to warm up in the morning. And they give you a cup of coffee.”
Living on the streets has unique opportunities, which can develop uncommon skills. Justin is a “found artist”, in that he creates things with items he finds. Most of the raw material he discovers by dumpster diving. He fashions what he can into necklaces, bracelets and rings. He has homemade bling, and is eager to tell the story behind each piece. He doesn’t make an impression as someone who would take something that wasn’t his.
Justin seems to have found his place in his circumstances. He’s had to adjust. AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) helped. He went to meetings on 3rd and Railroad “every once in a while. I’ll be 3 years’ sober April 28th (2017). I don’t drink anymore. I gave that up.”
Instead of tipping into a bottle, Jason tilts over dumpsters. Finding treasure in another one’s trash. A diamond in the rough.