“AJ”  19


   AJ was born in San Bernardino, California, in the autumnal equinox of 1997, but moved to Longmont with his adoptive parents when he was two, at the turning of the millennium. He moved to Loveland and attended Immanuel Lutheran Elementary School, New Vision Charter School and then Thompson Valley High School. He lived with a foster family for a while, but that eventually faded. “In a not-too stable relationship, without that (biological) connection, it’s just a lot easier to say, ‘Okay, I’ll be on my own.’”  And so, he was.

   He worked at grocery stores, retail businesses and restaurants, but lost his apartment and has been living on the streets of Loveland since late 2016. He sleeps at the 137 Shelter when he has to, but they’re only open from mid-November to Mid-March when the temperature drops below 20 degrees. He finds spots where he must. “Usually it’s in some brush. Grass is nice. There’s not too many spots downtown. It’s rocky or concrete. You just find a spot and fall asleep.” As a last resort, AJ sleeps in dumpster enclosures if there aren’t security lights or too much filth. “It’s hard. Sometimes, it’s just hard.”

   Eventually, AJ would like to make a living as an artist, a painter. Loveland certainly is a great place for artists, and even has affordable housing for artists at the recently built Artspace apartments next to the feed mill building at 3rd and Railroad. But AJ isn’t an artist, yet, and Loveland doesn’t have affordable housing for the homeless, so he pursues getting steady work and not having to rely on day-labor jobs. “I’d like to get back to retail. I can operate any kind of cash register.” 

   Sleeping on the streets doesn’t often allow for meeting the hygienic demands of retail, however, and AJ finds it difficult to get basic bathroom and shower access. “I asked a woman if she could give me some change so I could take a shower at Chilson (Recreation Center). It’s $4.75 to get in. She looked at me disgusted and walked away without saying anything. I’m like, ‘Hey, I’m not gonna bite your head off!’ She treated me like I wasn’t a human.”

   Aside from being invisible, or being looked at with disgust, being homeless can just be…boring. “When you’re homeless, you just don’t have much to do. It’s depressing. You just do the same thing every day. I have my group of friends and we’ll sit and talk about everything on our minds, but then it’s like ‘What do we do now?’” AJ shakes his head and smiles. “I’m ready for a change, because this is not ideal.”