NewsHomeless Corpus Christi: Crisis on our Streets

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Tales of the Street: How the homeless struggle to get off the streets

Special Report: Life on the Street
Posted at 7:15 PM, Nov 18, 2019

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — We see the homeless on the streets or hanging out at local parks.

But how did they end up there?

The homeless population is one that's growing in Corpus Christi. All you have to do is look out your car window or visit many of the area parks to see someone who's fallen on hard times.

South Bluff Park is where I found Robert and Nickolas. Two men from different walks of life who share the same reality.

It was a cold Tuesday morning when we made our way to South Bluff Park on South Tancahua Street, not far from downtown Corpus Christi.

That is where we met Robert Green, who is in his 50s and used to work as a carpenter.

“We are in nearly freezing conditions with this wind chill,” I said. “How did you make it through the night?"

Green’s answer was succinct.

“Just stay bundled up and try to stay warm,” he said. “If they run you out of this park and it's the only shelter they got it's right here, wake you up at 2:30 in the morning. It's pouring down rain and tell you (that) you got to leave but you have nowhere to go."

There are area shelters but in many cases during extreme temperatures or conditions they get overrun with the sheer number of people seeking help. There simply aren’t enough beds to go around.

Green tells me he’s been on the streets for about a year and a half, “too long,” he says.

"I lost my dad and my parents and I come down here to see my brother,” Green said. “I saw him. Then, I relapsed in into drugs. I've been clean now for a little bit. I've tried to stay clean and sober. So I can get some sober housing or something, some can't help."

I was shocked to find a teenager living the same way.

"You seem like a young guy. Man, what was your situation?" I asked.

Nickolas Pena told me that life on the streets has been hard for him.

“A lot of situations,” he said. “Everybody like what's wrong I tell them what's right. They say, what's going on? I say, what's not going on. You know what I mean?"

This isn’t the first time Nickolas has been on the streets. He and his sister were raised by their mother. When he was 4, they fell on hard times and were homeless for 2 years.

His father finally tracked them down and took them in, giving him a home until he was 13.

Nickolas, who is now 19, admitted he left because he struggled to follow his father's rules.

“I messed my two or three chances with him and I'm not afraid to admit it,” Nickolas said. “So, I came back out here, and every day I'm out here I just say, ‘I did it to myself. It is what it is.’”

They refer to the streets as the jungle and living in it has its dangers.

One street Robert and Nickolas avoid is Leopard Street. They say there is always someone looking to take advantage of the homeless, sometimes even attacking them.

"You always got to be looking over your shoulder and worried about somebody coming to rob you or stealing or even try and kill you,” Robert said.

Looking for alternatives is difficult, they say.

“You try to get in the shelters but they're so full right now we can't even get in the shelters,” Robert says.

Nickolas is looking for a place to rest. That’s sometimes impossible to find while living on the streets.

“I've taken care of myself a lot right now but I know there's a lot of choices that I made that weren’t right,” he said.“But I know in the back of my head they weren't bad intentions. I just want to rest, I just want to sleep. Everyone just put so many things in my way, they make it so hard for me, I don't understand why."

Nickolas and Robert's stories are like so many who find themselves on the street, struggling just to make it from one day to the next.

But despite their situation, they remain hopeful their best days are still ahead.