By Jeff Pack

Homeless for the Holidays

Ray’s Story: One man’s tales of drug addiction and life on the streets


Last updated 12/31/2018 at 8:01am

Ray is 46 years old. He’s an introvert. He’s intelligent, well-spoken and conversationally interesting.

He’s also been addicted to drugs for most of his adult life, has done stints in prison twice and has been homeless off and on since he was a teenager.

During this holiday season, he says he’s truly homeless for the first time — bouncing between the communities of Fallbrook, Vista, Temecula, Murrieta and Lake Elsinore.

Name a town between here and Long Beach and chances are good that Ray has spent the night in a park or behind a building.

“As of this time, I have experienced true homelessness,” he said. “Before that, I was on parole, doing the state programs. I would graduate and then go onto another one. I went to many, at least 25.”

He said there became a time that he didn’t want to go to another program or couldn’t because you had to be sober to attend.

“So, that’s when I experienced my true bit of homelessness,” Ray said. “I did not know what homelessness was and I was in Long Beach for one night and it was pretty bad, so I took off.”

From there, he continued to move from community to community and admits that he’s good at establishing himself in a community relatively quickly.

“I learned real quick to utilize my available assets,” Ray said. “I progressed into making friends purposes, shop owners, apartment managers — sweeping rooms, washing clothes, those sort of things.”

Eventually, he found himself in Tarzana where he graduated from a renowned rehabilitation center there and worked in the kitchen.

“They actually hired me to be a kitchen manager,” Ray said. “I did such a good job in the kitchen that they canceled me as a work therapy client and hired me.”

He figured then that since everyone liked him there, they would let him sleep on the property. They did.

“I slept on the tennis court, locked in safe, with blankets and everything,” Ray said. “I hung out there for a week. In the morning I would go early and the cooks would feed me. But I lost that job because I was using.”

He then found himself in Pomona in another program attending an AA club as part of another program.

“I stayed in the park across the street from the club,” Ray said. “And I became like a mascot, I would work all day unofficially. And then I would go to the park and get high. At night I would return for the meeting, get some food, shower and then sleep at the park or behind the building.”

He said they even gave him a key to the building so he could work. But again, his addiction to drugs got in the way.

“They sat me down and said, ‘Ray it’s obvious you’re getting high,’” Ray said. “‘We want the key back, you can keep doing what you’re doing, but you have to stop or cut back.’ They are big believers in your road is your road and you have to go down it. They said, ‘We’re your friends, we’re going to try to help you.’”

But it didn’t last.

After completing another program and his parole running out, he moved back down to the Fallbrook and Temecula area.

He said the homeless situation in Southwest Riverside County is different from most places.

“The severity of violence and tension is surprisingly different in places,” Ray said. “In Pomona and L.A. in general, the homeless have rules. There’s a set of rules all enforced by each other. The basics, stealing, cops, dirty deals with each other. You can put your stuff down anywhere in Pomona and it will still be there when you get back.

“Not here, it’s terrible here. Horrible. There’s no bond or brotherhood of the homeless here, at all. They are all friends, they all know each other. They all steal together, get high together, sleep in the same places. But they will turn on each other in a moment.”

From his experience, he said, it’s because the homeless population here in the area didn’t grow up in a gang or drug culture.

“That has some sort of vestiges of wrongly, but, a code of honor,” Ray said. “Here there are people that are young adults already and teenagers that found drugs and that’s why they are in this situation, so, they have no compunction of honor among thieves, as they say, or respecting your elders.

“Let me tell you something, I’m 46 years old, and these 25-year-olds, they are out to fight me.”

He said he has heard about the homeless teams from the area but has never seen them or interacted with them.

Listening to Ray tell his stories about life on the streets, the calmness of how he describes what to many people would be a pure struggle is a little unnerving.

He tells a story of the time he worked for a drug trafficker that sent him to Nevada to act as a post and he made a tremendous amount of money.

Given the fact he had spent so much time in prison early in life, he decided he needed to get away from the job and quit.

“I did not rip them off, I took my money and left,” Ray said. “But I might as well have ripped them off, but worse than taking their stuff, I left them in the lurch.”

Through his connections during his time in prison that situation was fixed.

But when he left, he had $6,000 in cash on his person. At that point, you might think he would get it together and get a stable place to live and get off the streets.

“Well, that’s the thing, I’m an addict, you know, and apparently not a smart one,” Ray said. “You only stop when you have to. If I were to use that money for good, then that means that party would have been over.

“Regardless, I didn’t think of that – at all – that scenario of taking that money and doing something positive and using it as a foothold to stop using and get a place or whatever. Not once. That’s pretty (ridiculous) because that would have been a good opportunity.”

Ray readily admits people have tried to help him along the way. Many people, many programs, his parole officers, his birth mother and the family that took him in when his mom was abusing him.

But still, nothing’s worked.

So, what does Ray want for today?

“To grow the hell up man, you know?” he said. “To have opportunities like I have had in the past since I’ve been out (of prison) because I had some great opportunities.”

He said when he’s in programs working toward sobriety, people like what they see. They see a smart guy with an engaging personality and they can envision him working for the program and helping others.

“I end up taking advantage of it,” Ray said.

The addiction he said creates a blind spot. Opportunities pass him by without him even noticing, even though he insists that he is not cut out for life on the street.

“All the hardships I’ve seen in my life, I am pretty much the same,” Ray said. “Cheerful, sweet. I am a nice guy.”

When asked what it was going to take to reach that “normal life” goal, he laughs.

“Of course – me – first of all, and all aspects of who and what I am,” Ray said. “I am a fantastic beginner and fantastic creator of situations. You could call me a go-getter – I just go get the wrong things.

“I’m always going to be an addict, it’s a sustained, a lifelong malady. That’s something I have to get a hold of first.”

This is part four of an ongoing series of stories relating to the homeless issue in southwest Riverside County. Next week, we will wrap up the series.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at


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