A Man Broken Off from His Past
Ahmad, a native of Egypt now in his mid 60s struggling with alcoholism, lived for a decade in France, where he worked on houses as a contractor. In the early 1990s, love brought him to the United States. For a time, he was married with two kids living a good life in in Santa Cruz. But then with his relationship fraying due to alcoholism, he moved to Reno, where he initially worked as a cab driver, painter and landscaper.
His life slowly deteriorated here, though, from working less and less to living in motels to now fending for himself on the streets. He said his new girlfriend was too messy to live with in a motel. “I put one garbage out, she brings three in. So I couldn't keep up with her,” he said.
Anyway, he says, motels are out of reach for him financially now. “The motels used to be like $300, $400 a month. Now it's over $700 or even $900. How can people with fixed income afford that?”
Regrets and Feeling Old
Ahmad says he’s given up in some ways, and feels he’s too old to find work. “I'm an old man. Who'd want to hire me? Nobody. They'd rather hire a young person whose got more energy than me to clean the place or do something. I'm turning 65 very soon,” he said.
He’s totally broken off from his childhood in Egypt and his own family. “My problem is when I turn my back on something I forget it because it brings a lot of pain I guess,” he said. He misses his children as well. “I really miss to see them grow up. That's the best gift as a dad, to see your kids grow up,” he said.
“I can say that maybe I was stupid, a fool, kind of arrogant when I had it. Please don't be arrogant when you have it,” he added.
Angry with Politicians, the Shelter and Local Police
As local elections near, Ahmad doesn’t believe politicians really want to help the homeless.
“It's all about money,” he said. “Do you know how much money is gonna be spent in this election? They do all this fundraising because rich people want to get some contract or something to build something. They contribute to them thousands of dollars because they know they're going to make it back. Look at all these politicians and look at the people around them. They get money to make money because they know a politician can sign a contract here or there.”
He prefers to avoid the main downtown shelter. “I've been in the shelter and I don't like the attitude of the people who work in the shelter,” he said. “The shelter is full of bugs... I prefer the bugs here, but not in the shelter. I'd rather breathe fresh air than get intoxicated down there. The people they hire, I know what their problem is, they think they're better than everybody ….”
He also has stern words about local police. “When you put somebody in uniform … you’ve got to make sure that they treat the homeless people or people in general with respect. Or you're going to get a revolution. Police brutality is wrong . Hey, I'm a homeless guy. They gave me a ticket while I'm just sitting there drinking…. Where am I going to find this money from? They want to put me in jail to get money? When tourists come out, you go put homeless people in jail? Lock them up and harass the homeless people? We don't steal from nobody so why do you condemn me for that?”
Urging Others to Vote
Any advice for people encountering the homeless? “A little respect elevates our spirit but when they look down upon you, you feel crushed. Just say ‘hi’ and I'm good. I don't need your money. But if you look at me like I'm down your wrong because it could happen to you,” he said.
“I'm trying to help myself. I'm trying to get a job but I can't. I'm too old. I'm upset, but I'm not mad. I'm upset about the action and reaction. And the system is corrupt. It's up to us the people to make a movement. Vote and choose the right person. Vote vote vote. Don't miss the opportunity to choose someone who will make a difference,” he concluded.