Hangtown Haven, the city’s legal encampment for the homeless, will end its one-year experiment in communal living on Nov. 15 when its Temporary Use Permit expires. The camp has more than 30 residents, and a Community Council of four residents who run the camp and enforce its regulations for the safety of all and a host of volunteers. In this four-part series, different residents from the camp will be profiled. In their stories, you may see glimpses of your own. This is part three.
At 35, Derrick McIntosh looks 19. His smooth, unlined face and mild eyes look out at the trees surrounding Hangtown Haven. People here use the word “kid” to describe him.
“When I was 16 I was hit by a car and now I have a short-term memory problem,” McIntosh said. “I worked all kinds of different jobs, in warehousing and stuff, but I can’t remember things like schedules, so I can’t keep a job long.”
McIntosh is from Tacoma where he has three brothers. His mother and sisters live in the Midwest, but he doesn’t know where. If asked his birthdate, he has to pull out his ID to check.
In North Dakota, McIntosh had his own apartment, but he lost it. A friend from Cool told McIntosh that he could stay with him if he came to California.
“I didn’t expect to be homeless when I came here, but when I came to my friend’s place he hadn’t cleared it with his landlord, so I couldn’t stay,” said McIntosh. He camped out in the woods. “Across the street from the Haven, there are illegal camps, so I was having to camp with the tweakers and other people who drink a lot.”
When he was able to move to the Haven in May, McIntosh was relieved. “This place is safe — we can eat and sleep, people help you with medical appointments and Social Security. There is a safe place for my stuff.”
He made special friends like Chris, Dana, Charlene and Roy. Other special friends have already transitioned out of the camp.
“It’s like a family here and we try to care for each other,” he said.
With help from camp volunteers, McIntosh has applied for Social Security Disability on the basis of his short-term memory disability. No decision has yet been made, but McIntosh is hopeful. He rarely leaves camp without a buddy, otherwise he gets lost. He often accompanies the women of the camp when one of them runs a day of errands so that she won’t be alone.
“I don’t know what I’ll do when the camp closes,” said McIntosh. “I’ve been looking for an alternative camp site. It will be illegal, but I’m looking for someplace where I can be alone and no one will bother me.”
He said he’s heard both good and bad about the nomadic shelters. “You can’t bring your personal stuff into the shelters. I prefer to take my chances with illegal camping,” he said.
McIntosh said he tries not to think about the future. “When I do, it just puts me back further and further.” An apartment of his own, one that he can share with his girlfriend who is also homeless but not in Hangtown Haven, would be something he would like.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.“