Riverside homes the most homeless in county

Riverside has the most homeless people in all of Riverside County, according to a survey provided by the city’s Homeless Street Outreach Program.

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By Andrea Cabral / Special to Viewpoints

High spirits (Andrea Cabral / Special to Viewpoints)

By Andrea Cabral / Special to Viewpoints

Riverside has the most homeless people in all of Riverside County, according to a survey provided by the city’s Homeless Street Outreach Program.

The survey taken in 2009 found there were 632 homeless in Riverside. In 2011 a survey recorded 1,430 homeless in Riverside, more than doubling the amount previously recorded in 2009.

According to the survey, 71.4 percent of the homeless recorded said it was their first time being homeless while 10 percent had been homeless an entire year.

Among the 1,430 homeless in Riverside are twin brothers Robert and Vince Mendiola, 60, who especially know the difficulties. 

“There’s no work in California,” said Robert, who lived and worked construction and assembly line jobs in Texas before moving to California a few years ago to take care of his ailing his parents. He said that it’s hard to find work when you don’t have transportation.  .

Vince said that finding transportation and a job are hard to come by. Vince worked with partners, who duped him, leaving him with no job and eventually causing him to lose his house.

The brothers rely on collecting bottles and cans, or sometimes even picking up the trash from people throwing parties at the park, in hopes of getting their next meal.

“Sometimes the people throwing the parties (at the park) will give us food for picking up their trash,” Vince said.

The brothers said they are on their guard every night because they worry about any bad situations that might come their way.

“Our fear is not knowing where we can sleep without getting in trouble with the cops,” said Vince. “Being at the wrong place at the wrong time is always a worry.”

While Riverside has plenty of homeless people on its streets, there are other residents avoiding from being thrown to the streets.

Mara Rodriguez, a wife and mother of two young daughters, said that she’s on the path to becoming homeless. The stress of living on unemployment checks and making it stretch to the next month is only one of her stresses.

“We stay strong for our kids, we fend for our kids,” Rodriguez said. Leaving California with her family is Rodriguez’s next option for a better life.

For Brad and Wendy Curtis the anxiety level is high. The couple lives in their car with all their belongings and being able to pay for gas and the up keep of their care are only a couple of their problems that they face.

“There’s the anxiety of not being able to take a shower every day,” Brad said. Though he may have an impressive resume, without being able to take a shower and being clean for job interviews, there’s no hope.

The couple has been trying to pay off all their personal debts by working odd jobs here and there.

They have been homeless once before. When Brad went back to rehab, Wendy went back to the Riverside Access Center where assistance could be provided. The Homeless Street Outreach Program is a mobile service that provides aid for homeless individuals and their families from within the community.

They provide a variety of services ranging from computer usage and job placement to housing and medical assistance. There’s even a pet kennel for those who need it.

Carrie DeLaurie, coordinator of the Homeless Street Outreach Program in Riverside, knows that on some days it could be emotional.

“It’s very sad to see new people like children and elderly people,” Delaurie said. “The problem is so vast that there are never enough resources.”

DeLaurie’s goal for the program is to figure out the highest needs for the homeless then provide those needs.

The outreach program is not the only way to help the homeless in Riverside but, the community as a whole could help this movement as well. Donating to the shelters, volunteering, creating hygiene packets, making fliers and just getting the word out could help. The outreach program offers internships; some duties include assisting with clients and tracking records.

Wendy Curtis said God is what has been keeping her and her husband in a positive mindset as they struggle with being homeless.

“The Lord is our friend,” she said. “Stay in today, tomorrow is not here and yesterday is gone.”

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