A sagging economy, a complex job market, and a lack of social programs have led to an increase in the number of elderly people living—and dying—on the streets.
Herbert Manown is a self-described “jack-of-all-trades but master of none.” A Harley Davidson-riding Vietnam War Navy veteran, he has worked in construction, at the post office, and with the United States Census Bureau. At 62, he’s still fit and healthy, with a strong handshake and grandfatherly eyes framed by black glasses and thick, bushy brows.
Life was stable for Herb until 2013, when he “got lazy” and neglected to renew his truck-driver license. He didn’t realize the severity of his error until he applied for a new license but could not pass the written test. Although Herb quickly landed a job as a security guard at a fast-food restaurant, even working overtime didn’t provide enough for him to make ends meet. He fell behind on rent and was evicted.
Herb has four children in the Bay Area, but he was reluctant to ask if he could move in with any of them. As he put it, “We have very different lifestyles.” And while he also has siblings in the area, they had a major falling out, so he refuses to turn to them for help. He wound up settling in at the East Oakland Community Project, a shelter located near his old apartment. He volunteered in the kitchen and was even voted president of the shelter, a position that entails acting as a go-between for residents and management. But after a few months, he felt pressure to move on. “Herb, you have to go,” he recalls them saying. So he bought a used car and moved into it.