Mike's a stocky guy with a buzzed head and a cursive script tattoo on his neck that's faded to illegibility. He's been in a gang since he was a young teen, has two children and was in jail for 18 months at age 26. He has large bags under his eyes and a forlorn, despondent look. But, behind that look, there's a certain pride and fearlessness. Mike speaks out of the left corner of his mouth with a long drawl and answers my questions in short, clipped sentences.
NUVO: How long have you been coming to Horizon House?
Mike: I've been coming since '09.
NUVO: How long have you been homeless?
Mike: Off and on for two years.
NUVO: What's your story?
Mike: I came out of prison. No family up here. I got a brother and sister, but they live pretty much far from here.
NUVO: Why were you in prison?
Mike: For battery, possession of dope and possession of a handgun.
NUVO: What services have you been using at Horizon House?
Mike: Medical, showers, phones, wash my clothes.
NUVO: Where do you stay?
Mike: Actually, on the streets.
NUVO: On the streets? Do you have a specific spot?
Mike: Under the bridge.
NUVO: So tell me, who are you, who were you, all that.
Mike: I'm from Brownsville, Texas. I moved up here when I was about 12 years old. Both of my parents are deceased now. I was born in the gang life. Been a gang member since I was about 13. Like I said, I came up here when I was 12. Lived on the Southside all my life. Started getting in trouble ... stealing cars, breaking into houses, robbing people. Been to juvenile, been to boy school, satellites, boot camp. Then age 16, I had my first baby. She'll be 13 the 27th (of November).
I mean, I've had my own house before. The first house I bought, I was 19 years old. And then, age 21, actually 20, was my first time going to jail up here. That was for a PI. Then around age 22, 23 my other son was born. I was with my baby's momma for four years... Let me see, I went to prison. Came out the age of -- I did 18 months.
NUVO: Was that your first time in prison?
NUVO: How old were you?
Mike: Let's see I'm 30 now (long pause). 2011 (trails off). Went to prison in '07. So, that'd make me 26. Then I came out, had nowhere to go, walking around the city. Then, I finally went down to Delaware Mission where the mission actually was. And I was there for a couple days. Then, I ran into my Mexican brother. Stayed with him for about three or four months. Then went homeless again. On the streets. Taking care of business. Come here. Do my thing at Horizon House. Wash my clothes. Shower. I actually had a job when I was homeless this past year working at the car wash over here. Lost that job.
NUVO: Why did you lose it?
Mike: I had a death in the family and I didn't let them know I was leaving. I went back to Texas. Then, I came back up here. So, unfortunately, I've been homeless, like I said, off and on for two years now. I mean, I got places where I hit and go. Stay with a friend here. Stay with a friend there. Most of the time, I'm under a bridge over here. So.