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Fifty Sandwiches Interview: Dusty, 38, Boise

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Justin Doering

Fifty Sandwiches creator, Justin Doering, is a 2015 Boise State graduate and Coeur d’Alene native. With a passion for writing and an innate sense of adventure, Justin will be circumnavigating the country in an attempt to show the collective population that there is more to homelessness than portraits of tattered faces and simplified statistics.

This is an excerpt from a project called Fifty Sandwiches. Originating in Boise, Fifty Sandwiches is “a cross-country journey dedicated to presenting the public with an unseen glimpse into the lives and stories of America’s homeless people.” Writer Justin Doering takes homeless folks that he meets out for lunch in exchange for an interview. A Kickstarter campaign to fund the project ended recently with full funding. — Eds.

The comfort and stability a home provides offers considerate leniency  for life’s messy circumstances. When your nightly stay is largely dependent on available cots and timeliness, life’s curveballs are a lot harder to hit, especially when injured.

Fifty Sandwhiches. Dusty, 38, Boise

Crutches don’t feel quite so heavy when you own a couch to lean them on or a trunk to put them in. When they’re a requisite for mobility and the shelter’s doors close at seven, the aluminum isn’t so light and the pads are far from comforting.

Being forced to patiently wait for the body to heal under such restraining daily circumstances leaves nothing but stress and thoughts towards a distant future.

This will be Dusty’s everyday for the next three months.

How did you end up here?

Six months ago I was working as a warehouse manager making close to $80,000 a year. People don’t realize that anyone can become homeless overnight. All of my bank accounts were in her name. So, once my wife kicked me out, all of a sudden, I had nothing. I had no method of getting to work so I lost my job after a few days on the street and I have been coming to this shelter ever since (~6 months).

Once you lose everything, it isn’t so simple to pick yourself back up and move forward. I have no phone, no address, and no car, so applying for jobs isn’t much of an option when you have no way for them to contact you. You can’t just call them everyday. Employers don’t want that. If I give them the number to the shelter that doesn’t exactly look good either. I have one pair of clothes, so if I get a job at a restaurant I have to wear this everyday, you know?

And I imagine it’s pretty difficult to get any short term labor jobs with that busted foot. Tell me about that?

Two weeks ago I was by the Americana and someone comes up to me demanding my wallet. I didn’t have money but I had my social security card and ID so I wasn’t just going to hand it to him. He punched me in the face and I punched him back and shoved him on the ground. As I started walking away he hit me in the back of the head with a brick and stomped on my ankle (against the curb) and ran away. I shattered all the bones in my ankle and had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. I will be on crutches for another 13 weeks or so.

How is it getting around on those things?

Terrible. It takes me about half an hour just to get to the bus stop down the road there. Everyday I try to be positive about it, I try to brainstorm on how to get out of it but there just is no way for me at the moment. I can’t walk and I can’t be contacted to be hired, it’s a tough spot to be in.

The Blue Review Homelessness Colloquy.
A TBR series on homelessness in Idaho