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Because Bob Rhodes is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, his morning begins with trying to remember who he is, why he’s sleeping in the Knights Inn motel in Mount Pleasant, and why there are two other men sleeping in the room
“The mornings are hard, real hard,” he said. “I look around and don’t know where I am or who I am at all. I get confused a lot.”
But Rhodes, 52, also struggles with alcoholism, depression, and doesn’t have a job. After getting kicked out of the Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization, Rhodes started staying at the overnight emergency shelter the Hospitality Center of Racine operated until it closed in mid-March.
The closure of the shelter sparked a community conversation about the issue and a group called the Continuum of Care for the City and County of Racine is working to find short and long-term solutions to end homelessness.
In the meantime, Rhodes and two other homeless men have been living at the Knights Inn motel. They wonder how long it will be before they are back on the streets. Some of the money raised by the community is being used to pay for hotel vouchers, but the three men would rather find a long-term solution that includes either work or going on government assistance.
Rhodes’ roommate Dennis Raymond gets anxious, and rocks back and forth if he sees violence on television. He sometimes stays up too late until one, two, three in the morning and that’s a problem. Another roommate, Milos Milosavljevic, 47, tries to keep the peace in the room. But tempers ultimately flair.
A journeyman sheet metal worker, Milosavljevic lost his job when the company he worked for folded and he got a divorce. He’s been sending out resumes and applying for temporary jobs, but with his 25 years of experience has scared off many employers looking to hire less experienced workers, he says.
“Society has failed to take care of people who have little issues,” Milosavljevic said.
Even temporary employment agencies haven’t called back. So he’s been working some odd jobs — even at $8 or $10 an hour — to help support Raymond and Rhodes. But the work is sporadic and unpredictable.
“I’ll do what I need to do to help them and survive,” he said.
Raymond, 59, became homeless a few years ago after he lost his job at Paradise Lanes West, a bowling alley in Mount Pleasant Raymond doesn’t have a lot of skills, even though he’s willing to work and would take any kind of job, he said.
While at HALO, Raymond had a hard time trying to get jobs like ones at Amazon because they required employees to be able to lift 75 pounds. He worked to find another job through a program that helps seniors but it was backlogged. When he didn’t meet the shelter’s job search requirements, Raymond was asked to leave.
He’s got a few job leads he’s checking on, but Raymond admits his mental and physical health issues need to be dealt with and he’s just starting to work on getting himself physically healthy. Now that he’s on BadgerCare, he sees a doctor for the first time since 1985 on Tuesday.
He’s also getting assessed so that he can try to get on disability, but he’d rather work.
“Stuff like this typically gets shoved under the carpet,” Raymond wonders. “Where’s the help?”