Like other residents at the Union County Community Shelter, Ron Geibel, 52, hit a string of bad luck. And the economy didn’t help.

Originally from Pennsylvania, he’s lived 30 years in North Carolina, primarily doing vehicle paint and body work in Jacksonville. When his girlfriend in Union County developed cancer, he moved here to help take care of her until her death and worked in construction, mold remediation and renovation.

Then the work dried up.

“I was living in a camper trailer, still making ends meet,” Ron explains. “I was hauling junk to the junkyards, picking up metal along the roads or wherever I could find it. I wasn’t making big money but I was making enough to keep my head above water.”

After about a few months, his truck engine blew up, “and that’s the reason I’m here.” He no longer had a vehicle to haul metal and he didn’t have the funds to repair his truck.

“I didn’t ever expect to be like this. This is the first time in 52 years when I couldn’t see how I could turn a dollar.”

But while the economy was the final blow, he admits, “I’ve made some bad decisions along the way, better decisions would have helped.”

A buddy in Concord told him about the shelter for a place to stay. Ron came about four months ago, starting out as an overnighter on a cot in the dining hall, where he also ate meals. As a resident, he has a permanent, but short-term, place to live, where he can leave his belongings, take advantage of the Shelter’s case management planning and continue his job search.

The Shelter isn’t home, but it’s a good place to be for a short time, he explains.

“You’ve got to show that you’ve got an interest in the place, do the chores, don’t do things wrong,” he says of the shelter routine. “I get along with everybody here. It’s all what you make of it. You have to make the best of the situation you’re in.”

He’s always looking for work – of any kind, he stresses – by reading the newspaper, walking the streets or riding with friends looking for help wanted and just listening for any tips.

“It’s depressing in ways,” he says matter of factly. “You just have to overlook it and keep going. I don’t have the lifestyle I’m accustomed to. I used to have a good job, drag in $600 to $700 a week, but it’s not here.”

“I think they’re doing the best the can with what they’ve got” at the Shelter, Ron says. “But they can’t give me a job.”

A decent job is the key to his future, he explains, “just making a steady paycheck so I can save up some money for a month or two, then get an apartment. You may have to put up to $1,000 to get apartment.”

Ron calls himself “a victim of the economy. I’m not lazy, I’m willing to do anything, but I can’t find anything to do.”

The confident, but not cocky middle-aged man stresses that he’s not alone in this situation. “The homeless need help. If you’ve got a job, let the Shelter know. A lot of people are willing to do the work. I know I am.”

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