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On The Coast: Homeless Man Seeks Work Amid Year Of Ups And Downs

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Kenny, a Vietnam veteran and house painter, has spent the past year bouncing between a tent in the woods, a house boat, and a shelter in Ocean City, Md.
Bryan Russo
Kenny, a Vietnam veteran and house painter, has spent the past year bouncing between a tent in the woods, a house boat, and a shelter in Ocean City, Md.

Last November, a 60-year-old man named Kenny was living in a tent in the woods near Ocean City, Md., just a few miles from the resort's beaches and boardwalk.

Kenny, a painter and Vietnam veteran, lost his home when the housing bubble burst. And when we first met him, he told us he'd been living in the woods for a while; he even weathered much of Super Storm Sandy in his tent.

Last week, we checked back in with Kenny to hear how the past 12 months have treated him.

He's now living at Diakonia, a shelter in Ocean City. And he's still looking for work.

"They just don't want a 61-year-old man, no matter how physically capable I am, they think a younger guy is faster and moves faster," he says.

Kenny says he's been keeping busy by fixing up Diakonia's bathrooms and repairing the shelter's drywall and furniture.

During the busy summer season, he says, he worked at a local amusement park.

"I was running the Happy Swing at one of the amusement parks," he says. "When I think about rides, I think about my own kids, who are kind of a-ways away from here. Makes me remember that it's been a while since I've seen my own children and my grandchildren, because I ain't got money enough to go."

Kenny spent several months of the past year living on a houseboat, but eventually went back to his tent in the woods for a while.

"When I turn 62, I can get some kind of Social Security. That's the only thing I've got to look forward to," he says.

Despite the difficulties of the past few years, Kenny says he's not bitter about the hand he's been dealt.

"It's life," he says. "No need to be bitter. Maybe if certain things hadn't happened, I might be in better shape. But it's life."

[Music: "Sea of Love" by Tom Waits from Brawlers / "Three Bridges Home" by Bela Fleck from Tales From the Acoustic Planet]


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