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Homeless volunteers give back through cleanup

Team member says he hopes group breaks stigma
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Some of Auburn’s homeless are sending the message that they care about the community and aren’t content just to accept help from others. On Wednesday morning about 12 members of Auburn’s Community Action Team cleaned up a long-standing dumpsite and homeless camp in a wooded field behind Target off Quartz Drive. A majority of these volunteers were homeless. During the cleanup, team members gathered and filled a dumpster with items like wire, stuffed animals, sleeping bags, a chair, towels, clothing and playing cards. Richard Gallagher, who is currently homeless, said the Placer County Welcome Center, which falls under Health and Human Services, helped organize the event and get it under way. The Community Action Team uses the center as its home base. Gallagher, 34, said he hopes events like this one will help break the stereotypes attached to homeless people. “With any community there is the good and the bad,” Gallagher said. “There is the crowd that is willing to help and want to make a change, and there are people who sit back and watch other people. There is a stigma in the homeless community that we are all bad. The only time (citizens) are exposed to the homeless community is when they see them on street corners.” Gallagher said because he grew up in the community he wants to help in any way he can, even though being homeless doesn’t allow him to do as much as he might have in the past. Pat Farber, 61, was another member of the team and is also homeless after being evicted two months ago. “I think the public needs to know the homeless out here will take care of themselves, and we are a part of the community,” Farber said. “There is a stereotype of the drug addict and alcoholic. But there are a lot of people that, because of economic reasons, find themselves without a home. I think something like this lets the community know we would like to take care of ourselves.” Gallagher said anyone that wants to join the team is welcome and can stop by the Welcome Center at 11522 B Avenue in Auburn. “It could be anybody who would like to … help out,” said a 22-year-old homeless man who only wanted to be known as Rick. “We gladly appreciate it.” The group is planning to continue its monthly barbecue and open mic nights as well as cleanup of the field, Gallagher said. “In a couple more months we are going to come out here and do it again,” Gallagher said. “We want to do it consistently.” Robert Fitzpatrick, who is also currently homeless and part of the action team, said he grew up in Auburn and graduated from Placer High School. Fitzpatrick said his grandparents and parents were deeply involved in the community, and he doesn’t want to be forced out of it. “We are serious,” Fitzpatrick said. “I am not going away. The community is not only pushing (the homeless) out, it is progress pushing them out.” Bronwyn Manzer, who volunteers with the team but is not homeless, said she hopes the cleanup sends a message. “I think that our community at the Welcome Center … really has a desire to go out and do some community service, and this is really a culmination of that. We are all part of the community. (The volunteers’) hearts are really into this.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ Pat Farber Pat Farber, 61, has been living in Auburn since 1999. Farber worked in communications for over 30 years and his last job in the field was with the company WorldCom, now MCI, Inc. Farber said he owned a horse ranch for seven-and-a-half years before losing his home in February. Farber said he is currently trying to find work as a caretaker or ranch hand on a cattle and horse ranch, because there are no jobs in communications. Farber said he never thought he would become homeless. “I used to help the homeless,” he said. “I used to let them shower at my home and do their laundry. It’s uncomfortable being homeless at 61.” ------------------------------------------------------- Richard Gallagher Richard Gallagher, 34, grew up in Foresthill and graduated from Placer High School. Gallagher said he managed hotels while studying engineering at Cal Poly. Gallagher said he didn’t finish school, but ran his own satellite business for eight years and work started getting scarce when the recession hit. He couldn’t pay his insurance and totaled his truck, injuring his rotator cuff at the same time. “I literally in one day became homeless,” Gallagher said. Gallagher said his plan is to go back to Cal Poly. “I’m thinking about just going back to school and working for someone instead of just carrying the whole load,” he said. Gallagher said he is currently staying with The Gathering Inn until he gets back on his feet.