BULLHEAD CITY — It’s incredible what one person can learn from another person by talking to one another.
“I was contemplating in committing suicide when my soulmate died but Deacon, from The Guardian Foundation, talked me out of it,” said Rhoda Bordeleau, a local homeless woman.
A study done by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council found that suicide rates among homeless people are 10 times higher than the general population. More than half of people experiencing homelessness have had thoughts of suicide or have attempted suicide, according to the study.
Bill Middaugh is a Vietnam veteran who is homeless and he has a odd way of describing himself.
“I’m a 63-year-old professional Irish drunk,” said Middaugh. “I served in the military from 1973-75 as a combat veteran. I’m a fifth-generation military veteran.”
Middaugh is originally from Springfield, Missouri, and made a stop in Phoenix before arriving in Bullhead City about 15 years ago.
“I came here as a security supervisor and after the economy crashed I couldn’t find work anywhere,” said Middaugh. “I can’t work anymore since a little while ago I acquired pneumonia and I almost died. I’m just waiting until I’m 65 years old so I can start collecting on my Social Security checks.”
Another local homeless man who refers to himself as “Big Jim” said that he was temporarily displaced.
“I had to go to the emergency room because of a hernia that needed to be removed,” said Big Jim. “It’s been hard ever since.”
“I know that it doesn’t matter what people think of us because we got each other to lean on,” said Bordeleau. “I would say to people to get to know us before you judge us because sometimes all we need is a person to talk to because if it wasn’t for Deacon, I would have been dead.”
Homelessness can happen to all ages. There is a student attending Mohave High School who is going through that situation (the name of the student has been withheld. For purposes of the story he’ll be referred to as Bob).
Bob is a senior who plans on graduating in May but his road has been less than easy.
“I’ve been in the McKinney-Vento Act program since the 10th grade,” said Bob. “Other than that it’s been struggling in and out of foster care again, then I had aged out of the system. I lived with my mom for two weeks but then she kicked me out again. I’ve lived with different family members and then other friends.
“It is stressful and emotional not knowing where you are going to stay on a day-to-day basis. When I do find a place to stay, I stress myself out because I don’t like the feeling of not knowing if I’m doing something wrong or saying something wrong at the house that I’m staying at. When I do need a place to stay, it’s extremely stressful having to call someone on short notice and see if I can stay with them for a night. There have been times when I’ve stayed in my car just because I didn’t want to go inside the house and cause more chaos. I would turn on the heater for a while and then shut my car off so it would stay warm inside then go to sleep.”
Bob said that his biological father has not been in his life for 19 years; his adoptive dad died when Bob was only 11 years old.
“I’ve never really had a father figure in my life,” said Bob. “My mom always used to tell me that I was bipolar but I would always tell her that I wasn’t. During my middle school year, my mom sent my sister and me to Texas to live with my uncle, who was in the military, and I got along with. However, that didn’t work out because my uncles’ wife was abusive toward my sister and me for about the whole time we were there. After about nine months my sister and I were flying back to Arizona to be with my mom.”
Bob said that during his freshman year of high school, he was getting into trouble and he was in and out of detention a lot. That pattern carried over to his sophomore year.
“When my sister enrolled in school, she had enough credits to become a sophomore with me,” said Bob. “She ended up getting into trouble as well and she got kicked out of school. I was sent to juvenile twice for domestic violence; my mom called Child Protective Services and we were both taken from her.”
Bob said that from there he went to live with his aunt and uncle but during that time his uncle was “keeping some of the money that was being sent for me.”
“Luckily I was able to get it all back because he can’t keep anything of it,” said Bob. “From there, I moved into my grandma’s house and she had a stroke and she started to beat me because she couldn’t remember who I was. This was happening during my junior year of high school.”
Bob is part of the Transitional Independent Living Program through CPS.
TILP is a program that helps youths budget, maintain skills to live on their own and learn who they can contact for needs such as counseling.
“At the moment I have two jobs, I’m a full-time student and since I’m in JROTC, I have to get a certain amount of community service hours to fulfill my requirement,’ said Bob. “It’s tough to juggle all of that but to fulfill my JROTC hours what I do is raise the flag in front of the school every morning. It only gives me 33 minutes of community service but doing it every day, those minutes add up pretty quickly.
“I also help out with events such as Shop with a Cop, Backpack Buddies, and during school events, I volunteer as security,” Bob said. “In order to keep up with my school work, I find the gaps throughout my school day and use those to my advantage. One of those gaps is the teachers assistant hours I have available. They are scattered throughout my day and that’s when I do a lot of my homework. Sometimes I get out of work at midnight and I force myself to do the assignments that need to be done for the next day. I’m also part of an English credit recovery-only program which allows me to have a more flexible schedule. I’ve extended the deadline of my project a couple of times now but I keep my senior guidance counselor and Nadina Angulo (family and homeless liaison for the Colorado River Union High School District, Mohave High School, River Valley and CRUSHD Academy) in the loop so they can know what’s going on.”
Bob said that he would like to pursue a career in the United States Navy and become a military police officer.
“The one place I hope I get stationed at is Germany,” he said. “I’m part German so it would be cool to be able to see and get to know where some of my past relatives were from.”
Since Bob has gone through his experience, he said he would know what to do in order to help those going through similar situations.
“If I noticed someone going through almost the same thing, I would show them who to go talk to in order to get help quick,” he said. “That’s probably the best thing to do here in school because people like Mrs. Angulo will help the students as much as she possibly can. And from personal experience, I know that if students are going through this situation they can get free bus passes, free breakfast and lunch, a backpack full of supplies and a lot more.”