A year ago, Rudy was living in a homeless shelter. The 68-year-old former insurance salesman had kidney disease, mental health issues, and a host of other serious health problems. And, as a self-described loner, he hated the shelters. “I couldn’t stand the crowds,” he said. One day, his shoes were stolen from under his bed while he slept. Another day it was his backpack, which contained his medications.
He left, used his social security check to buy a car, and made it his home for four cold, occasionally snowy months. Finally, he found a place he could afford. It’s tiny, there’s no water pressure, and the hot water is more lukewarm than hot, but Rudy doesn’t mind. “I’m happy with my shack,” he said. “It’s my own place that I can call home.”
[ngg_images source=”galleries” container_ids=”53″ exclusions=”765,761,770″ sortorder=”764,768,769,765,766,767,761,762,763,770,771″ display_type=”photocrati-nextgen_basic_slideshow” gallery_width=”600″ gallery_height=”480″ cycle_effect=”fade” cycle_interval=”10″ show_thumbnail_link=”1″ thumbnail_link_text=”[Show picture list]” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″]Rudy’s life story reads like a novel. When he was 12, he worked in a print shop as a linotype machine operator and raised pigeons. As a young man, he was a singer, performing in nightclubs in California and on cruise ships. He ran movie house projectors. For a while, he was a group home counselor for adults with disabilities. Then he sold life insurance. He’s been in prison. While there, he studied theology and became a Buddhist practitioner. He got certified in janitorial sanitation.
Today, he’s an avid magazine reader, reading 20-30 magazines, including his favorite, Psychology Today, a month. It keeps him busy the three days per week that he’s hooked up to dialysis machines and gives him something to do at home since he’s not much of a TV watcher.
Rudy’s health history reads like a novel, as well. Not long ago, his health was deteriorating rapidly, and food was part of the reason. Employees at his dialysis clinic found out he was living primarily on instant oatmeal, peanut butter, and an occasional can of tuna or chicken, items he could easily get at food banks. They contacted Project Angel Heart to find out if Rudy could get meals from Project Angel Heart.
“They do my bloodwork at dialysis every week and tell me what numbers need to improve,” said Rudy. “I was not getting enough protein. Now, because of Project Angel Heart, I have sufficient protein to help me.”
“When the meals come,” said Rudy. “It’s a blessing. It’s a lifesaver. I actually look forward to coming home after dialysis so I can have one of those meals.”
Rudy receives our “naked” diet, which means he receives meals with no spices, no strong flavors like ginger or onion, and no sauces or seasonings. They’re also dairy-free.
“I have life,” said Rudy. “I’m living. I’m a happy person. And I’m able to help other people. I have all of that because of Project Angel Heart, which gives me my nutrition. I don’t know how to feel more grateful.”
Photos by Greg McBoat Photography