Stories from the streets

Robert di Cicco said he has been homeless in Watsonville for about 10 years. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

Locals share their struggles with homelessness

WATSONVILLE — Now that officials from scads of agencies have teamed up to officially close Camp Ross, a homeless camp in Santa Cruz along Highway 1, the issue of homelessness has garnered headlines across the news spectrum both locally and into the San Francisco Bay Area.

In Watsonville there’s plenty of evidence of homeless people around town, including in the Watsonville Plaza, the Pajaro River levee, Corralitos Creek off of Airport Boulevard, storefronts along East Lake Avenue, Walker and Rodriguez streets and in the abandoned business plaza on the 900 block of Main Street at Auto Center Drive. It is not hard to find the encampments, tents and bedding.

“This is not fiction — this is my real life, living out here on the streets,” said Cip Mayday, as he pushed a shopping cart piled with his belongings on Rodriguez Street. “I’ve been out here about 10 years. It can be hard at times, especially when it’s cold. I’m good though — here in Watsonville. People do help me out. Field workers are really understanding and they help me.”

Mayday said he has worked in construction and that he once attended college in the Bay Area.

On Wednesday morning Robert di Cicco congregated with his homeless pals in a doorway on Rodriguez Street. He said he’s been homeless about 10 years.

“I was part owner of Watsonville Nursery years ago and I was doing pretty well, financially,” he said. “We grew roses and played a big role in a number of community events that benefitted this place, Like Wine and Roses. We helped the Pajaro Valley Community Health Trust and other organizations. We did a lot of donations.”

Di Cicco said, “it’s tough being on the streets.”

“It really boils down to whether you want to live,” he said. “My advice is this: Don’t let the streets eat you up.”

With tears welling into his eye, di Cicco quoted his grandmother with the glimmer of hope: “Something better will come along.”

“I just wish people would be a little more understanding. Fortunately, Watsonville Police are great — they’re just great. They’re understanding. I mean, I went to Monte Vista Christian with Mike and Brian Ridgway — both great cops in our area. I love Watsonville; I’ve been here for 54 years.”

Di Cicco said he was deeply saddened when he learned a 75-year-old man, Baudelio Perez Pulido, was killed when he was struck by a car while walking across Rodriguez Street Sunday.

“He didn’t have to die; people need to slow down and be much safer,” di Cicco said.

Last week Daryl Nekvasil wandered into the Register-Pajaronian, his small dog Scruffy peering out from his jacket, with his story to share.

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Daryl Nekvasil and his dog Scruffy, ended up homeless in Watsonville over a water bill dispute. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian 

“I ended up homeless for about eight months,” he said. “It was some big misunderstanding over my water bill at the house I lived in that me and my dad built on Blanca Lane. It was for around $1,000. When I went to pay for it, they wouldn’t accept my payment.”

After grappling with water officials for several weeks over the matter Nekvasil, 62, said his house was eventually locked up through “a power of attorney.”

“They ended up selling my house on Jan. 11, 2018 and suddenly I was homeless,” he said. “All I got out of it was my dog and a belt buckle.”

He said he ended up living in a tent and other makeshift spots around Watsonville until he ran into a longtime friend.

“My friend gave me a room in a mobile home off of Green Valley Road,” Nekvasil, a 1974 Watsonville High graduate, said. “The room even has a stereo and a TV.”

Nekvasil said he works various “small” jobs around town.

“I messed my legs up working construction so I have a hard time with that once in a while,” Nekvasil said. “Having this little dog has helped me get through so much.”

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