I saw Al with his constant companion, Kash, the wonder dog. Al is a dog lover, and acquired Kash in Germany, eight years ago. A young couple walked by with a Siberian Husky puppy, the kind with blue eyes. The man held a leash that lead to a collar around the dog's neck. Al spoke with them at length about a better leash solution, one that lead to a harness around the dog's chest. They shook hands and the young couple walked on (I wish that I could have photographed them too).
Al told me that he is homeless. I was surprised, as his clothes looked clean and the facial hair was trimmed. Al smiled, shrugged, and said “Being homeless doesn't mean that you are a bum. And I am not into any kind of substance abuse either.” Al spends his nights in a parking garage that has an outdoor sink. The owner is a friend, and looks the other way. As we spoke, a lady proprietor came out of a nearby store and put a bowl on the ground; “For Kash”, she said. Al seems to have an infrastructure.
In the early 2000s, he had an art gallery and framery on Royal St., in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina destroyed it. Then he worked in a gallery for a while in Portland, Oregon, but the economic downturn of 2008 removed that job. One thing lead to another, and here he is. Born and raised in Sarasota, he returned home, although all family and friends are gone.
I cannot overstate how well spoken Al is. Homelessness comes in many forms.