Porter’s Story

My name is Porter Wayne Hoover. I’m 53 years old and this is my story. 

In 2008, I got released from the Department of Corrections and in 2009, I caught a new case. It was a felony stealing. It was a petty theft and I thought I was going to pay a ticket, but I didn’t. They had a warrant for me for robbery and they changed it from a class A misdemeanor stealing to a Class B felony robbery.

They got me for resisting arrest and in all fairness it was three misdemeanor assaults at first.  There weren’t even any cops there. The people from the store came out and tried to grab me and I’d been drinking and I was really messed up. I just walked out of the store with the steaks. I didn’t think nothing about it. They grabbed me and we got into an altercation in the parking lot. I turned myself in and started going through the trial. My mom came down and she bonded me out, and it started from there.

I was fighting for my disability at the same time, too. I’ve got bipolar, PTSD and I suffer from severe depression. I take meds for it and it’s helped. I think back to this time and my mom stood beside me through everything. 

My mom suffered from COPD, a breathing disease from cigarette smoking and all the partying she used to do. She eventually quit drinking and didn’t drink for 25 years. She was a really good lady and stood beside me all the way. 

In 2012 I had to be confined. Originally I got 27 years and was going to have to serve 26 years and eight months before I was eligible for parole. I went through my court proceedings and ended up staying five years with the Department of Corrections and fought my case. 

Right before I got out of prison in 2013, my mom died. It hit me really hard. I went down to Southeast Missouri because I had a good friend of mine whose mom was like my godmother. I started probation and parole there because I knew that I didn’t want to live in the town I had lived in. I just had too many bad times there. I went down there and tried for a geographical change but it didn’t work. Nothing worked out until I was off probation and parole. 

My mom was living in California when she passed away and told me two days before she died that she would leave a letter with instructions for me with my aunt. My aunt was supposed to take care of certain things for me because I was on disability. My mom didn’t want to leave a chunk of money for me for it to just be taken by the government even though that was the legal thing she should have done. 

So I went to Hollister to get my mom’s things and when I got there, my aunt was bitter to me and told me she mailed everything back to Missouri. I didn’t say anything more, I stayed on the streets in my hometown in Hollister for four days and then I left. 

I have a big family in Hollister and the thing that really hurt me was my family acting like they didn’t even know me. They didn’t help me, they didn’t do anything. I had one cousin that came to see me but she didn’t even tell me I was her cousin. She just came up to feed me and she bought me something and gave me some money. She was crying and I asked her what she was crying about and she said it was nothing. Later I realized who she was. 

My mom’s house was sold and I lost everything. I lost my family. They just turned their back on me. And they might have their reasons, that I stayed in the prison system for so long and their family ‘did not run with criminals’. But it broke my heart because I always thought we were close. And even though we had moved away I lived with them when I was a baby and when I was a kid growing up. My mom’s drinking was so bad that my aunt took me and my brother all the time. My grandma raised us, pretty much until we moved to Missouri.

When I left to come to Santa Cruz, I had a plan. My best friend was up in Felton and I went up to find him. When I got there, I learned he had just passed away too. I knew it was going to be rough, I knew I was probably going to be on the streets but I didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was. I couldn’t find any place to lay down and couldn’t find anywhere to sleep. I was getting tickets left and right. I just knew that I had to do something different. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I needed to find something.

I didn’t know how to get off the streets. I didn’t have a support group or a caseworker and nothing like that at first. I thought about taking my life a couple of times and they hospitalized me. It was bad. People look down on you and you get judged real quick. I think ‘that’ was the toughest part of everything, it felt like nobody seemed to care.

The first step that I could make was going to Housing Matters. I got hooked up with a case manager and then I found out that my spinal cord was being pinched. I could tell because my fingertips were going numb, I was having a hard time grabbing things and hanging on to them because I have no feeling in my hands or my legs. I got to the point that there was a gentleman that had to help me in the shower. I mean, I couldn’t even walk. So they operated on my neck and my lower back. One day it may seem that I can get around just as fine as ever, but the next day when I got up, I couldn’t even get out of bed. 

I was having problems with drug addiction. I’ve been on pills for six years and I didn’t want to get on heroin but I finally did. I know my drug addiction is the main thing that I need to really focus on… trying to quit. But I haven’t tried because of the pain that I’ve been in. And because I know how miserable I’d be without it. And that’s sad to say, I’m honest about it, but I just try to keep it together. 

I’m suffering from depression, I get depressed really easily. And it’s just something I have to get over. I have to not beat myself up. I believe in God, and I believe that He can save a person through anything. When I got depressed, I drank or did drugs. And I know that’s not the way to go. I even told my doctor that I’d go into treatment if they would work on a plan to help with the pain that I have. My doctor said that it was the worst back he’d ever seen. 

My case manager reached out to me eventually and asked if I would like to sign up for a spot in a new house that Housing Matters had opened [Casa Azul]. I fit the criteria for it and when it finally went through, I knew I was moving in here. I was happy.

I knew that If I could get my medical taken care of then there’s a good chance that I might be able to do something with my life, instead of giving up. I don’t like being on drugs, it eats up everything that I have. I want to get off of them sooner or later because I might as well just put a gun to my head and shoot myself if not. I don’t like thinking like that and I try to believe in a chance there’s a better way. So I’m trying to leave it up in my doctor’s hands.

I try to do things that are positive, play the guitar, draw, I like to read, and I like to cook. I just know I need to keep positive. I can’t blame anyone, I blame myself for my problems. It all was a stepping stone that I had to walk through. 

My spine could eventually paralyze one side of me or both. It could do all kinds of things as it progresses to get worse and that’s scary. It’s scary to have to take drugs just to feel comfortable. And I know there’s a better way, so if I get my health figured out and they give me a good plan, I’m willing to do whatever they want me to do. I haven’t been in trouble, I haven’t stolen anything in so many years and I haven’t been back in prison. I have accomplished a lot. Being homeless can either make a person real bitter, but I have no reason to be bitter at anybody because I’ve had so many people help me. They’ve helped me so much and I’m grateful for what the place here [Housing Matters] has done for me.

Being homeless is a real shock. It’s an experience that I don’t think anybody would want to experience. When you know you have no one to help you, you have nowhere to go, and you’re on the streets, all you can do is try to be strong and just survive day after day.

This story was collected in February 2024 by Andrea Feltz, Community Conversations Program Manager