'Hopefully, I can pick myself back up'

Marine Corps veteran Nate Meador, 50, is one of many homeless O.C. veterans struggling with mental illness.

June 17, 2010|By Mike Reicher,
  • 50-year-old veteran Nate Meador sits on a sidewalk on Jamboree Rd in Newport.
50-year-old veteran Nate Meador sits on a sidewalk on… (Mike Reicher, DAILY…)

It's one of the tidiest stretches of road in Newport Beach.

On one end, Mercedes-Benz hoods gleam in the Fletcher Jones Motorcars lot. On the other, a gated condo development looms from behind tall palms. Jamboree Road, with its wide lanes, absence of retail development and speeding cars, is one of the last places you'd expect to see someone hanging out on the corner.

Especially if that man is homeless.

For the past month or so, Nate Meador, 50, has been leaning against Jamboree lampposts between MacArthur Boulevard and Coast Highway. He wears a soiled winter parka and draws his head deep into the recesses of its hood. With his knees twisted and shoulders hunched, Meador cuts a jarring figure.

He reminds the hundreds who pass him every day how far one can fall. In a city known for its beautiful harbor and high-end shopping, not many Meadors exist. But somehow he's here.


For years Meador lived in and around downtown Los Angeles, most recently staying in Exposition Park.

"Then one day I just started walking," he said.

Meador said he's also very familiar with the bus system, and that's why he wanders around Jamboree. He takes the Nos. 57 and 1 bus routes, which bring him to social-service providers in Santa Ana and Laguna Hills.

In those two cities, Meador heads to Veterans Administration clinics. He was once a Marine, he said.

Today, he's like many other veterans: homeless and mentally ill.

Meador said he visited the Veterans Administration Hospital in Long Beach about five years ago and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Doctors prescribed him Risperidone and other medications, but he said he stopped taking them about three years ago.

"If they're not in treatment, and they're off their meds, to get back to mainstream society is really tough," said Karen Harrington, a director at Share Our Selves, a Costa Mesa center for the poor.

It's so tough that Meador has been off and on the streets for almost 20 years. He's what social workers call chronically homeless.

Despite this, Meador insists he can pull himself out of it.

"I just need a hotel room to get myself together," he said.

With a shower, shave and a change of clothes, Meador said he could start a journey to get back on track.

"I need to get this scum off of me," he said, looking down to blue socks, stained brown with sweat and dirt.

It's probably not that simple. Richard Beam, spokesman for the VA in Long Beach, said that for a long journey into homelessness it's often a long, complicated road out.

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