Four weeks ago, Carl Bloxsom of Ventura slept on a real bed, for the first time, after 18 years of homelessness. Sitting in his newly acquired West Ventura apartment with his best friend Bandit (a dog), Carl says, “Things are working out great for me right now.”
Breaking many stereotypes about the homeless, this quiet yet feisty man has no criminal record and no history of drug use. Bloxsom, 63, quit alcohol more than 30 years ago, and today drinks only Dr. Pepper.
An Oklahoma native, Bloxsom moved to Ventura at age 7 and graduated from Buena High. “School was boring, and I wanted to get out on my own,” he says, and the Army helped him do that: drafting him and sending him to Vietnam at 18.
A 13-year marriage that resulted in three children didn’t last because Bloxsom’s combination of long-distance truck driving and riding bulls on a professional rodeo circuit kept him away from home 10 months a year. “My wife got tired of being alone,” he says, “and when I came home unexpectedly one day and caught her with another man, our marriage ended.”
After his divorce, Bloxsom followed a pattern that leads many people to homelessness. First, he lost his primary way of making a living — in Bloxsom’s case, this meant not keeping up payments and licenses on his truck. Next, he held and lost a variety of jobs that paid less and less. These two steps lead to steadily dropping income, which resulted in his moving from a house to living in an old RV, to sleeping in his pickup, and living on the street underneath the San Jon Road overpass (next to where this reporter’s previous homeless camp was located).
All the while, Bloxsom was dealing with increasing pain from jaw and knee injuries acquired during his bull-riding days. Even an attempt to collect and sell recyclable materials failed when the local police threatened him with tickets because poking through public garbage is apparently illegal.
Feeling that he had no other choice, Bloxsom survived the past four years by “flying sign” (homeless slang for standing at intersections with a sign asking for money).
Last year, things started to greatly improve for Bloxsom. The local Veterans Administration helped him regain ID documents, qualify for disability payments, and rent an affordable subsidized apartment. After almost two decades of living on the street, Bloxsom can hardly believe he now has a place to call home.
With the most hope he’s had in years, Bloxsom looks forward to regaining a former job at the Ventura County Fairgrounds and working with horses some day. He finished the interview with a reminder to those who see all homeless people as “bums.”
“Just because most homeless people have problems with drugs and alcohol doesn’t mean that all of us do. Some of us just got there because of bad choices and hard times.”
In Full View is a news spotlight on Ventura County’s homeless, written by Dana “Dee Dee” Watkins, a Ventura resident who has lived on the streets for 13 years. She gives talks on her personal experience with homelessness and authored her 2011 autobiography, It Took A Spider to Make Me Stop — Dee Dee Watkins’ Rough Road to Redemption.