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Trying to find his way

Josh Vickland struggles with injured back, hard to find work
By: ToLewis, The Press Tribune
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Josh Vickland wakes up at a local church every morning, thankful that he has a roof over his head. Which church it is depends on which one volunteered its facilities to house and feed south Placer County’s homeless for the night. Vickland became homeless after he injured his back on the job, rendering him unable to work. When he was denied worker’s compensation insurance, he lost his apartment and became a resident of the streets of Roseville. Fortunately for him, he found refuge at The Gathering Inn, a local organization that provides services and resources for the homeless. Self-described as a nomadic organization, The Gathering Inn provides storage facilities, a resource center, pillows and blankets to the homeless, and provides transportation to local churches where they are housed and fed. “We use about 40 different local churches,” said Kym Lawrence, a Gathering Inn volunteer. “We hardly ever stay at the same church twice, that way they don’t get burnt out.” Vickland, 36, was born and raised in Medford, Ore. “A lot of what we did growing up was outdoor activities,” he said. “I love to fish. If it wasn’t for that, boy, we would have been bored.” With an alcoholic father and what he says was a less-than-desirable home life, Vickland dropped out of high school during his sophomore year and began working odd jobs here and there. “It was just a bad time in life,” Vickland said. “Basically, I went right from there to washing dishes and working my way up, I’ve always done that.” When his younger brother, who was living with his girlfriend in Redondo Beach, called and offered him a place to live and find steady work, Vickland jumped at the opportunity. Vickland said he was on his way to getting on his feet when he was riding his bicycle along the coast and an intoxicated driver plowed into him at about 35 mph, tossing him from his bike. After spending most of what he received in an insurance settlement on medical bills, Vickland found himself living with his mother in Illinois while recovering from his injuries, unable to work. Vickland said he filed for unemployment and state disability in both California and Illinois, but was denied because he did not have enough work history. There for three years, Vickland said he found his living conditions to be quite cramped, living with his mother, sister and her seven children. “Unfortunately, there was more need there than there was room,” he said. At that time, his brother had relocated to Roseville and again offered him refuge and a place to get back on his feet. In spring of 2010, Vickland said he moved in with his brother and got a job working for a home décor store in Roseville. He moved out from his brother’s place and rented a small apartment across from Sierra College. “I was working into a retail coordinator position,” Vickland said. “I’m a hard worker and I always show up on time.” Vickland said the store was short in its receiving department on a particular workday and he was pulled from his regular duties to unload a freight truck. “I pulled my back out loading boxes,” he said. Vickland said he did not report the injury right away because he thought the pain might go away in a couple days. Two days later, however, when he showed back up to work, he found the pain to be too great and he decided to file a report. He said he was sent to the hospital and began receiving medical care while being questioned by the business’ insurance company about the incident. “It came down to, basically, them claiming I had a pre-existing condition because I was hit by a drunk driver in 2007,” he said. “They automatically just cut me off of everything after that.” With no longer any source of income to support himself, Vickland lost his apartment, rented a storage unit and contacted The Gathering Inn. Now, much of Vickland’s day is occupied by working on his resume and searching for jobs at The Gathering Inn’s Gateway Center, a resource center that provides Internet access, and volunteering around the center. With no high school diploma, a staggered work history and no ability to do physical labor, Vickland says it is difficult for him to find a job. “Since I don’t have transportation, I’m stuck to just what’s here locally, so that kind of limits me,” he said. “I know something will turn up.” For now, Vickland says he plans to attend Sierra College as soon as he can find a way to pay for it and that he hopes to study music and learn how to run his own recording studio. “I definitely know how to overcome adversity,” he said. “I just know something is going to happen sooner or later.” Toby Lewis can be reached at tobyl@goldcountrymedia.com.