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“It’s hard to categorize me,” Paul says simply. And he’s right. Paul describes himself as “really shy” but also “a people person.” People ask him why he always looks so mad, but after talking to him for five minutes, he says they see the real Paul and warm to him quickly. He describes himself as one day wearing a three-piece suit, the next a T-shirt and jeans. “I dress the way I feel that day.” But perhaps the hardest contradiction for Paul to reconcile is his fierce independent streak that clashes so dramatically with his current need for assistance.
It was this independence that he attributes to his run in with the law. “Sometimes you do bad things with good intentions,” he explains. But at the homeless shelter, Paul is committed to doing good things with good intentions. With a car, Paul is in a position to be extremely helpful to his fellow residents. “So I’ve been helping a lot of people around here. I’ve done about three runs already this morning. Just got back from the hospital. I’m sort of protective. I feel like a counselor around here. That’s why I feel good about myself at the end of the day because I don’t do anything with any ulterior motive.’
Serving others isn’t new to Paul. He dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, but soon joined the military to serve his country. He earned his GED during his time in the service, and held a series of stable jobs for most of his life. Now, a year from being able to receive Social Security, Paul reflects back on his life and sees himself as “a nostalgia type guy.” He keeps a pin with him that represents memories of his past. But it’s also eminently useful. “I can open things with it, I can pick up things with it. At my age, if I can’t open things I can stick that thing in it. It’s like a jack knife. This pin is just something versatile.”
Paul looks forward to the next chapter in life, as he moves to a home of his own and retires officially. “I don’t have any health problems. I’m glad, I thank God for that.” But even with retirement, Paul still wants to find part time work. “Like the old people say, ‘Too much of anything is bad for you.’”
Interviewed by Sara Beth Puckett, 2015. Photographed by Trina Holt, 2015