Andre Poquette says he has found himself in a situation he never thought would happen to him. He's homeless and he describes it as terrible.
Poquette, 53, says he has lived in a wooded area off and on off Joel Boulevard. He's been homeless in Lehigh for about a year.
He came to Lehigh from the east coast to find work because none could be found there, he said.
But in Lehigh, his luck hasn't improved.
"I have been knocking on doors asking people if they have something for me to for them so I can make some money," he said. "One of the first jobs I thought I found was a scam, a scam on me.
"A gentleman told me I could paint his house if I removed all the overgrown shrubbery around his house, which I did in the hot summer. When I went the door to ask him to pay me because I didn't have any money on me to buy food, he said he didn't have any money. I told him he had promised me money for my work and to prime the house for paining and he just shut the door in my face," Poquette said.
When he was in the Daytona area, he had gone to a community college and was close to getting a degree in welding, but he ran out of money and that was when he left the area to find a job on the east coast.
For most nights over the year, he has slept in a pup tent in the woods, and has worried about taking care of his personal hygiene needs. Thanks to a supermarket and a gasoline station, he was able to use their public restrooms.
He eventually found that he could eat a hot meal twice a week at the First Congregational Church on Leeland Heights Blvd. There he helped out by washing dishes a couple days a week. He joined the church and because of meeting people who have given him their trust and his trust to them, he has been invited from time to time to stay in their homes for a brief while.
Poquette did have an old bicycle to get around, but now it's mostly on foot or rides given to him by members of the church. He tries not to miss a Sunday at church.
But the bike he had was old and it fell apart literally with the wheels and tires breaking off. The bike couldn't be fixed.
But living in the woods in Lehigh is not fun, Poquette said.
"I had a small pup tent, room enough for two. There were no other people around me or in my vicinity of the woods so I felt safe.
"But the bugs, the spiders and mosquitoes will eat you alive," he said.
"The old tent someone had given him had a zipper to lock up the front, but when he closed the tent to keep the flying insects out, he said it got so hot in the tent, that he would have to open it and fight the flying pests.
One family allowed him, he said, to sleep on their lanai at night, but not inside, and that kept the flying insects away, but when the nights dipped down into the upper 30s, as it has over the past two months, it was hard to sleep, he said.
He has also slept under bridges for cover at night. He says he has had no choice.
"I ask for work, but the people tell me they are financially strapped, too, so I have do without.
He has found friends at the church and that is where he is able eat at the soup kitchen where in addition to the soup, there is usually other food to go with it. And he is able to get food from the church's free food program.
He said he is sure there are 100 people that he has met who are homeless and some tell him there are many, many more.
"I've heard the economy is supposed to improve, but if it is, I don't see it. Like I said, it sucks, man. It isn't any fun and it is hard to get out my situation.
In addition to being homeless, Poquette had had cancer on his face which has required the reconstruction of his nose. Now the cancer has come back for the third time. He is able to be see on the east coast for cancer treatment and the group there sends a van over to take him there for treatment.
He's scared that the rest of his nose may have to be removed and that it will disfigure his face, but he has no choice. The cancer has come back with a vengeance and he has been told that the skin cancer can take his life.
"I can do anything. I am hand with my hands. I can do minor construction work and any type of yard work, like removing old grown over shrubs. I have a cell phone the government has provided me and if anyone wants a job, they can call me at 239-691-4095. The free phone usage is only for 250 minutes. The church where he gets food and eats hot meals can also be called if someone has a job or wants to help in some way. That number is 239-369-1615.
Poquette has applied for disability and has been turned down and an appeal is underway. He says he has an appointment this week or next with a judge. "If I can get that, at least, I will have some money to get me through this situation and hopefully, if times change, I can go to Edison College and get a job.
"That's my goal," he said.