It’s a busy Wednesday night at USA Gas on lower Milpas. A man holding a puppy waits while his girlfriend pays for chips and cigarettes; when she steps away, another man in athletic wear steps forward and asks for 20 bucks on pump three; behind him, more customers line up to buy gas. On the other side of the register, 50-year-old Bill Shaub punches prices in, swipes credit cards, makes change and small talk.
It’s a completely ordinary scene, except that Shaub may just be the happiest, most relieved employee in Santa Barbara. It’s his fifth day of work at USA Gas after a discouraging seven-month job search; a job search that kept coming up empty while he and his wife, Anita, toughed it out at Casa Esperanza, Santa Barbara County’s largest homeless shelter.
“It’s all coming back to me cause I used to do this work back in Texas,” Shaub said when there was a lull in the customers. While living in Texas, Shaub ran a handyman business as well, working and living with his father. But his father died, and the house they shared was sold. Shaub has been unemployed and homeless for three difficult years. He and Anita have been back to Texas twice since first hitchhiking to California. They would look for work for a while, then go home to see if family could help out. Discovering that family could provide little in the way of assistance, they came back here. The last time they returned, they decided to stay and make it work. It’s been touch and go. To read more, see homelessinsb.org.