A native of Whittier, Anthony served in the Army as an officer. He went to Whittier schools — Hadley Preschool, Hoover Elementary, Dexter Middle School — before going to Don Bosco Tech and then to West Point. He left after his plebe year because he was openly gay during at a time when the policy was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “A military academy like West Point is practically designed for harassment,” he says. “On top of that, I was young, brown, down, and out.”
He finished his schooling at the Claremont Colleges as an ROTC student. He was studying abroad in Cuba as a senior on September 11, 2001. He watched the coverage of the attacks at a train depot. “And the world changed after that.” Anthony received his commission and reported to Fort Huachuca for training. While there, he experienced a near-fatal car accident, breaking his nose and requiring facial reconstructive surgery. To alleviate the pain, he smoked weed and was discharged for using. Still, he doesn’t regret the experience: “Serving was an achievement in and of itself.”
Anthony recently worked as a poll worker for the County Registar. His interest in politics goes back to high school when he volunteered for former Congressman Esteban Torres who helped Anthony get into West Point. Anthony’s mother’s a union activist. “A salty blue dog dem,” he calls her. Anthony cites her influence as pushing toward a political science degree. Perhaps because of this, he sees his homelessness with clinical detachment of a policy wonk: “It’s interesting being on this side. Homelessness is viewed as a ‘by-choice debate.’”
With so many local ties — his parents live in the Whittier College hills, you might expect him to stay put, but Anthony wants to leave. “There’s a big country there. Because I’m single and don’t have lots of obligations, I have the opportunity to travel. In that sense, being homeless is by choice for me because it doesn’t make sense for me to get housing if I’m trying to get a car and leave.” Anthony recently made it as far as Key West with his long-time service dog, Diego until Diego became ill and caused him to come back home to get him treatment. He sold his car to pay for the vet bills and has been saving to get another car, handing out handwritten index cards offering all he has — a few hundred dollars — to exchange for a clunker. As for his career, homelessness has put that on hold too. Anthony’s taking real estate courses at East Los Angeles College, but mostly because “it’s a safe place.” He’s currently staying at a winter shelter in the San Gabriel Valley, although he spends an occasional night at home with his parents.
Just because he is homeless by choice doesn’t mean it’s easy, according to Anthony. “Being homeless, you can never really relax. The lack of independence is the hardest part about living in the streets.” Having a dog helps, though. “I have a co-dependency — I’m married to this dog,” Anthony laughs. Diego helps Anthony avoid some of the perils of street life: “Being homeless, you can never really relax. Diego helps me with that. He’s also my antidote to using pills or drinking. If I’m going to have a panic attack when I’m alone and on the road, I’ll hug him. He’s instant therapy.”
There’s an artistic side to Anthony too. He goes by “Cosmo the Poet” and recites poetry he memorizes at open mic nights. There’s a religious element in it for him. “All good things work out for those who believe. Having the holy spirit is a joy in and of itself,” he says as he begins reciting a poem. “Just don’t laugh,” says Anthony. “I’m a legit poet.”
Reprinted with permission from In My Back Yard.