Homeless man, his dogs find housing
Aug. 11, 2011 at 3:11 a.m.
There can be no testimony with a test.
Delmar Litchfield can certainly vouch for that.
Litchfield, 70, opted to live in his truck for the past year and four months because of his inability to find employment or housing that he could afford on his Social Security check, and that would allow him to live with his two large dogs, Roja and Duke.
These days, however, Litchfield, who recently found housing and enrolled at Victoria College, faces new tests both in the classroom and in building his new life as an apartment renter.
"Things are working out for me," Litchfield said as he sat in his sparsely decorated living room gently stroking Roja's head. "It seems like my life is finally back in phase."
Litchfield, who rescued Roja, a 6-year-old Doberman pinscher, and Duke, a 5-year-old mastiff and chow mix, when they were puppies, refused to give up the dogs, who he considers to be his children, in exchange for better living accommodations.
A longtime California resident, Litchfield moved to Mexico in March 2001.
Unemployed and homeless, life was far from easy for Litchfield, who eventually made his way up from McAllen to Victoria.
"It was challenging, but it was something I had to do until I could get something going," he said. "We all have to adjust to our environment."
Upon arrival in Victoria, Litchfield said he fell into a routine of taking the dogs to exercise and play twice a day at Riverside Park; spending time at Starbucks and the public library using the Internet; sleeping in the parking lot of a local truck stop and eating lunch at Christ's Kitchen.
He also tried unsuccessfully to find work.
Despite having worked as a machinist, construction worker, superintendent of public works, oil driller, real estate broker and petty officer in the Navy, Litchfield said he was continually turned down for jobs.
Following a previous Victoria Advocate article on him and his dogs, Litchfield said he was flooded with offers from Crossroads-area residents to provide dog food, shelter, money and even a hot shower, all of which he said he was grateful to have received.
"I don't like taking stuff from people," said Litchfield. "I'm overwhelmed by how friendly people are here."
Determined to better his family's situation, Litchfield attempted to start his own business, which he likened to NASDAQ for real estate; that is until he realized he did not have the know-how to build the company's website and databases.
Unable to find anyone willing to join him in his business venture, Litchfield, who earned his GED, returned to school to learn how to build his website and business himself.
With the help of student loans and education grants, he enrolled at Victoria College in July with intentions of pursuing an associate's degree.
So far, he has managed to maintain all B's.
Litchfield's education hit a bump in the road, however, when Victoria College's counseling office began receiving complaints about Roja and Duke, who were staying in the back of Litchfield's truck while he was in class.
"If I couldn't bring the dogs in the parking lot, then I couldn't go to school," said Litchfield, who took morning classes four days a week. "I always park under the best shade tree in Victoria."
After learning of Litchfield's dilemma, college officials put him in contact with Dr. John Beck, of Hillcrest Animal Hospital, who offered to board Roja and Duke for free while Litchfield was in class.
"We help students with these types of things when we can," said Florinda Correa, vice president of student services at Victoria College. "Students always have needs we at the institution can't take care of so we look for help in the community."
She continued, "If they have these issues, then the chances of them succeeding in college are difficult."
Litchfield said he plans to attain a bachelor's degree in mathematics and eventually a Ph.D in physics.
Life got considerably better for Litchfield when he got word that Section 8 would not only award him with a housing voucher, but they had also located a Victoria apartment that accepted large dogs without a deposit or monthly fee.
He moved in at 7 p.m. July 15.
His humble abode does not have much - a desk, computer chair, rug, two dog beds, a few dishes and a mattress and cushionless chair left behind by the previous tenants - but that is more than enough in Litchfield's opinion.
"I actually have a toilet and a shower I can use at my convenience," said Litchfield in a lowered voice. "It's hard to go to school when you stink."
Roja and Duke have also taken to their new air-conditioned shelter, he said.
"They only go outside if they have to," Litchfield said with a laugh.
He said he has plans of extending his patio to create more room for the dogs to run around and room for him to grow his own vegetable garden.
With most of the areas in his life having improved, Litchfield said there is still one area that could use some improvement - his love life.
"I would like some companionship," he said with a big smile. "I'm single with two kids, and I'm hoping to meet someone."