By Jennifer Koniuk
Marty Cline still spends a good part of every day on the bench outside Camino Bakery, his face weathered after two years of homelessness.
Since the end of the summer, with the help of Ethan and Devora Saikin, he’s had an apartment downtown. But Camino’s and his friends on 4th street feel more like home.
Even on frigid days one could find Marty at Camino’s, sitting inside with a warm cup of coffee watching patrons walk by.
“I don’t like to stay in the apartment all day and I have friends out here that I can associate with,” he said. “I’m incredibly thankful for [the Saikin’s] help.”
Devora vividly remembers how pristine Marty looked the first time he put on clean clothes and shaved after moving into his apartment. She said he waited for her on the bench to get home from work to show her.
“I gave him a big hug and that was the first time I hugged him,” she said. “I told him ‘you made it to the other side’.”
A few days earlier he and the Saikins went to see his new apartment downtown.
“When we visited the place we saw him holding his keys and he was holding them with such dignity of character,” said Ethan Saikin.
“We thought ‘Damn that’s cool he’s holding them like someone that owns something,’” Devora Saikin said.
Ethan and Devora Saikin met 54-year-old Marty Cline from Forsyth County, through friends soon after moving from Los Angeles, California to the Nissen building in downtown Winston-Salem last year. They befriended Marty who sat outside of their building daily, and helped him get off the streets and into an apartment downtown.
Despite his new living situation, Marty still spends most days on the bench.
Marty is currently jobless but is able to help out at Camino’s a couple times a week. Sometimes he even goes inside the coffee shop to get a cup of coffee and then heads back outside to the bench.
Before meeting the Saikins, Marty was homeless for two years. He spent most days on the black steel bench, smoking cigarettes and keeping to himself as time passes. He speaks with a soft tone and doesn’t speak much about his past.
Ethan, a 34-year-old artist and Devora, a 34-year-old market researcher at Inmar would say hello and give Marty a few dollars as he sat on the bench outside of Camino Bakery keeping to himself but as they watched Marty live through the cold days over the course of the winter, they began to worry.
“We wondered what his deal was, where he was sleeping and we started worrying about him,” said Devora. “If you woke up every morning and there was someone sitting outside your building you would help them too.”
The Saikins said they couldn’t bear to see the man they’ve grown to know and care for remain homeless and live through another brutal winter.
“We saw him as a human being,” she said. “When you stop for just a minute and see who he is, it’s hard to not want to help.”
Between March and April the couple took action.
“We had a goal to see if we could get Marty off the streets and into housing before the fall,” Devora said.
According to Devora, she connected with resources such as the Wake Forest Empowerment Project and Goodwill to provide Marty with housing and benefits; however, the organization was unavailable to comment on the process and funding.
The Saikin’s said the process wasn’t easy and took a long time.
“He had a wallet with only a portion of his social security card so it was really hard,” Ethan said. “It took a long time to get his benefits.”
Marty currently has an apartment downtown but is facing the possibility of living on the streets again. According to the Saikins, his benefits and housing end at the end of the year and it is uncertain whether or not they will be renewed.
Marty hasn’t found anyone hiring right now but hopes that in the future he’ll be in a better situation. He did not comment on the possibility of losing his housing.
“There are no jobs around here so I just spend my time right here,” he said in a solemn tone as he sat on the bench. “Sometimes everything in life can be very stressful.”
With the help of the downtown community, the Saikins raised $1,500 for Marty so he would have a little more time before going back on the street.
“It’s only enough for two to three months,” Devora said. “Many people are willing to donate but we haven’t had any one besides Camino’s offer him work and the truth is we need a program or an employer willing to accept him and work with him.”
“I wish I could say it’s a perfectly happy ending but we don’t know how it will end,” said Devora.
Date: November 26, 2013