Harsh winter takes its toll on a proud man

David Peel hopes receiving disability benefits gets him off the street

David Peel has spent this winter living out of his pickup. On cold nights, a local pastor allowed Peel to sleep on an air mattress inside his church. (Gazette Photo by Erik Sandin)

David Peel has spent this winter living out of his pickup. On cold nights, a local pastor allowed Peel to sleep on an air mattress inside his church. (Gazette Photo by Erik Sandin)

This winter has exacted a toll on 60-year-old David Peel.

Peel, unemployed and homeless, said he suffers from edema in his legs from sleeping in his truck during the winter. He adds that because he is a single man, there are few housing services available through Washington County.

“My life is all falling apart. I can’t get help for my family, for my son,” he said quietly.

Peel said he now pins his hope of finding a home on his application for Social Security disability benefits.

“Last week I had to go to the Social Security building and complete my application,” he said.

Peel now must wait several months before learning if his application is accepted.
Sometimes the first time isn’t the right time,” he added.

Until then, the custodian by trade lives out of his pickup and picks up part-time work cleaning an insurance agent’s office twice a month and selling his blood plasma.
“It got so bad one week, I had to pawn by (cell) phone,” Peel added.

When temperatures dropped to dangerous cold, Peel said the pastor of a local church let him to sleep in the building.

“On cold days in January and February, he allowed me to come into the church and sleep on an air mattress,” Peel said.

Peel said the last time he worked was for six months from December 2011 to July 2012 before he underwent surgery. He claims he was told he would be rehired after recovering from his operation, but said that did not happen.

“I owned two homes in my day. I did all the right things,” he said. “I’m not struggling mentally. It’s physical.”

Peel receives food stamps and has medical insurance through the county. What he said he needs now is shelter.

“All I want is some place to stay,” he said. He added that although his son lives in Woodbury, his son’s girlfriend does not want Peel living with the couple.
Instead, Peel prefers finding a home in the Stillwater area.

“I feel more comfortable out here. That’s why I came out here. I’m from Newport originally,” he said.

County financial supervisor Mary Farmer-Kubler said the county has programs that might help Peel find housing.

“Our first line of assistance is the economic assistance program,” she said. “Single adults do qualify for that program. It is some cash benefit.”

Farmer-Kubler added that the county also has limited resources for hotel stays.
For now, Peel said all he can do is wait for a decision on his disability benefit application as winter slowly gives way to spring.

“I rode out the whole winter. I don’t know how I made it, but I did,” he said. “I’m worried about my health right now. I’m in need of help. I need someone to give me a place.”

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