Homeless, but Not Alone

Carlos Figueroa

By Quinn Sheehan 

As you drive on U.S. 1 and the corner of King Street in St. Augustine, you may see an older man sitting on the corner with his stroller that carries his life. Sometimes you may see him walking around or just pondering life.

Many are weary of the homeless community due to the stigma that is around them. But this man shows there is nothing to be afraid of.

Carlos Figueroa has been in the St. Augustine area since 2003 and has touched the hearts of many in that time. He is originally from Puerto Rico, via Brooklyn, New York. He made himself comfortable on the corner on U.S. 1 and chose this location in order to be on his own.

“I don’t want to hear the customers. I don’t want to talk to many people. I like this location,” Figueroa said.

The St. Augustine Police Department checks in on him occasionally to sit and have a friendly conversation. 

SAPD has placed Figueroa twice in comfortable living conditions in Jacksonville and each time he has returned to his corner in St. Augustine. 

Detective Kasey Keen and girlfriend Heather have taken Figueroa under their wing to help him in any way they can. 

“We put Carlos up in a brand new apartment, with everything you need … Carlos just didn’t want to be in Jacksonville. He came back in two days, if that,” Keen said.

Keen said that “Carlos is a unicorn,” meaning he is unlike many — content in his lifestyle and doesn’t ask or need much.

There aren’t as many programs in St. Johns County to help Figueroa, but people like him and are happy to help. 

During the year when the weather fluctuates in St. Augustine, Figueroa gets out of the cold by going to the local housing center for the night. The St. Francis House, located in Lincolnville, is a good advocate for those who are unsheltered.

Locals have also supported Figueroa by providing him with blankets, clothes, food and more. He was given a radio, and likes to listen to it with his headphones. He keeps it by his side when he’s sitting on the bench on the corner of U.S. 1.

“The oldies, yeah the oldies, the 50s and 60s,” Figueroa explained. 

In a St. Augustine Facebook group, dozens of people shared stories and love for Figueroa. Most St. Augustine locals have monitored Figueroa since he arrived. Many wonder where he is and hope for his return when he leaves.

“When he was gone for a month, I wondered what happened, and then was glad to see him back. He’s never asked for anything,” Kim Hartwick said. 

Charley Johnson and his wife Kimberly have visited Figueroa many times to bring him food or just to talk. 

“One afternoon during a massive thunderstorm, I encouraged him to get under the overhang and we sat and talked for a while,” Johnson wrote.

The Johnsons used to bring Figueroa cupcakes from their shop in the Butterfield Garage, a local art gallery. 

On a Facebook post about Figueroa, St. Augustine locals expressed their support and care for Figueroa, and they ways he’s touched their hearts.

“I’ve eaten with him before. Didn’t say much, but when I asked if he wanted more food, (Figueroa) looked up, smiled and shook his head yes,” Victor Henderson wrote. 

“When I lived in St. Augustine I’d stop and leave him a few dollars every time I could. If I didn’t see him I would leave it for him at the corner store,” Ladonna Stevens wrote.

“Carlos is a really nice man. His favorite meal is McDonalds,” Linda Jenkins Taquinto wrote.

As a man of few words, there was just one thing Figueroa wanted people in St. Augustine to know. 

“I’m not young. I’m getting old,” Figueroa said. 

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