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DOWNTOWN : Warm Homecoming for Homeless Man

Sometimes, you can go home again.

Charles Oliver Jr., 41, who went home to Indiana this Christmas after living on the streets for more than a decade, forgot he was scheduled to return to Los Angeles earlier this month. And it doesn’t look as if he will be able to escape his family’s welcoming embrace anytime soon.

“I didn’t know it would be so good. They told me I had no business being homeless--that I always had a home,” said Oliver, who said he has been staying with his five sisters and his mother since he arrived in East Chicago, Ind., on Dec. 21, courtesy of Yvette Kalachian and her aunt and uncle, Lana and Irv Paley, who supplied the plane ticket.

Although Oliver was worried that his family would not want to see him after his 11-year absence, they were just as happy to have him home as he was to be there, and they threw him a welcome-home party.

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“I was trying to track him down,” said Janet Sangster, 40, Oliver’s younger sister.

“I can’t believe he was staying on the streets. He should stay here, we have plenty of room.”

Oliver’s niece Shirlee Sangster, 16, who was 5 when he left Indiana, agreed with her mother.

“It’s great to have him home,” she said.

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Oliver described his strained relationship with his father as “up and down,” but even they exchanged gifts and kind words over the holidays.

“I’m always happy to see my kin, but he never should have left his job (in East Chicago),” Charles Oliver Sr. said.

Charles Oliver Jr. said he lost his foundry job because of a back injury.

Kalachian, who befriended Oliver when she began working in her uncle’s Hill Street jewelry store last year and began parking her car in the lot where Oliver lived, decided to send him home for Christmas when he told her he hadn’t seen his family in 11 years.

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Hill Street is not the same without Charles’ cheery “Good morning,” but Kalachian says she hopes that he makes a permanent home for himself in East Chicago.

“I’m worried. After the excitement wears down . . . they will have to adjust and that requires sacrifice. I pray they serve each other with love,” Kalachian said.

“I don’t want him living on the streets again.”

A warm, safe bed, hot meals, card games and hugs from his nieces and nephews would seem preferable to living in a Downtown parking lot, but Oliver is determined to return to Los Angeles after his sister’s birthday in mid-February.

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“It’s too cold here. There are no jobs. I’ll never stay away this long again, but I can’t stay here,” said Oliver, who said he hopes to find permanent housing upon returning to Los Angeles.


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