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Cashman Whiteley was pictured on the cover of a local newspaper back in August with a simple headline: “Cash Whiteley is a man.” But his struggles are more complicated. The 59-year-old started to experience homelessness when his life spiraled out of control and he couldn’t break out of it.

Until recently, he was living on the street and in need of medical help – then a group of people who didn’t know each other stepped in. Whiteley believes they saved his life in the process. 

Cashman Whiteley

CBS News

The acts of humanity started with Carmen Flores and her partner, Tatiana Guerrero, who welcomed Whiteley into their home in January after seeing him on the street looking sick. He was sleeping in front of a church – “on a cement, cold slab,” according to Flores.   

“And the church didn’t open its doors,” Flores said. “I was like, ‘OK, if our institutions aren’t doing it, then we have to do something.'”

Whiteley avoids homeless shelters, where he feels he’s not accepted.  

“I have ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” he told CBS News. “I don’t drink. I don’t use drugs. I’m different than they are.” 

Carmen Flores and her partner, Tatiana Guerrero.

CBS News

As a young man, Whiteley traveled across the country working carnivals. Money, he says, was always tight, and after a divorce, the life of the father of three spiraled. In 2000, he landed in Southern California with no money to rent a place to live, so he “simply wound up on the sidewalk.” 

After 10 years with the carnival, he said he had no verifiable job references, no address and no phone number, which he felt put him “below” employers’ standards.

As he looked for work, he said he was refused job applications and told to “go away,” because he is homeless — the rejection serving as a painful reminder of the unfairness of his situation. 

“If I hear it one more time, I’m going to melt down. … because it’s wrong. Because I’m actually a human being. I should have the same chances as everybody else,” he said. 

Whiteley was also treated like a nuisance when needing medical help for a growth on the left side of his face that became unbearably painful. It caused him to scream uncontrollably in pain, which led to people calling the police — kicking off a cycle that never got him the care he needed.  

“They would take me to the clinic. The clinic would send me to a dermatologist. The dermatologist would just say, ‘Well, just put this cream on it or take these antibiotics,’ which weren’t working,” he said. “And then I’d be screaming again.” 

That cycle, he said, went on for a year – until people who cared stepped in.

Jessie Smith, the pastor at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Claremont, California, has taken Whiteley to multiple doctor’s appointments. 

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Jessie Smith, the pastor at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Claremont, California, where Whiteley showers twice a week and attends services, has taken Whiteley to multiple doctor’s appointments. She said he gets offended when people don’t treat him as if he matters.  

“I saw it over and over going to the emergency rooms with him, calling the paramedics, having the police called on him here or there or wherever,” Smith said. “He was not seen as a human, he was seen as a nuisance.” 

Dr. David Nasca, a retired pathologist, helped Whiteley by calling some agencies. 

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Dr. David Nasca, a retired pathologist, met Whiteley on the street. He called some of those agencies that were giving him the runaround.  

“Nobody was taking any initiative,” Nasca said. “Nobody cared about him.” 

Eventually, Whiteley was diagnosed with skin cancer. He wanted immunotherapy but his Medicaid insurance plan didn’t cover that. Then counselors at City of Hope, a comprehensive cancer center, helped him change his insurance so he would qualify for the care he wanted.  

City of Hope, a comprehensive cancer center, helped Whiteley change his insurance so he would qualify for the care he wanted to treat his skin cancer. 

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Flores and Guerrero, who both work in the healthcare industry, went with him to advocate for him. 

Now, with the treatment, he said he feels a lot better than he did three weeks ago. Doctors said that he may need reconstructive surgery after treatment is completed. 

Whiteley is now convinced that better days are ahead.

CBS News

“Three weeks ago, I felt like I was dying. And I probably was,” he said. 

It wasn’t the only way his community helped. Back in January, Flores and Guererro took him to look at a vehicle, and he liked it. An anonymous donor gave Pastor Smith the money for Whiteley to buy it. And the very next day, some members of the congregation were there when it was blessed. 

Whiteley has been using the car as a place to sleep, as a form of transitional housing. He hopes it will help get him back on his feet as he looks for work. 

“I got about $20 and three-quarters of a tank of gas,” right now, he said, adding, “not too bad.”

He is convinced that better days are ahead — and that’s partly because of the people who showed him that he matters.   

“A month ago, it was like: You know, would somebody just hurry up and pull the plug on me and just get it over with? Because I was exhausted,” he said. 

“I can see myself getting better now,” he said. “I can see myself getting back to doing some type of meaningful work, and that I find very hopeful.”