Ana Zinkovitch, 19, Kevyn Warren, 27, and Willis Carlow, 20, all homeless, stand Wednesday in Castonguay Square next to City Hall in downtown Waterville. Warren holds their cat Buddy and Carlow holds Shadow. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

Willis Carlow says living on the streets is no picnic.

“I just want people to understand that it’s a very, very tough life to live. I’ve been homeless three times, and each time it just gets harder and harder.”

I met the 20-year-old Carlow and his friends, Ana Zinkovitch, 19, and her boyfriend, Kevyn Warren, 27, Wednesday in downtown Waterville after watching them push a grocery cart with all their belongings up the Water Street hill toward town.

They crossed the intersection, approached City Hall and entered through the health and welfare department door on Front Street.

After a while, they emerged, pushing their cart full of blankets, clothes, a tent — and two small black cats named Shadow and Buddy, housed in a purple pet carrier. They had all slept in the tent in the woods off Water Street on Tuesday night, they said.

“I’ve been like this for about six months,” Carlow said. “It’s getting cold now so I’m trying to get a place.”

They had applied for assistance at City Hall but were denied because their income is too high, according to paperwork they produced. Carlow gets Social Security income from being disabled. Warren, who worked at Burger King for two weeks, also is disabled.

“I have a hard time focusing,” Warren said. “If I see something on the ground, I stare at it.”

The city is working to find them a hotel room, but it might take a couple of days, they said. Warren has been trying to get Zinkovitch and Carlow jobs at Burger King so they can save up enough money to get an apartment or trailer.

“Ana and I were living on College Avenue,” Warren said. “Our rent was $800 a month and the landlord increased it because we had an air-conditioning unit. She put it up to $900 and we couldn’t afford it so she kicked us out.”

That was Monday, two days before they started staying in the tent with Carlow, a cousin of Zinkovitch.

“I’ve been living in a tent and camper for about six months in Clinton,” Carlow said. “I just came to Waterville because I had more friends out here and more supportive people.”

Warren said he and Zinkovitch met about four years ago at a homeless shelter in Skowhegan. They were also homeless before they got the apartment on College Avenue six months ago.

“We were living outside in Bangor,” Warren said. “We were camping out behind Shaw’s supermarket, in the park. I have no problem with the cold because my body is always hot, but Ana’s anemic so she had a hard time. I had to cover her up and cuddle to keep her warm.”

Zinkovitch, who grew up in Waterville, is hearing impaired, which makes communicating difficult. She and Warren, of South Paris, are high school graduates; Carlow, a Clinton native, is not.

“I dropped out in the 11th grade because of bullying,” he said. “I haven’t had an easy life but I treat people the way I want to be treated.”

The three seemed humble and were affectionate with the cats.

“They’re the only thing that we really have left, so it sucks — it really does,” Carlow said.

He told me that he, Zinkovitch and Warren would stand by each other.

“We went into this together, we’re going to make it out together,” he said.

Warren was late for work and they needed to get something to eat so I said goodbye, but not before asking if they had money for lunch. They assured me that, between Warren and Carlow, they had enough food stamps.

Then the trio trekked north on Front Street, with Zinkovitch toting a knapsack and Warren lugging the cat carrier.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.