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Two heart attacks, kidney failure push Denver business owner into homelessness

'Everybody has a story': How one man ended up experiencing homelessness
Posted at 10:40 PM, Sep 06, 2023

DENVER — Mayor Mike Johnston plans to house 1,000 people currently living on the streets of Denver by the end of the year. The conversation surrounding solutions to the homelessness crisis has consumed the city, but the voices of people who are unhoused can get lost in the crowd.

Juan Torres met with Denver7 while doing laundry at The Wash House in Littleton. Torres has been staying at a Denver hotel that was converted into a shelter for the past month.

"People probably look at me and just think I look like I'm healthy," said Torres. "They have no idea what I've been through.”

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Born and raised in Denver, Torres never thought he would experience homelessness. He owned a tow truck business until 2018 when he had his first heart attack.

“I went into a real deep depression after my heart attack. I didn't know where that came from. I didn't want to leave my room," Torres said. "By the time I finally came out of my depression a little bit to do something, you know, we were way too far in the hole.”

2018 was the year Torres lost his business and home.

"We were staying in our car, staying with friends," Torres said. “No place to go.”

In 2020, Torres suffered a second heart attack. He also went into kidney failure and needs dialysis three times a week.

“It's hard for me to keep a job, you know, because I have a lot of doctor's appointments," Torres explained. “The situation I'm in is due to my health. It's not because of alcohol use or drug use or anything like that.”

Torres said he needs a new kidney, and if he can get the transplant, hopes a new job is next.

"I've got to get stable housing, though, to be on the active list," Torres said.

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Torres hopes permanent housing will allow him to get a kidney transplant. His family has created a GoFundMe fundraiser to collect donations that will go towards his housing.

“It's been a roller coaster. It's been ups and downs. You know, we try to make the best of every day," said Torres. “I just hate having to ask for help all the time. I hate having to always ask friends to do things for me.”

He said everyone has a story that explains how they found themselves in a similar situation, and hopes others remember that as well.

“If you're dirty and grungy, they're just thinking that you're just a bum and, you know, you can't take care of yourself, whatever, when it could be way more to it than that," said Torres. “A lot of people talk about it, but [do not talk to the] people that are dealing with it.”

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