Richard Kosbruk has friends and cousins all over Anchorage.
“They know where I’m at, and I know where they’re at,” he says. “They say, ‘Richard, you got a house that’s already paid for back in Perryville, and so what are you doing out here on the streets?’ I just say, ‘Well, keepin’ an eye on my brother, you know, he’s the only one I got left.’”
His little brother, Peter, has lived on the streets in Anchorage for decades. Richard spent much of his life in Perryville — a community of around 100 people on the south end of the Alaska Peninsula. He worked and saved up enough to buy his own house. He tried to bring his brother home, but Peter never came.
So about five years ago, Richard flew to Anchorage to find him.
“I didn’t have to stay out here, but I just wanted to be close to my brother, see what he’s all about,” he says. “I don’t mind being out here, you know. I’ve lived in comfort all of my life, and being out here – to meet the people Peter knows, and see how everybody survives out here — that’s quite the experience, you know.”
Richard spent the first four years in Anchorage staying with family and friends, but “time runs out real fast when you don’t have a plan.”
Then he was out on the street with his brother. At first, he stayed away from the shelters and the soup kitchens because he worked all his life and it didn’t feel right. At first, he hung to himself.
“It took me a long time to know everybody’s name; now everybody knows my name, too,” he says. “When I first got here, they’d all be crowded together and I’d be standing off to the side, just checking things out, you know, see what’s going on. They’d always tell me, ‘Get over here! Get over in the circle, man, you gotta be in the circle.’”
He got in the circle. That was a year ago.
“It’s a long, never-ending story,” he says.