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He's homeless, 20 and looking for love

All Derrick Cummings wants to do is go online and update his dating profile so he can find a date and have a reason to get out of Pinellas Hope, if just for a few hours.

But the overweight, gray-haired homeless woman blocking the door of the computer room at the tent city isn't having it.

"We are doing chores," she snarls at him, gesturing toward the room where a few homeless people are cleaning. "You know the rules."

"Come on," Cummings, 20, responds lightly. "There aren't that many rules."

"You're not funny," she spits back before telling him to shut up. "You aren't even old enough to swear."

Defeated, the young man turns away, muttering something about the woman's backside. What Cummings, one of the youngest residents at Pinellas Hope, the outdoor temporary homeless shelter, doesn't say is that he desperately wants to grow up; he just doesn't know how.

A former foster child abandoned by his parents, Cummings still yearns to go to Walt Disney World for the first time so he can buy a stuffed animal and take pictures with Mickey Mouse.

He spent his childhood in and out of foster homes and shelters. His parents "just couldn't handle me," he said. Teachers and foster parents told him he had to learn to control his quick temper.

But he wonders how could he not be angry at a world that allowed him to grow up without birthday parties, school dances or someone to love him.

When he "aged out'' of the foster system at 18, he decided to give family life another chance. He moved into a mobile home in Clearwater with his parents. Less than a year later, his parents, convinced he was stealing from them, kicked him out in June 2007.

Self-preservation, even if it meant acting tougher than he really was, became a way of life for Cummings, who has blue eyes, strawberry blond hair and a severe case of acne.

To keep potential bullies away, he throws fake gang signs. He raps about life in the "  'hood" and boasts of his rap name, "D.C. Pimpin." He recounts fights, like the one time when he was living at a shelter and he got some beefy kid in a headlock and refused to let go, even after the staff yelled.

"I punch hard. I use all my force," said Cummings, who weighs 130 pounds.

In December, he moved into Pinellas Hope.

He applied for jobs as a bagger, landscaper, construction worker, stockroom boy and painter. No one called him, he said.

Finally, Pinellas Hope enrolled him in STARS, an employment training program offered by Pinellas County Health and Human Services. He has been learning how to constructively resolve his differences, to speak to prospective employers, to dress for success.

His career aspirations are as follows: wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts, professional point guard, rapper or bounty hunter.

Personally, his goals are more simple. He wants to find a nice woman to settle down with.

"I'm looking for anyone that's going to treat me right," said Cummings, who has never asked a girl out. "I want to have the family I never had."

That is why he created an online dating profile.

Cummingsd69 is a slim Capricorn who likes to go to the beach and prefers women who do not smoke.

When he finally gets into the computer room on a recent evening, the online service asks him to add his profession to his profile.

He scrolls down the list of options: writer, craftsman, military, sales, transportation, food service.

Cummings, who cannot afford glasses, leans close to the computer until the blurry words come into focus. He selects "other."

Times researcher Angie Holan contributed to this report. Cristina Silva can be reached at [email protected]


About this story

Pinellas Hope is an outdoor shelter off 49th Street N in unincorporated Pinellas County. The shelter opened Dec. 1 and will close in April. Until then, the St. Petersburg Times will run occasional profiles on the men and women who call Pinellas Hope home.

He's homeless, 20 and looking for love 02/26/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2008 6:02pm]
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