Scott Kuball told of his years camping in the woods in Hastings at a town hall meeting on homelessness Thursday at Hastings City Hall. Photo by Bruce Karnick
HOMELESS in Hastings

Resident recounts years living in the woods, building new life

This is the first of a two-part series. Next week’s installment will talk about agencies that help the homeless and how the community can best help.

Scott Kuball’s story of being homeless in Hastings is captivating.

Kuball recounted his more than five years living in the woods in Hastings at the Homelessness: Effectively Addressing Housing Access in our Community town hall meeting held at Hastings City Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 16.

The event was organized by State Rep.

Tony Jurgens and featured a panel of local agencies that help homeless people in the community. After panelists gave an opening remark about what services agencies provide, Kuball told his story. His from the heart recounting of choosing to camp yearround, the struggles of being homeless to gradually building relationships that led to him now living in his own apartment and having a job.

It started with an arrest by the Hastings Police Department.

“They arrested me for a felony,” he said. “I let somebody stay with me, and they decided they didn’t want to leave. I mean I was just trying to help the guy out because he was homeless in Hastings. But he didn’t leave. It got a little out of hand. I got put on probation. When everything was said and done, I just decided I was done. I didn’t want to live in town. I didn’t know what I wanted. What I ended up doing is being homeless in Hastings, living in the woods for five years or seven years year around.”

He said he lived on the defensive and trust with individuals – even those wanting to help – takes time to build.

Kuball lived in a tent deep in the woods and was difficult to locate.

“Your best friend in the wintertime is a hot rock. Throw a rock on the fire pit. Pull it out an hour before you go to bed. It’ll keep you warm for eight hours,” he said. “As far as homeless outreach goes, the only thing I can say is the way people approach you. You’re always on your defense while you’re in the woods. Always.”

Police would stop in – sometimes with multiple officers because he was difficult to find. Over time, he built a strong relationship with Amber Hanson of Ally Supportive Services, which provides homeless outreach services.

“When Amber first came to see me, the first thing I told her is, ‘I don’t want help. You get away from me. I don’t know who you are.’ She kept trying and trying and next thing you know, I started talking to her a little more each time she came. Pretty soon, she started bringing me food from Hastings Family Services. Every week, there was two to four bags of groceries up on top of the hill where I picked it up, because I wouldn’t let them come to my camp.”

His camp was his private refuge.

“What I got down here is none of your business. It’s like the only thing I would say to the officers and to Amber is no means no. If you come to me and say, ‘Hey, I want you to do this, and I tell you no, that means I ain’t gonna do it. And then you start being nicer to me, you know, we can talk. But don’t just come down and think you’re going to run the game because it’s not a game. It’s life. Life is bad when you’re in the woods in the winter. You just do what you got to do to survive, whether it be stealing, beat somebody’s ass, whatever it takes. You do what you have to do to survive.”

At one point, he attempted to take his own life.

“Amber would come down and visit me, check on me make sure I was OK – still alive anyway. I had hung myself June 13, 2017. I had a drinking problem, a bad attitude and thought life owed me the world. Really life don’t. You’re blessed to wake up the next morning when you go to sleep.”

The relationship Hanson built helped get a roof over Kuball.

“Amber came down here and she put me in a warm place, a hotel room, which I screwed up the first time, because I didn’t really know if I wanted help or not. If people take different approaches with people who are homeless, if you push too hard, it’s like trying to push a boulder that you’re not going to move,” Kuball said. “I started trusting her more, and I also started trusting the Hastings Police Department and Hastings Family Services as well. They’ve been there for me the whole time I’ve been in Hastings.”

It was a long road to building that trust.

“The only thing I can think for the outreach, they just gotta be careful how they approach people. I mean, whether Amber came to me with a police officer at that time, I just didn’t give a (expletive deleted). Survival of the fittest, right? That’s how it usually works. She worked and got to see her way into me and got me out of the woods, made sure I had everything I really needed. Mostly you need is showers and clean socks. That’s about the best thing you can have when you’re homeless.”

From that point on, he made the decision to “work the program.” It’s been a success.

“I’ve been in the apartment that I’m in now for a little over a year, and I’m thankful for Amber, Hastings Family Services and, yes, even the Hastings PD,” Kuball said.

November 23, 2022