After 30 years of living on the streets of California, Robert Pineda was pulled to his feet and given a second chance by a man who lived on the opposite side of the country.
To this day, the two men remain best friends.
In May 2019, Rhode Island resident Scott Kuczmarksi was visiting California and met Pineda in Palo Alto for the first time. Pineda was riding his bike, which was packed with “300 pounds of stuff,” Kuczmarksi told Fox News.
As Kuczmarksi remembers it, Pineda was “smiling ear to ear as he’s riding down the road.”
It left an impression on Kuczmarksi, who recalled thinking: “I got to meet this guy.”
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At the time Kuczmarksi, who’s retired, had been handing out water bottles to the homeless community in the area while simultaneously taking care of his son, who was doing a medical school rotation at Stanford.
Prior to his journey to California, Kuczmarksi read “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama, which is based on the idea that “you can’t be happy by pursuing your own happiness directly, you have to pursue it through the happiness of others,” he said.
He was “enthralled” with the idea and wanted to test the theory by helping the homeless community and his son during his four-week stint at the medical school.
After mustering up the courage to talk to Pineda, the two met for coffee. They instantly had a connection and proceeded to meet for breakfast “almost every day for the next two or three weeks” while Kuczmarksi was still in the area, he said.
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“Once you become friends with somebody, [you] become a friend for life,” Pineda told Fox News, adding that after each interaction they began to trust each other even more and “just hit it off from there.”
They stayed in touch and by October 2019, Kuczmarksi ended up back in California while his son was doing another rotation for medical school.
This time, Kuczmarksi – who had hoped to gain Pineda’s trust even more – spent a night with him on the streets, specifically a commercial parking garage in Palo Alto.
“It doesn’t take more than one night to realize how invisible you become and how people just ignore you,” Kuczmarksi said.
Kuczmarksi recalls times when Pineda had been “jumped and beaten with rocks by multiple people.”
Kuczmarksi’s plan was to build enough trust with Pineda so he could eventually help him get mental health care services through the Opportunity Center of the Midpeninsula, an affordable apartment complex and service center dedicated to helping the homeless community and low-income individuals while also offering free health care.
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Kuczmarksi also gave Pineda a cellphone so the two could stay in better contact. By May 2020, Pineda, with Kuczmarksi’s help, moved to a small cabin in Foster, Rhode Island.
“We’re only 30 miles apart, you know, so we can connect,” Pineda said.
At 59 years old, Pineda left his “whole life behind in hopes of just finding a better life,” he said.
The cabin didn’t have a lot.; it had its own outhouse and the duo has been “slowly adding to it” together.
Pineda said everything changed because he was in the “right place at the right time.”
“Scott was doing something with his life and he … not only just wanted to live his retirement, but he wanted to share his life with me,” Pineda said. “And I shared my life with him. And I think those are unshakable.”