Dave Madeiros stands in front of his garage, where he keeps the materials he uses for his flooring business that he has owned and operated since 2001. He still lives in the first home he bought in Oak Harbor after being homeless for a two years. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Dave Madeiros stands in front of his garage, where he keeps the materials he uses for his flooring business that he has owned and operated since 2001. He still lives in the first home he bought in Oak Harbor after being homeless for a two years. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times

Businessman shares his story of homelessness

Dave Madeiros knows well both sides of the homelessness issue.

Madeiros has been a resident of Oak Harbor since 1988 — when he first came to the city to sleep on someone’s couch.

Madeiros grew up in Hawaii and California as the youngest of 16 children. He began using drugs when he was a young man.

At that time he was living in California and came home to find that his mother sold the house and his bags waiting outside.

“She couldn’t take me anymore,” he said.

Suddenly, he was homeless.

Madeiros made his way north to Seattle, arriving there in 1988. He worked in the city for a short time and eventually came even farther north to Oak Harbor to sleep on a friend’s couch.

“That couch was actually very small and the house was very small — seven people, one bedroom,” he said.

Madeiros said he would walk down Taylor Road “to get away from all the craziness of a lot of people living in a bubble,” he said, and one day saw a modular home with grass as high as his waist.

He remembers hearing someone at the house and came across the owner, a man named Don Brouillard, who has since passed away.

After introducing himself, Brouillard told Madeiros he would pay him $5 an hour to fix up the house and let him rent it.

Madeiros said he only had $50 in his pocket at the time, but that he gave Brouillard his word that he would work on the house.

Madeiros kept his word, and so did Brouillard.

Brouillard bought all the supplies for Madeiros to use — paneling, a water heater, windows and even let him use his truck.

“There were two and half years that I didn’t have to pay rent,” Madeiros said.

During this time, Madeiros also went into town to look for work. He found a side job doing maintenance and office work for local businesses on the weekends.

Though he had work, he still needed help to afford essentials. He went to the Help House in Oak Harbor and found other people on the island who were willing to help him.

He also remembers a woman near Deception Pass, whom he was told to call “The Goat Lady,” who would give him containers of milk for $1.

The turning point for Madeiros was when he decided to get sober.

“On Dec. 27, 1992, I walked into a recovery meeting in Oak Harbor, at the Knights of Columbus at that time, and that was my first day I got clean and sober.”

“I’ve been that way every since,” he said. “I’d had enough. And when that happened all kinds of doors started opening.”

Since then, Madeiros has repaired his relationship with his family, owned his own flooring business, become a homeowner, gotten married, and led numerous mission trips and other outreach efforts with his church, Living Word.

Many of his mission trips and outreach efforts have been at home.

“You don’t have to go more than a block or two from your house really and just open your eyes and see the need here,” he said.

Madeiros and his wife, Dr. Dawn Keith-Madeiros, met long after he had been homeless.

He was honest with her about his past from the beginning.

“He’s transparent,” she said. “He’s come from nothing and now he gives back. He loves our community and he wants to feel that it’s still a safe place to bring our granddaughter and it’s hard right now because you don’t feel safe on your own streets.”

Madeiros said there were not as many homeless people on the island during the time that he was in a similar situation.

“It was easy for me get the hand up. Now if I was homeless I don’t know what would happen,” Madeiros said.

“In our hearts we want to help people and we don’t want to seem heartless, but we don’t want to see it destroy our community either … so helping someone get on their feet rather than giving them a handout – I think that’s the biggest distinction,” Keith-Madeiros added.

She suggested that more follow-up needs to be done with the homeless population – asking them what their name is, where they’re from, how they got to Oak Harbor — to create accountability and to determine the specific serices that each person needs.

Both Madeiroses said that givig money to panhandlers or giving away help for free without questions is not the right way to help people.

Instead, Keith-Madeiros said, “give to an organization.”

“If you really desire to help somebody go down to Spin Cafe and offer to make lunches,” she said.

Dave Madeiros said it’s going to take the whole community to fix the homelessness problem.

“I don’t know how to say this. But without the people of Oak Harbor helping me to help myself, I wouldn’t be here today. I would probably be dead—who knows,” he said.

He has ideas for how Oak Harbor can address the current homelessness issue, but he said that it’s going to take a community effort to fully solve the problem.

“I think it’s everybody’s issue to come up with a solution,” he said.

“It’s not going to go away. God isn’t making any more land, he’s making more people.”

More in News

The route of the Whidbey 1/2 will take runners down West Beach Road where they will be greeted by views of the Pacific Ocean and snow-capped mountains on Sunday, April 25. (Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times)
Runners to compete in Whidbey ½ next Sunday

Up to 600 runners will compete in the Whidbey ½ on Sunday, April 25, on the North End, and there are still spots available for those who want to join.

Foundation awards $60,000 in grants

Whidbey Community Foundation recently announced its next phase of funding from the… Continue reading

Charity for foster care holding auction

A nonprofit organization with a mission to meet the needs of foster… Continue reading

Brinkman
Community remembers longtime officer from South Whidbey

Mark Brinkman, 56, passed away unexpectedly Sunday night.

Four-year-old Tula Pierre-Louis and her brother, Iuri, play in the waves with mother Atty at West Beach in Deception Pass State Park. It’s the beginning of peak season for Washington’s most popular state park. (Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times)
Deception Pass State Park prepping for peak season

Park manager Jason Armstrong said the number of visitors last year was about 120 percent of what it had been in previous years at the most-visited state park in Washington.

Witness, shell casing tie murder to Central Whidbey

A law enforcement report on the murder of a 67-year-old Whidbey Island man whose body was found in Blaine suggests that he may have been shot near the Coupeville Ferry.

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
The Coupeville-Port Townsend route will stay on a one-boat schedule longer than initially planned because too many ferry workers are away from work after they contracted or were exposed to COVID-19. Reservations on the second boat through June 6 were canceled.
Coupeville ferry short crew; some reservations canceled

The ferry system should have a better idea in the next few weeks if the second boat will be delayed beyond June 6.

Hospital to sell Bayview property with odd history

The property has dropped significantly in value since its purchase 13 years ago.

Oak Harbor man charged for brandishing pellet gun

The 21-year-old man is facing a felony charge.

Most Read