“I wouldn’t say I had a Bill Gates life, but I had my dream life,” he said.
During a guest lecture Friday at Saint Martin’s University, the 69-year-old Bremerton resident will talk about how that life crumbled and what he learned about society after being homeless for nearly three years. The event is part of the university’s Robert A. Harvie Social Justice Lecture Series.
LeMieux’s memoir “Breakfast at Sally’s – One Homeless Man’s Inspirational Journey” is an insider view about homelessness and gives a voice to the estimated 20,000 people in the state who are have found themselves in that situation, said Saint Martin’s criminal justice professor Robert Hauhart.
LeMieux wrote about the people he encountered on the streets, in shelters, at churches, through social service organizations.
“He met families with children living in their cars,” Hauhart said.
LeMieux also wrote about folks he met while dining at The Salvation Army, referred to as “Sally’s” by its regulars. His book relates his experiences being estranged from his family, being diagnosed with depression and wanting to give up.
“I felt worthless with no help and no reason for living, as many people are today,” he said.
LeMieux has lived in Bremerton for 11 years. He had built a business publishing directories for colleges, doctors and other groups.
“That was a very profitable business because everybody wanted their books in their particular field,” LeMieux said.
But when the economy took a hit, his clients’ companies began failing. In addition, many of his customers turned to Internet listings.
“I tried to hang on, but slowly and surely, the business would fail, and so would I,” he said. “I ended up being evicted from my home with only my little dog, Willow, and the clothes that I could put in the back of my van.”
LeMieux said that on Christmas Day of 2002, he walked onto the Narrows Bridge with a plan to commit suicide. He had left Willow in the van, along with some food and water and a note asking that somebody take good care of her.
LeMieux said even with the noise from cars and trucks rushing past him on the bridge, he could hear Willow’s nonstop barking.
“In my mind, and in my heart, I could hear that dog calling me back, saying, ‘Come back, come back,’” he said. “I pushed myself off that rail, and ran back to my car.”
LeMieux typed his memoir mostly at picnic tables on an old, mechanical typewriter.
He said the book’s message is that “anybody can become homeless” and that people shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when they need it.
These days, thanks to the support of many people, LeMieux lives in an apartment. Willow died about two years ago; four homeless shelters have been named in her honor.
LeMieux said he’s working on a second book and is thrilled that “Breakfast at Sally’s” has become required reading in some schools and university programs.
He has shared his story at schools, with church groups and with advocates for the homeless all over the country.
LeMieux said he wants his book to create change, encourage people to reach out to others and end homelessness.
“We can’t just look the other way,” he said. “We can’t just say, ‘Well, someone else is going to take care of them.’ Everybody has to become involved as best as possible.”