Formerly "Dumpster Don," Dezanett rebuilds life, health

"Dumpster' Don Dezanett picks up the sleek, silver convertible. With the nudge of his finger, the car's doors fling open.
Jason Singer
Jan 12, 2011


“Dumpster” Don Dezanett picks up the sleek, silver convertible. With the nudge of his finger, the car’s doors fling open.

The miniature vehicle rolls backward and forward in the palm of his hand. “Cool, huh?” Don says. “I couldn’t afford the real thing, so I thought, ‘What the heck?’”

Trinkets like these have transformed Don’s one-bedroom apartment into a home. Beside the car sits a small Jesus figurine that plays hymns. Paintings and photographs adorn the walls.One depicts a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Another shows a secluded cabin sitting beside a peaceful river. Maybe it reminds Don of the woods, where he lived for nine years.

Six months ago, W.T. Realty and several other organizations helped him snag this apartment on the south side of the city. He pays for it with disability checks he started getting earlier this year after many years of untreated arthritis and broken bones.

“Actually, I miss being in the woods,” Don says, looking longingly out the window. “I used to love to hear the cardinals and the birds singing in the morning. I miss that. I miss having my pets; my squirrels coming up and visiting me. ... It’s lonely here.”

Don looks much healthier these days. His frail 5-foot-11 frame, which dropped to 145 pounds last winter while living in the woods, has rebounded to 170 pounds. He no longer has constant bags under his eyes and, on a recent day, he wore a new pair of jeans and a clean blue T-shirt. His once stained hair looks as white as the snow that covers the ground, no longer bleached with yellow streaks that came from constant exposure to the sunlight.

He’s also discovered the magic of Goodwill. “I got these jeans for $2!” Don exclaims.

He also bought the pictures on his wall for $1.25, he says, and a cross behind his bed for 50 cents. A red, mint-condition bike in his bedroom only cost $10. “That place is amazing,” he says about Goodwill.

Although out of the woods and seemingly well-nourished, health concerns persist. The smell of tobacco hangs in the apartment, heavy like morning dew. It sticks to the carpet and furniture, and stretches into every room. He’s drinking, too, albeit less. Silver beer cans no longer fill the kitchen trash can like they have in the past, but he occasionally takes a swig from a 40-ouncer.

His wrists still hurt, remnants of long-ago untreated injuries, and he walks with a slight limp, likely from arthritis exacerbated by homelessness. Nonetheless, his popularity persists. He has two plants in his apartment, which Sondra Anderson, director of homeless services at Volunteers of America, gave to him. A Christmas card from First National Bank — with the smiles of the bank employees on the front — dangles from a hanging plant. And the Register receives dozens of calls and letters each month asking how Don’s doing.

He thanks everybody for their support and love, but you can tell a lack of true companionship weighs on him. “When I get a chance every once in a while, I’ll go back where I used to live and visit my friends,” he says. “I’ll take popcorn out to my squirrels — I love it. Take apples and throw ‘em around the rabbits. It’s cool. “I’m kind of disappointed because with the weather I can’t get over there. But I’m sure they’ll survive. They’re survivors like me.” He extinguishes a hand-rolled cigarette in a plastic coffee mug and leans back on his maroon, floral-patterned couch.

“Sometimes I wonder: Living in the woods saved me a lot of money. Now I have to pay rent and utilities,” he says with a laugh, flashing a grin missing some teeth at the top and bottom. “But oh well, I’m managing. ... It sure is nice being out of the weather.”


Captain Gutz

Go Don go!


Thank you Jason for giving us an update.  I am glad Dan is doing so well and he is keeping up the good work.  He cleans up real good and not bad looking.  I wish these stories could be possible for the rest of the  homeless in the city.  Fortunately for Dan, he was able to hook up with a reporter that helped make it all possible.

Kottage Kat

God Bless you Don in your new home. The road back is never too long with the helping hand of a friend. 


He was more fun when he was homeless and drank.

John Galt

 I have know cancelled my subscription! One too many Don stories. Between this and "ripping on  the cops" all the time I'm done!

Mr. Info

John, There was actually a great story in today's paper on all of the successes of the SPD's drug unit, and how they conduct undercover drug buys. Really interesting stuff. Great story. As a former law-enforcement agent, I think the Reg gives a lot of good covergae to the SPD, but it seems readers only get riled up and pay attention to bad stuff and not the good stuff.

brutus smith

 john galt, we could have done without your last post. And hopefully that was your last.


Don is a great example of humble worship.

Don needs no escalade, 6,000 sq ft home, jewels.

He found the greatest gift and paid 50 cents for his picture to hang on his wall to admire.

Hopefully he will stay out of City politics and stay humble and happy for years to come.

Congratulations Don, and Merry Christmas!



samantha bell

John Gault: get a life this was a wonderful story on a person who was able to get a new lease on life.Maybe you should cancell your subscription and move into a tent and eat out of a dumpster good riddance to your kind

John Galt

 samantha "kind" pays for all of these entitlements. Who do you think is paying for all the people who are busy getting drunk, buying 40 ounces, getting arrested, having baby after baby? The taxpayers. I work everyday and struggle to pay my bills but I pay them, no one else does.

brutus smith

 I thought you were done?


If I had called it Satire, I could have dropped the Fbomb. :-)))

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John Galt..obviously your "kind" may be a taxpayer (like the rest of us..what do you want a cookie?), but you are certainly without a heart.  So cancel the paper and hope and pray that this is never you.  Maybe spending some time reviewing the "golden rule" will prove to be a more valuable use of your precious time.  Karma..look it up.  Good Luck to Don, it is nice to see you are doing well.  Ignore the stupid people on here and keep your chin up.  Is your cardboard box still vacant.  I heard John Galt needs a place to stay.

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Julie R.

I think the SR should be commended for what they did for Dumpster Don. If it wasn't for them he would probably be dead by now. No way would he have ever survived another winter of sleeping in a tent.  

God Bless and Merry Christmas, Mr. Dezanett!


Ok..glad "don" is ok.....BUT my Son and Daughter lost EVERYTHING in The recent HOUSE FIRE right before XMAS!!!  I am in Castalia and very sad this holiday season...The KIDS are in need more than all of us on here...God bless


Write another dumpster diver story please!  We haven't seen enough.  Let's do a story on everyone at the homeless shelter for and hear their sad stories that the majority of them created! Who actually pays to read the paper?  Jason Singer should be nominated for reporter of the year!

Julie R.


So if you don't like the SR and don't like reading the stories why do you bother to comment? I personally enjoyed this story.  


Well, at least there are a few compassionate posts and most got his name right.  Everyone deserves a break and a place to live, even those that create their own problems.  Those of you locked in the mindset that people don't deserve help because they drink, smoke or have done drugs or some other 'offense' are not truly Christian and are apparently not able to see that you might be just one paycheck away from living in a box in the woods.  Merry Christmas.


I have lived all over the country and this is the most biased paper I have ever read.  Their top story for more than a year has been about a dumpster diver!  There is more than just him so why don't they write about the others? 

Kottage Kat

Had you read the first article it said something about  " a year long story" , ot exactly the quote, but close.  This is a wonderful story and I commend the SR and the reporter for that. I would much rather see people climbing up. and not getting knocked down.

To the lady whose family lost their possessions in the fire, my heart goes out to you. Hope the community rallies for you. Please have them get some insurance, renters insurance is inexpensive, and price checking will get them the best coverage. Not to be unkind, and it is sad that one has to experience a tragedy such as this without it.  Your remarks are well taken and I hope that you will be as quick with gratitude for those who have and will help this family.

brutus smith

 F U 3384, You'd complain if they did run more stories. Go back to your ivory tower.

Mr. Info

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Truth or Dare

"The most proximate cause of homelessness in America is POVERTY......the homeless spend more time in the hospital or jail.......the majority are victims of violent crimes."  And yes, there are those that are homeless due to alcohol and/or drug abuse!

According to the 2000 U.S. Conferance of Mayors;

44% are single men

13% single women

36% families w/children  (this has certainly increased over the last 10 yrs.)

7% unaccompanied minors


50% are African American

35% are White

12% are Hispanic

 2% are Native American

 1% are Asian

It's estimated that over 130,000 are Veterans  (that # is even greater today!) If you want to see for yourself a good example, head to D.C.!

These stats are 10 yrs. old.  I'm  left wondering how the last 10yrs., the loss of jobs, the collapse of our economy, the home foreclosures and our almost 8 yr. war on oil, oops I mean terrorism has effected us.  As a  nation, on average we've been involved in somekind of war-like conflict every 15.6 yrs.!   We can send billions to other countries to help support , but the majority of our population,, the poor,  the working poor, heck even the majority of the  middle class,  U.S. men, women and children right here at home are believed to be " only one pay check from poverty and homelessness"! 


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