“Just because you live on the street doesn’t mean you don’t have value.” – Ka Lani
If you walk into the Coddingtown Starbucks, don’t be surprised to see a man with headphones quietly strumming an electric guitar and jotting down chords in a notebook. Meet Ka Lani, a homeless musician and Santa Rosa Junior College student. With 35 years’ experience playing the guitar, he earns money as a street musician while studying to become a substance abuse counselor.
He wasn’t always homeless. In the 1980s he played guitar for The Crypts, a Marin punk rock band who opened for Black Flag and the Circle Jerks and then moved to L.A. where he spent nine years playing guitar for Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers. Sadly, he discovered heroin and lost his way. Putting his guitar aside, he got caught up in a world of drug abuse and arrests. At one point, he faced 137 years in prison, but was ultimately sentenced to 21 years in San Quentin. He served half his time and rejoined the world two and half years ago.
Re-entering society after 12 years made him feel like a “Flintstone in the Jetson’s world”. Returning to Sonoma County to be near his four-year-old daughter, he walks her to school every day and uses his money to buy her clothing. His ex-wife expected him to go back to prison, not back to school.
Ka Lani believes music should be incorporated into rehabilitation centers to help others reconnect with themselves. He also points out that Sonoma County is filled with other homeless musicians. He has a vision to bring these people together to form a group called the Street Core Troubadours. A man once told him he had a gift for music and a responsibility to turn it into an example of hope for those who have known. He is doing just that and so much more.
Ka Lani and his guitar can be found most days outside the Coddingtown Post Office between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and during Open Mic nights at the Coddingtown Starbucks on Wednesday evenings.
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