By Dan Gudino
It doesn’t matter what sport you talk about, David Candelas, 74, will be there – a women’s water polo match in the fall, a badminton tournament in the spring and in the stands at all the mainstream sports.
Originally from Madera, California, Candelas is an East Los Angeles College sports enthusiast and alumni, who graduated with an associate degree in Liberal Arts in 1997, years after his first run on campus in the ’60s.
Dubbed “Superfan” by fellow ELAC fans, he can be seen dressed in Huskies gear on Atlantic Boulevard and on Cesar Chavez Avenue.
He’s always seen in ELAC t-shirts or a sweatshirt and an occasional ELAC baseball cap. A hat he’s most proud of is his Army Veteran baseball cap which he flaunts with pride.
“The Army taught me three things, discipline, respect and survival,” Candelas said.
Candelas put emphasis on the last, survival. Candelas has been homeless since 2012. Cellulitis, a bacterial infection that typically affects the skin on the lower parts of legs, put Candelas in the hospital for 10 days.
During his stay in the hospital, he lost the room he was renting in Monterey Park. The person who rented to Candelas kicked him out for a family member.
“Being out in the streets is a experience and-a-half. All the stuff I see and have seen, I would have never thought or believed,” Candelas said.
Candelas claims he has avoided sleeping on the streets. Instead, he jumps on late night buses and rides them to their end. Then jumps back on in the wee hours of the night and rides them back their opposite way to stay out of the cold or rain.
When his Social Security check is deposited, he says he has money for about three weeks. He can then afford to stay at local $60 per day Monterey Park hotels, yet not every day.
Four years of the late night bus routine, has taken its toll. He sleeps in spurts when he rides the bus, but on a bad night, he gets three hours of sleep.
“I just listen to my body. I know when I have to rent a (hotel) room and rest my body. The bus routine is hard. I sleep very little,” Candelas said. “In the service, I learned to survive. I also have a lot of help. I sometimes go up north (to Fresno) where I have family and stay a few days or I stay with my daughter sometimes,” Candelas said.
His relationship with his daughter is as shaky as his sleeping routine.
Grandfather of two, Candelas loves to visit his grandchildren but is not allowed to constantly see them because of a personal fallout with his daughter years ago. Nonetheless, he continues to try to mend things.
“I occasionally visit my daughter and my grandchildren, but not all the time. Differences have made things hard for me to see them. I sometimes spend a night, but I always pay my daughter when I do,” Candelas said.
Born on a Friday the 13th, Candelas’ luck has not stopped him from being a fan of sports. His devotion to ELAC sports has given him purpose and recognition.
The ELAC women’s basketball team has returned to Candelas the same support he gives. Women’s head coach Bruce Turner mentioned how Candelas personally went to Monterey Park’s City Hall and suggested the women’s team should be recognized.
On April 19, Monterey Park Mayor Peter Chan presented the ELAC women’s basketball team with a city recognition award and the Huskies were brought on stage for their state final runner-up season. Coach Turner, in his acceptance, speech called Candelas a community leader.
“An ambassador to ELAC and ELAC sports. He’s the ambassador. He personally went to city hall and told them about us. Since then, we have been recognized,” Turner said.
Candelas helped this past basketball season by coming up with sponsors to help distribute monthly player awards. One of the awards players received was the Most Inspirational Player of the Month Award.
Despite his situation, Candelas continues to give any way he can. An inspiration to many, he carries his belongings in a personal pull dolly and showed off the clothing he was donating to a homeless man. He mentioned that this homeless man hangs out in front and around ELAC in only a small t-shirt and Candelas, with a humble heart, recalls understanding being cold.
“I been there done that. I’ll soon retire from the streets too,” Candelas said.
A veteran’s three-day event at the Los Angeles Convention Center in December called Honor a Hero organized by Standdown L.A., is giving Candelas a chance to get off the street.
“The paper work took hours, but worth it. The VA assistance program is granting me a chance to get an apartment with a grant,” Candelas said.
Conversations with Candelas, no matter what, turn to good and back to ELAC sports. The ambassador can mention all the former ELAC football players to enter the NFL. He can shoot them out like an encyclopedia: Ben Davidson, Mike Davis and Clarence Davis, all whom he said played with his old favorite team, the Oakland Raiders.
“I support this school like the Oakland Raiders fan supports his team. Through the good and the bad, I’ll be there,” Candelas said. “I bleed ELAC green.