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Homeless racetrack worker relies on kindness of strangers The corner table at Cetrone's pizzeria was bright, lit by the large window facing the street. Bruce Shenski eyed the passersby suspiciously as he described how every day, he is both nostalgically happy and realistically somber. What makes him sad is the reality of constant pain: "This," he said, delicately raising a brittle looking appendage that once was his right arm. The arm shows clear signs of serious burns as it awkwardly hangs against his torso like a club. The palm of his hand is bulbous and purple, its four fingers curled into a half fist. The happiness comes from his past: "Accomplished, skillful, exquisite," he said, a slowly spoken list of adjectives meant to convey a sublime career as an exercise rider at the Bowie Training Center, doing the only job he ever felt comfortable at. Up until two years ago, Shenski was a happy rider at the Bowie Training Center racetrack, where he also lived and stored his collection of model ships and Civil War books. But after a fire that destroyed his apartment, three strokes, a coma and six months in the hospital, the 42 year old now lives on the streets of Bowie and survives reluctantly off the kindness of strangers. The fire charred his right arm and leg, impairing that half of his body, and the strokes damaged some of his cognitive abilities and affected his language skills. His nightly rest often comes on a bench in front of a Giant supermarket. Shenski's story is a look at a side of the county that some people may not think exists alongside the growing number of expensive homes, booming commercial options and increasing median incomes. But his story also highlights what some call a surprising lack of resources and services for the homeless in the area. An exact history of Shenski's life leading up to his coma has to be pieced together from accounts from his friends and casual acquaintances. He remembers only fragments of the accident and its immediate aftermath. While working as a freelance exercise rider and living at the racetrack, Shenski's room caught fire after he left a blanket on a heater. He tried to put out the fire but got badly burned in the process. Shenski speaks reverently about his time at the racetrack, where he had worked since he graduated Laurel High School in 1978. When asked how he liked living at an apartment at the track, he leaned across the table at Cetrone's and said: "Fantastic. Exquisite. Beautiful. Cr de la cr shaking his head as if in disbelief. "A fabulous room. Exquisite, beautiful room." Though the strokes limited his vocabulary, the word "exquisite" is a favorite adjective. "The jockeys said 'you're fantastic,'" he said. "I'm the best. Exquisite best." Shenski's story isn't a cut and dry pity case for the people around town who have taken to helping him. He sleeps on benches and in sleeping bags, even though he has family in the area who are willing to take him in and receives a small Social Security disability check from the government. "He is homeless to a certain degree, but he isn't because he has a place to go. He just doesn't want to go there," said Sheryl Dale, a cashier at the Giant where Shenski has made his temporary home. "He's an adult, he can choose to live outside if he wants." Dale, a 21 year employee of Giant who has lived in Bowie for eight years, has become sort of a personal social worker for Shenski. She started helping him after noticing him sleeping on the bench outside about a year ago. But right now she's involved in the toughest battle yet finding Shenski a place to live in Bowie. His 91 year old father, Frank, lives on Racetrack Road not far from the Bowie Training Center, but Shenski refuses to live at the house. It is too dirty, he says. He has a sister living nearby but he refuses to leave his hometown. 'He doesn't fit in a category' The search for some sort of public shelter has yielded nothing but dead ends and no vacancy signs. Many of the programs Dale has explored for him are too specific or cater to various conditions. "If he was a veteran or an alcoholic, there would be a place for him, it'd be different," she said. "Because he's just someone who had an unfortunate accident, there's nothing for him. He doesn't fit in a category." There are at least 1,300 homeless people in the County, according to Department of Social Services data. Shenski has, for now, hammered out a fairly regular routine. His days often start at the 7 Eleven. Then he travels to Borders or Barnes and Noble, where he likes to read and listen to music, mostly Mozart, but also 1970s rock band Nazareth. Dale hopes to soon stumble across someone in town with an extra room before the winter sets in. Until then, he's content to stay on the streets, accepting small help along the way.