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Old 06-13-2001, 12:48 AM
City Gent is offline
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Location: Lakewood (Los Angeles), CA, USA
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What's it like?

Closest I ever came was when I was working several hundred miles from home and couldn't pay my rent because my stupid employer was slow in issuing my first paycheck. Landlady demanded payment up front - "This ain't a goddamn motel". I finally paid it using a cash advance on a credit card, and my paycheck arrived shortly thereafter. But it was kinda dicey there for a few days.
Old 06-13-2001, 04:36 AM
Mockingbird is offline
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I was homeless for three months when my mother decided that she needed to inflict 'tough love' on me. She thought it would stop me from being gay.

I slept in parks, under bushes, and on rare occasions and bad nights, at friends houses. I was seventeen at the time, and fresh out of high school, so my friends were all living with their parents, which made it hard to have me over on a regular basis.

Lost my virginity during the three months, so she only got to find out that I was REALLY gay, and have resented her from the moment she threw me out. That summer SUCKED.
Old 06-13-2001, 04:28 PM
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It's pretty damn crappy.

I lived on the streets of Seattle for about a year and a half. I started the day getting kicked out of the shelter(when I was lucky enough to get in) at 6am sharp. Breakfast usually consisted of two-day-old bread from the local bakery. Two days a week I sold plasma, which gave me enough money to eat a McMeal and spend the whole afternoon in a 5th rate moviehouse. At 5pm the shelter opened back up, so people started standing in line at about 3pm.
It was a nasty circle, and damn near impossible to get out of. It does no good to apply for work when you haven't an address or phone number. The shelter allowed you to use their number as a source, but all of the local businesses knew that number, and blacklisted anyone who put it on their application form. After a few months on livng on bread, your energy level is about shot, so after awhile you just quit caring about anything.
Old 06-13-2001, 05:00 PM
Rasa is offline
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Yes and no. In my starving college student days, I had no place of my own and lived with friends... now in my "I've moved from Rhode Island to the most expensive place to live in the US days", I'm doing the same. Nowhere near as awful as most other homeless experiences I'm sure. I'm damn lucky I have good friends.
Not all who wander are lost. -JRRT
I absorb trust like a love rhombus.
Old 06-13-2001, 05:11 PM
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Czarcasm, I cannot imagine what it is like. How do you get out of the hole?
Old 06-13-2001, 05:45 PM
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:: deb enters and raises hand ::

I was going to start this exact thread and another with the question about what SDMB members think about that measure in Cali to require homeless children to go to a separate school.

My ex-husband was not good at making money. He was very smart book wise but couldn't make a nickle. And at that time I was not the forceful person I am now, this may have been my training grounds for how to speek up and say "what do you think you are doing? Just stop!" So we ended up living in a camper for about 6 months when he decided we could not afford the apartment rent. I learned that you can buy showers for 7 days at the local KOA campground. We would shower every three days so that they lasted. I was the one who applied for the food stamps and was the only one who used them since hubby was too proud. He owned his own business but I could not get him to give it up and get a job and he was still spending alot of money on that. Ironic that when I finally left him, he got a job making decent $$.

I don't know if you consider living in a back room of a business homeless, but that was a place with no shower, no real cooking facilities and paint peeling from the walls. We did that for about a year. I remember running out of gas so many times cause I never had cash on me and no credit card.

I finally ended up taking two jobs and we moved into a house. Still broke and not a good scene, but not homeless.
Old 06-13-2001, 06:44 PM
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I got lucky, sailor. The Seattle Center used to hold Science Fiction Festivals once a year, and I met up with a group of nutcases who kidnapped me to an SCA meet, got me drunk on home-made mead, dressed me in period garb, and included me in their "Let's really blow their minds at tonights showing of 'Rocky Horror Picture Show!" gettogether. I must have made a decent impression, because 24 hours later I had a job as live-in housekeeper(room, board, and $50 a week) for a wonderful woman named Marla. With a real permanent address, I was able to get minimum wage jobs, save up, and get back on my feet.
Old 06-13-2001, 06:48 PM
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::raises hand also::

Homeless in the most complete sense during fall of 1984. I had emigrated to New York City and failed to land a job, an unfurnished room (for which I initially had the money in traveler's checks), had my backpack with most of my possessions stolen from me, and only managed to link up with the contact people I'd figured on being able to turn to after I had been on the streets for several days and lost my stuff.

Spent my days scouting around for a place to sleep at nights plus seeking food. I'm not an effective beggar and I'm unable to sleep in a situation where I'm out in the open in a public place. Churches were good (by virtue of having lots of windows and doors and often being older buildings, therefore easy to slip into when deserted). Once I hovered in the offices of a small independent drug rehab org and managed to be in the bathroom and forgotten when they closed up, and got to sleep on their rather nice couch. More often than not, though, sleep took place at the top level of 4, 5, or 6-floor walk-ups, on the landing below the locked opening to the rooftop.

Lots of small eating places existed where paying customers would leave their plates on the table when they left, and often would leave behind morsels worth snarfing up. Some chain establishments had policies dictating that they had to throw away take-out orders not picked up within a certain interval, or a certain number of hours after initial preparation. Some of them deliberately destroyed what they threw away (dumping coffee grounds or other icky stuff on it) but others tossed it in inside the box the customers would have received it in, and this was often recoverable.

Eventually I got sick (throat infection) and the free clinic doctor I found pointed me towards the NYC shelter system for homeless people, which was quite a zoo with noisy yelling zookeepers, but it was a cot for the night and food the next morning, and the yelling was impersonal because they didn't know us as individuals. (Fort Washington Shelter for Homeless Men, 168 Street Manhattan, 1984). That ended the "most complete sense" of being homeless, but I was in Ft. Washington for a couple months before negotiating placement in a permanent-bed shelter for the "homeless mentally ill", which in turn became reorganized as the "Residential Care Center for Adults", where I lived for over a year, commuting to college via bus (for which they grudgingly supplied tokens) and dealing with their condescending overly-familiar and insulting ways of providing "help".

Moved into the dorms Fall 1996 and was only homeless subsequently in the summer between terms when the dorms were closed.
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Old 06-13-2001, 09:11 PM
sailor is offline
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There but for the grace of God, go I...

Anyone who has pulled himself out of such a situation has my utmost respect.
Old 06-13-2001, 09:23 PM
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Old 06-14-2001, 12:23 AM
rngadam is offline
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To those who lived thru that horrible experience...

Were you begging for money while you were homeless? What is better, donating to charity or directly to the homeless?
Old 06-14-2001, 12:49 AM
shell is offline
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Sleeping rough

Been there, and you really don't want to know what it's like to be homeless. Eating garbage, hoping the cops don't find you and roust you out of your place, finding anywhere that's safe to sleep.... basically doing whatever it takes to ensure your own survival. Donations don't help, advocating for the disenfranchised/poor polically does though (i.e., living wage, housing, family planning) I'm just glad not to have done it with small children.
Old 06-14-2001, 01:16 AM
betenoir is offline
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Originally posted by Czarcasm
I got lucky, sailor. The Seattle Center used to hold Science Fiction Festivals once a year, and I met up with a group of nutcases who kidnapped me to an SCA meet, got me drunk on home-made mead, dressed me in period garb, and included me in their "Let's really blow their minds at tonights showing of 'Rocky Horror Picture Show!" gettogether. I must have made a decent impression, because 24 hours later I had a job as live-in housekeeper(room, board, and $50 a week) for a wonderful woman named Marla. With a real permanent address, I was able to get minimum wage jobs, save up, and get back on my feet.

But, will Bush include "Rocky Horror" in his faith based welfare refore programs?
Old 06-14-2001, 01:52 AM
AbbySthrnAccent is offline
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Homeless or Not?

We spent a summer tent camping lakeside when my younger brother and I were in grade school. We thought we had the coolest Mom because our "vacation" lasted all summer. A couple of years later we where in nearly the same situation. We had a place we could go at night to shower and sleep, but had to spend after school and through until the late evening hours in the park. One evening while we were sitting at a picnic table, my younger brother made a comment about the lake time and I realized that we'd been there because we had no other option. I didn't label the experiences as "homeless" until I was an adult. After all, I WAS home, I was with my mother and brothers.

So very grateful for her home,
Some people come into our lives and quickly go, others stay awhile. Either way, they leave footprints on our hearts and we are never the same. May my footprints always be gentle on your heart.
Old 06-14-2001, 03:22 AM
robgruver is offline
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In late 98/early 99 I was homeless for three months. I had lost my job as a web designer during the Crush when hundreds of web design companies opened up. Money went quickly, and I couldn't get another job. I lived in my apartment which in reality wasn't mine since the apartment complex took all my stuff. I just happened to keep the window open so I could sleep there at night.

One night they found the window open and I couldnt get into the apartment to sleep. I walked around the complex looking for somewhere to sleep, and finally ended up sleeping under the stairs in the pool pump room where it was marginally warm.

During this time I ate mainly rice that I would cook in various peoples kitchens that would allow it. Thanksgiving was a god send because I could get food at shelters and my parents house.

I met my future wife during this period. She saw me in this state and let me use her address so I could get a job in a law firm as a legal secretary/receptionist. Thankfully she pulled me out of it, and we were married just over a year later.
Old 06-14-2001, 06:17 AM
Carina42 is offline
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I've never lived on the streets, quite. But I spent several months in 1985 alternately living in a van & nasty motels, until I saved enough money for a deposit on an apartment. I had just lost everything I owned in California in an arson fire (including my dog ), and drove to Colorado with about $1000 in my pocket. Why Colorado? Tossed a was Colorado or Alaska & tails won.

Great story, Czarcasm!
Old 06-14-2001, 07:35 AM
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If you want a taste of the homelessness "experience" some time, eat nothing but day-old bread for a week, never change your clothes or take a shower, and sleep on your back porch in the middle of February.
As far as whether or not you should give money to someone who asks for it-Try to imagine the malnutrition, dispair, fear, distrust and shame felt by someone who has to ask someone for money. The "Hand Up, Not A Hand Out!" campaign did a lot for people who needed an excuse to keep their pocket change, btw, but it didn't seem to incrase the amount of money donated to charities.
What a surprise.
Old 06-14-2001, 08:35 AM
Mr. Cynical is offline
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It was bad enough while I was still clinging to my apartment in Georgia; The only food I had moeny to afford was potatoes and leftover bread that the bakery delivery drive next door would give me.

When I lived in the car for a few months, that was worse. Potatoes became a luxury. Most nights, I'd have dog food. I could buy a 50 lb bag of Gravy Train for next to nothing, so that became my staple.

The most embarassed I've ever been was when I was getting weak, and absolutely driven by hunger to go to a friend's house and ask him if I could have a can of soup.

I'll never be that way again.
Old 06-16-2001, 01:44 AM
Harmonious Discord is offline
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I never lived on the street at anytime, but was so close a few times. Had I not been able to return to my parent's house a couple times, I would have been on the street. I find it hard not to hoard food even today. The worst time was asking a coworker to buy me three sandwiches for a buck. I had already gone over two days not eating, and didn't get paid for another three days. I had already sucked empty all the ketchup packages. This is the same time period to which I attribute my great hate for hot dogs. One pack a week, a loaf of bread, and a jar of jelly. Add in one gallon of milk, if I could, and a couple cans of soup.

People can't understand why I'll help them out, when times get bad. I've been there and lived it. They can't understand why I pay a hundred on a bill, that's about to be the last straw for them. I just tell them that it's a gift, and as far as I'm concerned, they don't owe me the money. Some insist on paying me back months later, other's don't. I don't do something big like that to often, as I don't have the means, but being able to keep someone from going over the edge is worth it. The air gets highly charged with emotion, and it's hard for either of us not to become extremely emotional. You know what you did was right, and they can sleep for a bit that night.
Old 06-16-2001, 01:57 PM
Zenster is offline
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Been there, done that, read the book, saw the movie, bought the t-shirt, wore it out and bought another one in time for the television serial.

Summer of 1975. Two fabulous dogs, an Italian racing bicycle and me, without a frickin' cent. No job skills coming out of high school. Parents who didn't give a d@mn about minor things like a driver's license, college or career path. Sleeping on couches and under a friend's porch.


I'll never be homeless again.


I slowly grabbed my bootstraps and tugged awfully hard. Rented a room in a house, had a wonderful woman move in who became my first live-together lover. Inspired by her love, I stopped my "free-lance" work and sought out a real job doing technical assembly. Got a temporary one from a friend, and used his referral to jump-start my high tech career.

Left everything behind and moved to Silicon Valley, went through a lot of the economic downturns and barely survived save for the kindness of my landlord (whom I have repaid in spades). I even worked at a homeless shelter to begin my brief career as a chef. That gave me all the impetus I needed to vow to never be homeless again. The sneering and condescending attitude shown by so many of the homeless "advocates", right up to the top of their administration (I was sexually harassed in front of the top woman administrator in her own office without her making a noise about it), was genuinely disgusting.

To this day, when I am able to tell that someone is in a bad way and doing something to get out of their situation, I will give them some bucks. I always try to donate to street musicians (I have a soft spot for anyone who can play music) and others that at least have some sort of schtick. Many, many of the homeless I have seen are far too busy trying to put one over on people and scam them to actually want to get out of their rut. I have lost almost every iota of sympathy for those types. Seeing a homeless child still rips my heart out, which is why I used to volunteer to cook at the family homeless shelter.

Best of all is the happy ending to all of this that seems to be developing. Tape at eleven.
Old 06-16-2001, 05:01 PM
bunnymom is offline
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CityGent -

Thanks so much for starting this thread. I'm blown away by everyones stories.

I am such a wussy compared to y'all ! I just know I'd crumble under the same circumstances.

My hat's off to you all.

Old 07-14-2001, 02:19 PM
jab1 is offline
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For me, the worst part of staying in the shelters is having to sit through a sermon. Why are there so few secular shelters?

Everyone is entitled to an informed opinion. --Harlan Ellison

Graduate, 1983, of the Springfield Heights Institute of Technology.
Old 07-14-2001, 03:34 PM
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I may have asked for money and/or food and/or work, but I never bowed my head to get it. I think that trying to convert people when they are at their weakest physically and emotionally is about the lowest you can go for your religion.
Old 07-14-2001, 04:01 PM
wring is offline
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thanks for the comments from me, too

I work with exoffenders helping them get jobs. Many of them are homeless, some in the shelters, some not. Those not in the shelters, I help them get in (if that's what they want), those in, I help them get into the 'better' one.

I've also let them use my office phone number for applications etc (and allowed some to get ID here). So, I was glad to see from Czarcasm's remarks that it does indeed do some good (although I do allow this, there simply aren't that many who've needed to use it, so the chance of it being black listed is remote, plus our company name sounds like a motel).
Old 07-14-2001, 04:04 PM
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I don't even know that I can put into words how impressed I am with the way y'all have pulled yourselves up, and at the same time, how ashamed I am of some things I've thought at times when I see homeless folks. And at how good I do have it, and always have. Yeah, things have been bad at times-and there were times I didn't know where rent would come from, but I always managed somehow.

I can only hope that I have half the strength some of you have been forced to have.
Old 07-14-2001, 05:18 PM
King Rat is offline
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Any I.H.S. Alumni Out There?

The elite of the homeless go to Hawaii.

On the verge of homeless in 1997 due to substance abuse, I used the last of my money to fly to Honolulu and walked off the plane with fitty dollars. I had never been in such a pickle in all my life. I had absolutlely no idea where to go or what to do. I wandered around town for hours, too embarassed to ask for help. Finally I passed a hospital and figured that there would be sympathetic figures in there. They turned me on to Little did I guess at the time that that would be my "home" for the next two years. Relatively speaking, I had it easy. I made friends from all over the country who had the same idea I had - if you gotta be homeless, might as well do it where you aren't going to freeze to death. In case anyone from Hawaii is reading this and is angered by this whole concept, can't say I really blame you.

I can't even imagine how someone could handle being homeless in NYC. (I was aslo told that San Francisco had abysmal shelters). I take my hat off to anyone who has bounced back from that.
Old 07-15-2001, 12:46 AM
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A year and a few months, including one winter. Bad. Very bad, in fact, including psychosis, and divorce, and false recoveries, and relapses. I lived by being verbally far more facile than my true state of being was. I was a source of information on social service and legal references for drug dealers and prostitutes. They paid in food and coffee. I earned it by knowing shit that most street people did not know. I don't remember long stretches of it. I don't try hard to do so.

In the end I got locked up, in a hospital, back before the Republican party destroyed that safety net. Were it to happen today, I would have died. But the Director of the Hospital where I was gave me a letter of reference to the Director of the place where I work now pretty much saying "He is unconventional, but he is not dangerous." The man took a chance, and hired me. Twenty-two years later, I am still there. I have to move out of my apartment, pretty soon.

Did I mention that I hate moving?

"There is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it." ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero ~
Old 07-15-2001, 01:35 AM
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I was homeless after a relationship with a woman I should never have dated ended in 1995.
Fortunately, I had lots of friends in 12-step recovery (my NA and AA family), so I only spent one night sleeping in a park.
For the next month, I was sleeping on peoples' couches, moving every week. Fortunately I was employed at the time.

It was a very emotional time in my life. I was embarrassed about having almost 2 years in recovery and being homeless, being involved in a domestic violence event, and working for minimum wage. My self-esteem was very low and Life seemed hopeless. One thought kept me alive, that I would not give that bitch the satisfaction of seeing me fail after she punched me around and called the cops on me.
I was kept from the worst of it by friends who were willing to help me out, a safety net. I pulled myself out of the situation by working and getting better jobs. Thank the god of my lack of understanding that I had my friends at that time.
Old 07-15-2001, 04:30 AM
matt_mcl is offline
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I have been blessed in that despite my financial difficulties over the past year and a half I've been able to keep a roof constantly over my head. However, all three of my closest friends have spent some time homeless.

The most recent is when my ex Eric had to hunt for an apartment last month after his brother's evil wife threw him out of their place. He crashed with us for a week until my roommate Moishe and he got into a fight, and he left. He spent a few nights on the street (which absolutely broke my heart - picture me, after a sleepless night, haunting the Village at dawn trying to find him to give him a change of clothes) until he came up with another friend to crash with. He's since found an apartment, but he lost his job immediately after finding it (and after having kept it while homeless!) so it may prove difficult for him.

The sharing and mutual help that my friends and I have managed to come up with for each other in times of need have been really important for all of us. Even when I've had next to nothing, I've felt compelled to share it with my friends who are in even more desperate straits, because I know they'd do (they have done) the same for me.
Old 07-16-2001, 02:19 AM
Bill H. is offline
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When I was 17, I couldn't stand my dad, so I moved out with no place to go. I bought a '62 VW Squareback for $15 and and lived in it for about 6 months. Took showers in a nearby college. In hindsight, I'm sure I could've found someone to let me sleep on their couch or whatever, but I didn't want anyone to know I couldn't take care of myself. Pride's a funny thing.

I've been lucky in recent years, and I take a lot of pride (there's that word again) in the fact that it hasn't always been roses.
Old 07-17-2001, 02:30 AM
Geek Mecha is offline
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Originally posted by King Rat
In case anyone from Hawaii is reading this and is angered by this whole concept, can't say I really blame you.
That homeless people come here to live never upset me. I've often thought the same thing about them not freezing to death here.

I just wanted to stick my head in and agree with Lsura. All of you... your experiences are hitting closer to home than I imagined they could. I am humbled and amazed.

Manservant Hecubus, your post has stayed with me since the first time I read through this thread. I stand in awe of you.
Old 07-17-2001, 02:38 AM
matt_mcl is offline
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Similarly to the Hawaii argument, I'm given to understand that a lot of homeless and itinerant people from eastern and central Canada flock to Vancouver, with its more temperate climate, for the winter.
Old 07-17-2001, 05:15 AM
White Lightning is offline
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I dunno if my experience fits the definition of being 'homeless.' I know it doesn't hold a candle to the magnitude of what many of you have gone through. I am truly awed.

Moment of silence for the shit people have to go through sometimes:


When I got kicked out of school, I had already fooled the Residential Life office into letting me live in campus housing for over a month after the school year started (in which I was not supposed to be participating), and I had also been eating on my meal card during that time. The Dean's Office/Administration didn't know this (who knows where they thought I was living or what I was eating), and when they found out, they were pissed. So they evicted me immediately and cut off all my privileges as a student. I suddenly found myself with no room, no access to food, and no job-- they got me fired, too (I was working on-campus, but not employed by the University), and no money to buy a plane ticket home (from CT to CA) or anywhere else. So I bummed around, sleeping on couches or in other peoples' dorm rooms, and snuck into the dining hall or used contacts I had in Food Services to get free food. I did odd jobs around town, many for sympathetic professors, till I had enough saved to buy a train ticket to VA and get to my aunt's house there.

So, in all, I was without an official place of residence for about a month. I was lucky, though, to be in just about the best possible circumstances to be in that situation. I knew a lot of people who were willing to spare a couch (or share a bed, heh) for a night or a few, and it's real easy to scam free food on the campus of a private liberal arts college. I thank my lucky stars that my one taste of 'homelessness' was as easily handled as it was, and that I didn't have to live through anything like the stories you others have posted.
Old 07-17-2001, 07:41 AM
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Former homeless person checking in. I lived on the streets of NYC for almost six months. I use to sleep in the Port Authority bus terminal or Central Park at night (thankful it was summer) and in the libraries during the day. I'd scrouge up enough change for a cup of coffee and go into delis, wash up in their bathrooms, and grab food from abandoned tables on my way out. One guy saw me doing this, and bought me two sandwichs and a breakfast special. I'll never forget that if I live to be a thousand.

Finally got a job around the holidays in a store, and the owner let me stay in the back room. I actually had a place to sleep and a bathroom. Once I got some money saved, I found a basement room with a bath in an old house filled with roaches. Got a real job and a real apartment.

People sometimes wonder how I can be happy with so little. My response? "Cause when you've had nothing, anything is something." Most of them don't get it.
Old 07-17-2001, 03:45 PM
jab1 is offline
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I'm glad I revived this thread. (Look above and you'll see my post came about a month after the preceding post.)

Would anyone else care to go to the GD thread "The homeless choose to be homeless" and point out that for many (perhaps most) homeless people, the answer is a resounding "No"? I mean, there's someone there who thinks the average homeless guy can make $60 a day by panhandling.
Old 07-22-2002, 03:53 PM
MaxTheVool is offline
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(a) to echo many others, I'm flabbergasted and impressed by what many of you have lived with

(b) I've never been homeless myself, although one of my good friends (and most recent ex) has stories that are similar to many of these

(c) there's a huge gulf for me... if I was ever stuck without a place to live, I absolutely positively know for certain that I could call up my parents and they would send me money for a plane ticket and I could stay with them until I got back on my feet. I've been lucky enough to never come close to needing to use that safety net, but the fact that it is there, and that it is so deeply ingrained in me that I'm always shocked that other people don't have the same thing, makes many of the stories people tell seem completely foreign. I'm damn lucky.
Old 07-22-2002, 05:44 PM
Nymysys is offline
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I'm technically homeless right now, but not anywhere near to the extent of some of the people above.

Long story short, I was able to keep an apartment in Chicago while staying in Minneapolis with a doper who had gotten me a job. I was getting back on my feet when I decided to try an all-or-nothing bid on LA and the movie industry. I can't say it failed, as I still have a movie coming up. What I can say is that it pretty much ruined me financially.

I have no apartment at all, certainly no credit and a very bad employment history behind me. I'm staying with two dopers right now (one during the week and one on the weekends) and I have two jobs (same deal). I can't get a bank account so they're cashing checks for me. One of them is storing my stuff in his basement, the other is making sure my dawg is fed.

I'm hoping with some help (which I'm definitely getting) and some luck (not so much), I'll be able to get a place in September again.

Even in my situation, with a roof over my head and food on my plate, it's hell. I mean, it's hellhellhell. Hella hell. Pride is a large thing to swallow and it doesn't sit in my belly well. I've had to ask for help, and often at that. I've had to deal with "You know I can kick you out" jokes. I'm depressed. I've gotten rid of most of my stuff. I'm sick often due to my schedule and catch-as-catch-can sleeping arrangements. I'm tired all the time. It's not going to get better anytime real soon.

On the other hand, I have friends that were able and willing to help. I AM eating, I am working and I am not sleeping in the elements.

It shall get better.

My hat is off to anyone that has pulled themselves out of this.
Old 07-23-2002, 04:51 AM
Rushgeekgirl is offline
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Memphis
Posts: 6,033
Hamsters ate my nice yet long-winded post, so I'll just say yes, I've been homeless. For about six months. It stinks.

I hope the hamsters aren't bothered by tiny little posts.
Old 07-23-2002, 07:42 AM
Coldfire is offline
Charter Member
Charter Member
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Near Amsterdam, NL
Posts: 15,982
Wow, guys. It's been said many a time before, but I'll echo it: my hat is off to each and every one of you who were down and out, and pulled themselves back up again.

Whilst not converting this into a political thread: I find the attitude of the American government towards the homeless apalling. Granted, my exposure is limited, and there may be a lot of good initiatives I'm unaware of, but it looks like the attitude is "ignore it, and it'll go away". Maybe part of it is unwillingness to face past political disgraces (e.g. Vietnam vets). I don't know. But I do know it is unfitting to any nation that calls itself civilized.
Old 07-23-2002, 07:56 AM
dreamer is offline
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 1,587
Originally posted by Hastur
I was homeless for three months when my mother decided that she needed to inflict 'tough love' on me.
Ahh "tough love". I do remember being forced to go through those meetings. My parents thought I was a druggie, hung out with the wrong crowd etc..etc.. So they kicked me out.

I was a "street kid" in Seattle for about 5 months. Slept in backs of cars, behind bushes, public restrooms, on top of buildings, and anyone's living room floor I could manage to curl up on. I stole food from the bread racks of bakeries, stuffed peanut butter jars in my pants, and jumped in public fountains to scrounge up whatever change I could get before being caught. I hung out with a large group of other street kids. There were nights when I couldn't find any kids around and ended up cold and alone. I was 16 at the time.

I had quite a few interesting experiences. Mostly men offering me "opportunities", which I (Thank God) did not take. I did a lot of drugs during that time and met many people and I don't totally regret it. I think it made me a stronger person and gave me some "street sense", if you could call it that.

My Grandmother sent me a plane ticket to her home and I enrolled into school and graduated in my class year, so everything turned out okay for me. I have worked with kids and teens for awhile now and I think I can relate to a lot of them easier because of my own experience with being homeless.
Old 07-23-2002, 11:38 AM
Hamish is offline
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Montreal, Canada
Posts: 1,677
Never been there. But I have come really close. And I've had a few friends who've been there for extended periods of time.

When I was 18, I had to leave home. Frankly, my life was in danger there. So I ran away to Vancouver and moved in with my sister.

Neither of us had much money. After I lost my first job, I couldn't get welfare because of a technicality. For a few months, I was eating out of garbage cans and asking for change. I consider myself very lucky I still had a roof over my head, but I very nearly lost that as well.

I spent a week technically homeless in Montreal. I arrived Christmas Day 1995 here, and didn't have an apartment until New Year's Eve.

Never experienced the real thing, though. I've come close enough to know that all the rhetoric about "it being their own fault" is a bunch of bull. And since I have the experience of begging for change, I have a lot of sympathy for people who are out there, and usually give them whatever change I can spare -- and if I can't spare anything, I at least acknowledge their humanity by smiling and explaining things.

Montreal's homeless rate doubled in a decade. Toronto's tripled. I wrote an article on this back in my journalism-school days. My professor docked marks for "not showing the other side -- the people who are homeless because they're too lazy to get a job." I felt like crying
Old 07-23-2002, 12:12 PM
CrankyAsAnOldMan is offline
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Posts: 8,578
This thread makes me cry. I think the comment from Annie about never forgetting the guy who bought her two sandwiches and a breakfast special. God, such a small thing, yet something most people wouldn't even do.
Old 07-24-2002, 12:46 AM
MannyL is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 2,700
If I didn't have such kind and understanding parents (although they get on my nerves often and I on theirs) I would be homless now at 28. I love them for how much they help me, but yet I can't tell them that.
Old 07-24-2002, 02:24 AM
WV_Woman is offline
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 825
I will never complain when we have to repair something in my house again.
Old 07-24-2002, 03:26 AM
Seven is offline
Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 4,124
When I was about 16 my father had to leave town for an extended period of time. I moved in with my mother.

That didn't go so hot. She was having some really tough times and took most of it out on me.

I ended up on the streets for the sole reason of getting away from her.

I spend most of my time in the University area of Seattle. At least half the people I knew were all in the same boat so there was plenty of support. The other half had homes and I spent what time I could sleeping on their floors.

If there wasn't a floor handy, I'd sleep on the roof of a building I knew that was quite secure. Only one way up and it wasn't easy.

There were also a handful of good parks prime for summer sleeping.

I got food several ways. There was a pizza place that used to sell by the slice. If the slice sat around for too long they'd take it from the warmer and put it in a to-go box. At the end of the night when they closed they set this box outside in the back ally for the homeless. They were a real life saver.

We used to dumpster out of McDonnalds. They would throw away a huge number of perfectly good hamburgers. Then one day someone took a bite of one and got a mouthful of bleach. They started saving all the old burgers and fries and giving them a sprinke of bleach or some cleaner so we couldn't eat them.

There was also a store that used to get their bakery delivery around 3am. Everything was placed in an unlocked outside bin. That was pretty popular.

I got money several ways. "Spare change" was popular. At the time punk rock was just getting it's hold on Seattle so here we were a bunch of dirty homeless punks that the rich girls who attended the Private Catholic school couldn't resist. They were always offering out cash donations to us. 5 bucks here, 10 there. Also, their parents seemed to leave town alot, which allowed us to crash at their homes, eat food, shower, soak in their hot tubs, get a little nookie, whatever.

We also discovered paper boxes. We found if you tipped this one kind of paper box backwards and flipped it up real quick, quaters fell from the coin return slot. Two or three tips of a paper box would empty it. The city was covered in these boxes and we'd walk for miles tipping every paper box we'd come across. We could get 15-20 bucks in quarters an hour on a good night.

I lived this way on and off for 2 years. Sometimes I go home and try to deal with my mother and brother, but that only lasted for a few days. I had managed to collect a number of musical items and I stored those at my mothers. So normally returning included playing music.

Then my dad came back to town and rescused me. Not long after I managed to get a job (you can't get or keep a job very well when you don't have a regular home) and score my own place. Well, a room in the basement of a house right next to the furnace.

50% of those days were fine, and dare I say alot of fun. It was like a vacation from life. We always managed to find something to eat. But then the other 50% was cold and wet and hungry. The nights when I was alone and it was cold were the worse. You kind of hope someone kills you in your sleep so you don't have another day like that again.

I couldn't have made it without all my friends who were in the same boat.

I should include my mother is much better now. She got over whatever she was going through and we have a pretty good relationship now. Not super close, but not weird and dysfunctional either.
Old 08-13-2002, 08:01 PM
Earthling is offline
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Up a creek with no paddle
Posts: 1,376
Originally posted by Zenster
To this day, when I am able to tell that someone is in a bad way and doing something to get out of their situation, I will give them some bucks.
Many, many of the homeless I have seen are far too busy trying to put one over on people and scam them to actually want to get out of their rut. I have lost almost every iota of sympathy for those types.
I hope this question doesn't come across as being insensitive, but how can one tell the difference? Just to be clear, I am willing to help -- and have helped -- those in need, but most recently I encountered a case that wasn't so clear-cut, and ended up turning the person away.
Old 08-14-2002, 02:53 AM
Triskadecamus is offline
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: I'm coming back, now.
Posts: 7,428
You can't tell the difference.

For all you know, the homeless person is panhandling because he likes being filthy, cold, lonely, and hungry. He might even be as totally insane as I was, all those years ago.

Some people gave me money, in those dreadful days. It didn't cure me, or get me a home, or a job. It got me food. It got me a subway ticket so I could spend the day out of the freezing cold. I wasn't all that grateful, either. I barely remember them, or any other specific thing that happened for those horrible fourteen months.

It isn't unlikely that an alcoholic homeless person is going to take your spare change and the spare change of a few other suckers and buy bottle of wine. He probably won't even get a good price on it, since he isn't allowed to go into stores that have reasonable prices.

Deal with your need to know what your money is going to do. Buy a few sandwiches, and give those away, if it matters to you. It might well not matter to him. But it isn't true that all homeless people are addicted to anything at all. Some just got downsized, and their lease expired. Suddenly they had no address, and no way to get a job. A week later, someone stole the stuff they had in their car, and two months later, the car was towed away for having expired tags. And now they have to sleep in parks, and they get arrested for it.

I recently went to The DC Lunch Bunch (a doper gathering) meeting. Across the street from the sandwich shop where we ate is Mcphereson Square. I lived there once. It's a much nicer neighborhood, now, so I wouldn't be allowed to live there anymore. I would get chased away to live in a neighborhood with fewer rich people.

Old 08-14-2002, 02:58 AM
Triskadecamus is offline
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: I'm coming back, now.
Posts: 7,428
Looking for a Good Spot
By Michael Kadel

I will sit here, for a bit, and rest.
No one seems to be about.
I wish for a soft spot out of the wind.
The best places are taken, or the cops keep you away.

I will sit here for a bit, and rest.
Although I cannot sleep now,
I have to wait until it's warmer,
And I won't die before I wake, with no one for my soul to take.

As I rest, I will make plans,
To find a good spot for later.
Near a fancy restaurant,
Where they throw a lot of food away, before it spoils.

I miss the baby most of all.
But I have nothing for her.
I think she will be all right.
People take care of babies, just because they need it.

Here comes a cop.
He's not looking at me.
I think I will move, anyway.
They always notice if you are still in the same place, later.

I can find another place.
This one was too open.
I should find a place to sleep.
In case I die before I wake, with no one for my soul to take.
Old 08-14-2002, 04:46 AM
non-native is offline
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: State College, PA
Posts: 280
I'm pretty muched awed by many of the posts here. Probably the most humbling thread i've read in the SDMB. Under the most of the conditions described here, i probably would've ran to mommy. For many of you, it probably wasn't an option.

How do you react when you meet a homeless person now? Do you take an extra step to help them?

People have said this in previous posts, but i've gained a new respect for those who have endured and escaped from vagrancy.
Old 08-19-2002, 02:49 AM
Triskadecamus is offline
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: I'm coming back, now.
Posts: 7,428
Well, I don't spend a lot of time in the places where homeless people go, really. This is not a coincidence. I need to not be in those places, even now, twenty some years later. Of course, I do meet homeless people, sometimes. I end up with some of them in my home, once in a great while. Not usually, though.

I will get a meal, for a homeless person, if they tell me that they want money for food. I mean buy a meal, now, to go, if they want, or need it to be to go. During the meal I generally try to find out what their situation is. Not what their story is, I remember the story, and the story was not about getting off the street, in my case.

I said above that you can't tell. The folks here who have lived on the street probably can tell. For some, the meal is all I can do. For some, I still have (or can get) the same information I used to trade for food and coffee from hookers, and runaways. Real steps, starting this afternoon, or tomorrow morning, with addresses and names of people to talk to. That information is tough to keep current. If you don't have the real facts, in simple steps, that are current, and still funded, you can't help much. Homeless people can't make thirty phone calls looking for the right bureaucrat. They can't call back for an appointment. They can't take a cab to the office.

Taking in homeless people? I don't recommend it. It might help them; it might not. They might do you harm, they probably won't. The chance of someone stealing something is pretty high. Since I don't own that much, I can do it a little safer than most. But I do it very seldom and mostly only after I know the person pretty well. That is the key. Homeless people have a lot of trouble keeping friends. They may not want to. But they need friends more than a lot of obvious needs. So, the big question comes up, aside from spare change, do you have any spare friendship?

A shower, a load of clothes washed and dried, and a night in a warm safe place, followed by breakfast is a gift beyond the riches of kings. It can change the way life looks. Or, it can be just a single comfortable night among a thousand nights of hell. That part isn't up to you.

It isn't about giving someone a lot of stuff, or money. It's about finding out what useful help you can give them. Yeah, here is the address and bus route to get to place where they hirer casual labor. (And you better know for damned sure that they are, in fact hiring tomorrow!) Sure, here is a bus schedule. You know what, my watch only cost me six bucks, why don't you take that, and set it for tomorrow morning at seven. Then you can catch the number 15 bus, and be there at Eight, when they open.

That was one guy's answer. It was a bad answer for anyone other than that guy. For him, it was a single first step, which he could not make on his own, without prompts. I don't know what happened to him. I didn't see him again, though, so I hope that means he made a few more steps on his own. But I can't hold him responsible for making good on my prompts. The decent thing to do is help our brother. The hard part is that it isn't always possible to give the help that works.



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