Sunday, December 7, 2014


You decided you’ve had enough of being harassed.
You are handing out tickets.
One neighbor received a ticket for false accusation.
A fellow homeless man received a ticket for verbal abuse.
A county worker received a citation for theft
after he took your camp and threw it away.
You charge each person 200 dollars for their offense.

No one shows up to court.
No one pays the fine.

Stuck with a Husband

Your husband is schizophrenic, but you will not leave him.
He may not survive without your help.
He screams at you for things you did not do.
You drag him to meals.
and find places for him to sleep.
You get him on disability,
but the social worker won't agree to make you his payee.
So he receives a check for six thousand dollars
which he spends on street drugs
and possessions he leaves by the side of the road.

Finally, you move to another city.
They give him a payee and
They give you a job and an apartment.
He leaves occasionally but you know he'll be back.
And that's okay.

(for Brenda)

Get a Job

Going on the bus to three different interviews.
No one calls you back for a job.
Exhausted, you decide to fly a sign
to get money for a meal.

Three people tell you, "Get a job."

Solid Meal

Walking miles and
waiting in line
for a bowl of soup
and wilted salad.

Told to leave immediately.


You sleep under a grove of trees in a park.
At night a feral cat visits you and you feed her.
You decide to set up a makeshift shelter
with food and water for her.
Another feral cat comes for the food and they fight.
So you guild another shelter for the second cat.
Then you build a third,
and a fourth,
and more for each cat that visits.

Soon, under your grove of trees,
you have a village of shelters
and a community of cats.

The River

You are camping by the River,
where no one bothers you all summer.
Your friends move away in fall,
saying that the River is going to rise.
You move your tent a little away from the River,
but not into town like the rest.
You like the quiet.
In the morning, you find that your tent is now on an island
And the River is rushing so hard you can't get to shore.

You're stuck there for three days
until the River is safe enough to wade.


You have spent two weeks in the hospital
after a severe heart attack.
You are barely able to walk
let alone ride your bike with all your sleeping gear.
But you are okay.
A police officer stops you and asks
What you are doing.
You begin to explain
but he doesn't want to hear you ramble.

He gives you a permanent exclusion from the city,
forcing you to ride 20 miles that day.

(Another strange but true story.  This friend of mine ended up coming to my house and resting for another week.)


You are walking down the street
and cut through a parking lot.
There is a backpack there
which you glance at, but don't pay much attention to.
A few minutes later, a police officer stops you.
He asks, "Why did you leave that backpack?"
"It isn't my backpack."
"Yes it is."
"No, it's not mine."
"Well, then, you won't mind if I go through it?"
"No.  It's not mine."
The police officer finds nothing of interest in the backpack.

He cites you for resisting an officer,
and gives you an exclusion from the city for thirty days.

(Strange but true story-- happened to a friend of mine.)


You have spent ten years in prison.
You've paid for your crime.
Your PO give you two months to get settled
but you weren't able to find a job in that time.
You end up on the street.
Friend let you build a shack on their land,
but the city forces them to tear it down
and to move you on.
A pastor offers you food in a park
but the city arrests him for giving food.
You can't get health care.
You can't find a bathroom to use at night.

You go to a police officer and ask,
"Can you put me back in prison?
I could survive there."


You are woken in the middle of the night in your camp
and given a 24-hour notice to vacate the area.
The next day you travel to a friend's camp
and your gear is stolen by someone while you go to a meal.
The next day you go to a church to get a sleeping bag and food;
You crash there and are told the next morning you aren't welcome.
The next day you sleep in the park;
The police tell you that you have to move on.

You ask them, "Where am I supposed to go?
Can you give me a location?"


It is freezing outside,
the middle of the night.
You arrive at a church which will be open for a breakfast
the next morning.
You see that a basement window is open
and decide that it won't do anyone any harm
to crawl in and get warm.
You wake up to the pastor, yelling,
"What are you doing here?"
You explain what you were thinking....

The pastor immediately calls the police
and you spend the day in jail.

Best Friend

You ask your best friend
to let you crash on her couch
for a little while
to help you get on your feet.
She won't let you,
"because of my kids..."

"I'm sure you understand."

How to End Up On the Street

How to end up on the street:

Lose your job.
Receive a no-cause eviction.
Your boyfriend kicks you out.
You become too depressed to function.
You are too sick to work.

And no one will help you.

Welcome to the street.
Now you are automatically a criminal. 

One Safe Place

You are mentally disabled.
You can keep in your mind one safe spot:
the doorway of a local church where you have slept for years.
One Sunday morning a member is there to clean up
and wakes you by screaming in your hear to leave.
You scream back and threaten them.
The police are called and you go to jail.

After jail, you return to the doorway.
Then you return to jail.
This cycle continues for months.
No one calls to get you into a home.

Dependable Meal

You can depend on one program:
A local church who has provided a meal twice a week for fifteen years.
They give away blankets, hand warmers, sack lunches, socks, references to other providers and kind words.

The neighbors call on the city to shut the church down.

(The church is in SE Portland.  Although there was a huge outcry against the program, it still continues to this day.)


You struggle all day to find a place to sleep.
Three hours after you drop off,
you are woken.
Someone is telling you to move on.

Get off the Street: Intruders

How to Get off the Street:

Intruders attack you regularly.
You decide to protect yourself with a knife.
The next intruders who assail you are the police.

You get shot.

(This happened to a man living in SE Portland this last summer.  He died.)

Get off the Street: No Entrance

How to Get off the Street:

The emergency overnight shelter won't let you come in with your dog.
Spend the night outside with your dog.

Die from hypothermia.

(This happened to a gal last winter in Portland.) 

Get of the Street: Get Beaten

How to get off the street:

Be beat up and burned half to death by local youth.

Spend the rest of your days fed by a tube,
going poop in a pan.

(One of the first homeless people I met ended up this way.  He slept on a couch and youth set the couch on fire.  I visited him, and he was completely immobile, and mostly unable to talk.)

Get off the Street: Disability

How to get off the street:
Allow street life to so damage you that you become physically incapable of living independently.
Receive disability.

Live in a foster care home.

(I know four people that this happened to.  One got an infection that he ended up with skin transplants.  Another literally broke his neck by stepping down a step.  Another was hit by a car and five bones were broken.  Another became so damaged by her drugs' effect on her mental health, she was placed into permanent housing, with someone watching over her.)

Get off the Street: Police

How to get off the street 3:

Be attacked by the police for sleeping outside.
If they don't kill you, you'll get into the hospital.
Sue for damages.

You'll get enough to rent an apartment for a year.

(I know of at least two people who got off the street in this way.  One was attacked by a police dog while he was in his tent, and another was a smallish woman tased four times by a man three times her size.  Both received a settlement enough to get them housing)

Get off the Street: Abused

How to get off the street 2:

Get into an abusive relationship
So you can call the Women's Crisis Line.
After a mere three months,
an abused women's shelter
will offer you housing there.

No abuse?
No housing. 

Get off the Street: Addiction

How to Get off the Street 1:

You become a drug addict
So you can ask for help
to get clean by a local agency.
They give you housing.

No addiction?
No housing.

Opportunity Knocks?

You are frustrated with your situation and with yourself.
You can't make enough money for a warm place to sleep
but you can afford a beer in the local tavern.
You nurse your beer as long as you can
and when closing comes, you clean up the tables,
in hopes that you might be able to stay inside for a while more.

The owner sees that you are hard working.
She offers you a job two nights a week
for fifty dollars a week.
You are overjoyed.

Get a Job

Getting off the street #1:
"Get a job"

No references.
No address.
No ID.
No daily shower.
No phone.
No recent work experience.

No job. 

Desperately Seeking

You desperately need to pee.
You can't go to a restaurant because "Customers Only".
The bathrooms in the park are closed for winter.
It's Sunday, so the public buildings are closed.
You urinate in a corner in an alley.
You are arrested for public indecency.

In the jail, you use the facilities
and finally get some relief.


Your good friend dies, completely unexpectedly.
A small group mourns his passing.
You pour out a beer onto the ground in memory of his passing.
You take on the responsibility of his dog.

That night, under the stars, you think of him.
as the dog breathes slowly, steadily,
keeping you warm.

The Listener

You are having a bad day.
You are frustrated at the dead ends
and people who take advantage of you.
You decide to go to a day shelter
just because you need a break.

Once you get there, someone wants to listen to you.
This hasn't happened for more than a month.
You rant for an hour, even yelling a bit.
They listen and sympathize.
You feel better.
A little.


You have been collecting cans all day.
You only made enough to buy cigarettes.
You are starving.
You go back to camp.

The person in the tent next to you has dumpster dived a pizza
and shares it with you.
You go to bed full and feel great.


A kind church allows you to sleep on their property.
After hours, a neighbor comes to verbally abuse you.
A mentally ill person rouses you and threatens you.
The police wake you and ask what you are doing there.

You decide it is safer to find another place.
Like the inside of a dumpster.


You phone all your family members for a place to crash for a time.
No one returns your calls.
You live on the street.
You are too needy.
Too uncomfortable to talk to.

Homeless nerd

You go to a library to read.
You find a favorite book and settle in a comfortable chair.
After a half hour you peacefully fall asleep.

A librarian wakes you rudely,
calls you "vagrant"
and demands that you leave immediately.


You go to the local shelter.
They have an eight month waiting list for a place to live.
They give you a lottery ticket for a bed that night
next to a man who hasn't showered for a month
except, perhaps with alcohol.

You sleep outside.  Again. 


When the average American sees a homeless person,
he sees an object, not a person;
he feels disgust and scorn.
This is why cities pick up the homeless and deposit them elsewhere.

The homeless are our human piles of garbage.

(based upon research by Dr. Susan Fiske)


It doesn't matter what race you are.
Nor what sex.
Nor what profession.
Nor what language you speak.
Nor what religion you are.
Everyone is equal on the streets.

Equally rejected by society.
Equally pitied in turn.

Local Church

Winter is early and cold this year.
The local churches take turns opening on the coldest, most ice-filled nights to give street folks shelter.
You go to the local church to get out of the snow for the night.

The church isn't open because, "it isn't safe for our volunteers to go outside."

Bitter December

It is December and the winds this year are bitter.
You and your friends huddle together, keeping as warm as you can.
One of your friends flies a sign near the freeway on Christmas Eve and receives a hundred dollars cash.
She gets a motel room and invites all of your to stay for a few nights.
Everyone gets a warm shower and a good day's sleep.

Your Friend Gets An Apartment

Your homeless friend gets an apartment and allows you to stay with him, although it's against the rules.
Later, he invites a few other friends to come over for a drink.
He can't ask them to leave, because they are on the street, and he has a warm place to live.
Neighbors complain about the noise, and the obnoxious attitudes of people.

Your friend is evicted and everyone is back on the street.