Today I have to renew my Tennessee ID card, then I have an appointment with my new therapist, and then I have to go pay my rent.
And this morning, there was no hot water. And no, I'm not gonna shower with winter's cold water. In a couple days, if the heater isn't fixed, I'll rethink that strategy. But for now, I've got Old Spice.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Today I have to renew my Tennessee ID card, then I have an appointment with my new therapist, and then I have to go pay my rent.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Last night I had dinner as a guest of a friend at Mambu, a "fancy" restaurant that I'd never been to before. Actually, I'd never been to a restaurant before that served courses. It was a fund raising event for the Harpeth River Watershed Association. Back in May, when the big Nashville flood hit, the Harpeth river flooded too. Among the debris left in the river after the flood were 3 entire houses. What funds came from the government for clean up were quickly exhausted. Yet the Harpeth is still a mess. They still need a lot of money and volunteers to get it cleaned up. Not only is the Harpeth an incredibly scenic river, it hosts some of the most diverse eco systems in the world. Needless to say, the river is worth saving.
So, there I was, at Mambu, tasting things my taste buds had never experienced before, and thinking how I'd never be able to eat at such a restaurant by my own volition. There was one guy working there who's sole responsibility was to select and sell wine. He and the bartender were discussing the infinite variations of vino. When it was my time to order, I was asked what I liked in a red wine. "Red is what I usually look for" is how I responded. I was just trying to make like of my ignorance about such matters. It amazes me that some people can actually make a good living being able to distinguish such variations. Sure, I can tell you the difference between Pepsi from a glass bottle versus a plastic one, versus a Mapco soda fountain. But no one would pay me for such advice.
No doubt the food was worth the money, about 50 bucks per person, and as much as I like food, that price just seems excessive for something that will eventually end up...elsewhere. Maybe when I win the lottery or sell my life story to a movie production company I'll think differently.
Anyway, this dinner experience last night got me thinking about my life and all the things I've done and have yet to do. If not for my good friend I never would have experienced eating at such a nice place.
Yeah, it's like I'm writing my "bucket list." I don't really like that term for it, but it is what it is. At 50 years of age I am becoming quiet aware of the limited time I have left to experience life. I am also becoming extremely aware that living the life that I have, being homeless and limited by my Asperger's Syndrome, I have missed out on the majority of experiences most people have enjoyed, and usually take for granted. Not to say my life hasn't been adventurous. But many of my adventures are the things that other people would not pursue for themselves, such as experiencing homelessness.
Most of the things I'd like to do now are beyond my current means, so something will have to change and in a drastic way if they are to ever happen. I really do want to travel to other countries, to see the museums of Europe and the country side of Asia, to visit the pyramids of Egypt and the ruins of Machu Picchu, to learn more about history, to get a college degree, to ride on a cruise ship, to visit Disney World, to smoke a Cuban cigar in Cuba, to see New York City and stay at the Chelsey Hotel,... the list is extensive.
Now, if I can just figure out how to get past next week.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Friday, January 28, 2011
It's funny how you can learn new things about yourself and your childhood, even at the age of 50.
Understanding certain things about my parents and my childhood has never come easily, as I was raised by my parents to believe that every bad that happened was my own fault. So, I always blamed myself. I lived with a lot of guilt because I thought I was always the guilty one.
It wasn't until my 30's that I was able to admit to myself that maybe my parents were not such great people.
It wasn't until my 40's until I was free enough from them to say to myaelf, "my father was an asshole."
But, it wasn't until last night that I admitted to myself something that should have been obvious all along - that my father was never affectionate towards me. I only remember him once attempting to hug me, and how uncomfortable that was for him. And once, he patted me on the back. That was forced too. The rest of the time he was too busy disapproving the things I did. Did he ever say, "I love you"? He may have, although I don't recall any time that he might have.
It's funny how only now do I understand this.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
It is a common enough theme. Occasionally, I get messages from people who want to deny what I tell about myself in my blog. I have seen them do the same towards others. There are a few schizophrenics who wander aimlessly around downtown Nashville, and once in a while someone, often other homeless people, will say, "oh, they're faking it." I always like to ask these casual observers exactly what their back ground is in the study of psychology. Interestingly enough, not one of them has ever claimed even a B.S. in the field.
There is a natural competitive side to humans. And in the past couple hundred years that competitiveness has been pushed to unhealthy extremes by things like the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism. Now at every turn, people are expected to put on a good front, show themselves as strong, and to hide every weakness. We now even accept that people will lie about their strengths and abilities, and we encourage people to deny their weaknesses. For one example, look at how people write their job resume's. Not only do people routinely embellish the truth about themselves, everyone who reads a job resume' automatically assumes a large portion of it is fictional. And doing so is all considered normal and correct behavior.
Because of this, many, if not most, people have come to fear honest disclosures, especially honest disclosures about weaknesses. They fear that it may set a precedent whereby they too will have to divulge their own shortcomings. To them, that much honesty is threatening. They cringe at any expression of imperfection. Even seeing someone with an obvious handicap upsets them.
Some headway has been made against prejudices towards the physically handicapped, but not so much for the mentally or emotionally injured, as it is much easier to deny that condition in others.
It is no wonder, then, that this blog, which is for me an exercise in extreme honestly, confessing every weakness and imperfection about myself, has been met with a great deal of opposition. Not only do the things I say here come under attack, but much of the vitriol is pointed directly at me. And, I am not the only one who suffers this. Any homeless person who has come forward, especially on the internet, about their homelessness, discussing their problems and what led to their homelessness, has suffered the same.
From my standpoint, those people who can be honest about themselves and can openly confess their weaknesses and imperfections are actually stronger and more courageous than those who cannot.
The purpose of this blog is to educate people about the realities of homelessness, its causes and potential cures. The only way for me to do that is to be completely honest about myself, exposing everything, the good and the bad. Anything less than that would cause it to fall short of that goal. If this blog, and what I write here bothers you, don't blame me. Take a look at yourself.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
For elementary school, I attended Sequoia Elementary School.
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For junior high, I attended what was then called Einstein Junior High. It is now named for the owner of McDonalds, Ray A Croc Middle School (Ray was a San Diegan).
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Senior High was first at Madison High School
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But I got into some trouble there my first year, and was then sent to Kearny High School for the remainder of my public education.
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I was married to Nancy for 6 years. I did everything I could to please her, but it wasn't enough. I don't blame her anymore, as I know how difficult it was for her to live with me. And, I don't blame myself anymore, because now I know that it was Aspergers that caused me to behave in a way that pushed people away from me. She wasn't happy in our marriage and in her own way made herself difficult to get along with too, although just to me. But I wasn't going to let go of her that easily. I could not put it into words at the time, but I knew that without her my life would be over, and I would be homeless again, and alone. And being alone again scared me more than anything. Yet, in the Summer of 1995 she said the one thing that broke the camel's back. "If we could afford to get a divorce, I would divorce you right now," it still echoes in my head today. So, one night at the end of that Summer, I tucked my children into bed, kissed them each on the forehead, told them I loved them, then waited till everyone was asleep. I wrote a "Dear Nancy" letter, taped it to the lampshade in the living room, then quietly walked out to my car and drove away.
On December 15th 1995 Nancy and I went before a judge and made our divorce final. I tried as best I could to keep it together. I got my old job back, found myself an apartment, but in a short amount of time I was homeless again, back to living at the rescue mission.
That was such a long time ago, but it might as well have been yesterday. Cam was 6 years old, Sara was 3. Cam is now living on his own, and Sara will soon graduate high school.
Sara recently friended me on Facebook, and the first thing I did was to look at all the pictures she has posted. The pictures show her growing up, all the growing up that I missed because i wasn't there. Oh, I wanted to be there, but circumstances would not allow it.
And then I saw this picture, and I cried. It is of Cam and Sara closest to the age they were when I left. There is nothing I miss more in this world, than being their Daddy. This is my favorite picture of all, it breaks my heart every time I see it.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
I just read that Ted Williams left rehab. More than likely he has relapsed, but maybe not. Still, he was in rehab for only two weeks, which is not enough time to overcome addictions.
All the attention he has received could have been too stressful. The sudden drop in attention could also have triggered stress. Extreme changes in one's life can be difficult for anyone, let alone someone with such a debilitating condition as addiction.
I worry that people will now give up on Ted and his attempts to rehabilitate. And I am certain that some people will use this as an example that proves helping the homeless is futile. But, that's just not true. Many addicts relapse, and many relapse many times. Still, each attempt at overcoming this problem is a step forward. Getting over addictions is a long and difficult process, even for the strongest of us.
Sure, the signs were there from the beginning that he was going to have a rough go of it. When he said he had been clean for 2 years, I knew that wasn't true. And that lack of honesty, though expected of addicts, was certain to be a stumbling block for him.
If Dr Phil really is any kind of a man, he will find Ted, this time without cameras tagging along, and will talk Ted back into rehab.
Some people are bewildered by the existence of fat homeless people. They just don't understand how this could be. Of course most people asking that question are usually insinuating something negative about homeless people, but I'll not address that here. Others are just so far behind the times that when they think of homeless, they think of 1940s poverty and John Steinbeck's, "The Grapes of Wrath." Instead of addressing those misconceptions, I'll only provide information about what contributes to weight problems for homeless people.
Homeless People Are Fat Before They Become Homeless
If someone was fat before becoming homeless, more than likely they will continue to be fat while being homeless. So, we have a lot of overweight people in this country. And with a certain percentage of them becoming homeless, no doubt some homeless people will be fat. Losing weight takes a long time, even when on a diet. And, rent being so high these days, and landlords being less than lenient, it usually takes less time to lose the ability to pay your rent or mortgage and be evicted than it does to lose your excess weight.
Most Food Provided To Homeless People Contributes To Weight Gain
Look at the food given to homeless people. It's usually cheap and easy to prepare. There are a lot of bad things there, like bread and pasta and fried chicken and spaghetti and lasagna, all which contributes to weight gain and a pot belly. Chips, crackers, soda are not healthy food either. They contribute little or nothing of nutritional value, and often leave a person even more hungry than they were before. Many people give fast food gift certificates to the homeless, even I recommend doing so (but only because of circumstances), yet we all know how fast food contributes to weight gain and overall unhealthy people. Fast food is the cheapest of all, and when conserving money, a fat greasy burger may be the best if only option.
The Living Conditions Of Homelessness Contribute To Weight Gain
Whether staying in a shelter or in a city alley, sleep deprivation is common. It is easy to image how difficult it is to get sleep outside in a city, but most if not all rescue missions purposely make conditions unpleasant as well, believing that comfort inspires people to stay homeless. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, but people running shelters are not usually the smartest. And homeless life is stressful, whether you stay on the streets or in a shelter. Both locations are dangerous and difficult to negotiate without getting into trouble, or getting hurt. And people naturally compensate for stress by eating more. The availability of food also fluctuates. Food can be plentiful on the streets, and then without warning, food will become scarce. This too can negatively effect one's metabolism. In cities like Nashville, two meals or more a day are almost guaranteed. But in other cities, one meal a day is the best homeless people can expect.
Anyway, sleep deprivation causes weight gain by slowing down metabolism. And many people react to stressful situations in life by overeating. So, their appetite increases. With an increased feeling of hunger due to the stress of being homeless, combined with a slowed metabolism due to sleep deprivation and other factors, and the only food available is unhealthy fatty foods, gaining weight should be obvious and expected.
Intelligence Plays A Role In Good Decisions
That may sound like a no brainer. (pun intended) Although you can find people of every intellectual and educational level among homeless people, many of the homeless are under educated and have under average intelligence. When they are given an opportunity to control what they eat, they do not often go for healthy foods. When they get food stamps and other subsidies they are likely to choose candy and sodas over fruits and vegetables. Nutritional education would help these folks, but such things are not always available to homeless people. Personally, I do believe there should be more restrictions on what people can buy with food stamps and the like, as a way of circumventing this problem. Still, it is easy enough to sell the value of food stamps for cash, so such restrictions would have a limited effect.
The only things in homelessness that could lead to weight loss are drug and alcohol addictions. Other than that, you will find most homeless people maintaining the weight level they had before becoming homeless, or actually gaining weight.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Well, it took nearly 30 years to figure it out. But I have. And I am very glad for having discovered why.
Homelessness is never caused by just one thing, but always a combination of events and situations. It is the proverbial "perfect storm."
For me, the storm began at birth with a combination birth defects. The lessor was problem was that I have a small but noticeable amount of scoliosis, curvature of the spin. The more problematic "defect" (although the word "defect" is most likely the wrong description, I use it for expedience) is that I have a condition called Asperger's Syndrome. Asperger's is now classified as a type of high functioning autism. But it was all but unknown back when I was born. So, the problems I had that were a result of Asperger's were misunderstood by my family. They believed that the problems I was having, the difficulties I was having in school, and the difficulties I had socializing with people were due to flaws in my character. I had a hard time focusing on things like school work, and I failed miserably at activities like sports. So, my parents accused me of being undisciplined, and lazy. I knew those labels were inaccurate, and did not address the real source of my problems. Because of my Asperger's, I could not communicate to my parents, or anyone else, what was really going on. I had no vocabulary to express what I was feeling. So, because my parents incorrectly diagnosed my problem, the course of action they took to "correct" my problems was also the wrong thing to do, it only exacerbated my problems. Instead of being empathetic, understanding and encouraging, my parents set out on a course of long term punishments, and chastisments, criticizing every thing I did, thinking that doing so would inspire me to be better. Since children naturally desire their parents approval, that tactic might have some positive effect. But my parents did not use this tactic correctly. They fell into a pattern that still exists today. No matter what I did, no matter how well I did it, my parents looked only on the negative aspects and criticized me for them, never giving recognition to the good things I had done. This had some very negative effects that continue with me today. Having Asperger's alone will make a person depressed, but with the added continue disapproval of my parents only added to my depression. It also caused me to develop a belief that I could not do anything right, and that every thing that went wrong was my fault.
So, with the combination of struggling with Aperger's, and lacking in any confidence, lacking any belief in my abilities to succeed, having absolutely no moral support from family, and having no friends due to Aspergers, suffering from depression to the extent of attempting suicide on more than one occasion, there really was no other course for my life except to become homeless. All it took was the last little push by my family, to leave the house (they decided that when I turned 21 I would no longer be allowed to live at home), and so within a couple months of attempting and failing badly, at living on my own, I was homeless.
There was one chance of bonding with my father, and that would have been through sports, as my other brother had. But because of my spinal deformity, and the clumsiness that is part of Aspergers, I did not succeed at sports either. Because of my ability to perform satisfactorily at any task that was important to my father, he emotionally abandoned me at an early age. My mother had emotional issues of her own, suffering from depression herself, to be of any help. She refused to discuss any topic of importance beyond the weather. Additionally, my parents, especially my mother, saw any kind of expressed opinion, or disagreement, as an act of disrespect on my part. So I was discouraged from expressing myself, especially of matter of importance to myself.
I remember, of all the competitive things my father involved himself with, he was lousy at the game of chess. And when at the age of 14, I beat him at the game for the first time, he was stunned. But instead of congratulating me for my success, he said nothing, and never would play chess with me again. This taught me a very bad lesson about the cost of being successful. I was punished for not being successful, I was punished for being successful. Is it any surprise that I've been fairly unsuccessful in life? I still carry a lot of resentment towards them for the way they treated me, and raised me. It is a heavy burden.
With every case of homelessness you will find a combination of a personal problem and a negative reaction to that problem from friends and family. It is never just drug addiction, or just mental illness that causes homelessness. But throw in a heavy dose of reject and mistreatment for those problems, and you will have a homeless person.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
It surprises me how negative I can be. It's not just that I don't pay attention to my negativity, but I don't perceive the things I do and say as negative. Most people don't say anything, but I find them avoiding me, and that has got to be a lot of the reason why. But sometimes people do comment on it, and I'm taken aback. "Really? You really think what I said was negative? You have no idea just how negative I can really be," I say to myself. And I thought was being nice, or insightful, or at least honest. But all that others see is the negativity of it. Regardless of what truth may be within my words, if said in a negative way, or in a negative tone, people tune it out, they won't listen. Having a negativity awareness deficiency is something I have to overcome if the quality of my life is to improve. I have been working on it for some time. Progress is slow going.
Friday, January 21, 2011
(sometimes this post doesn't load well on the first try because of the maps. just refresh the page once and it will be fine. thanks)
At times like these, whatever "these" is, it is good to step back, take a look at the big picture, and recap.
But first, let me get some tea on to boil. brb
Ok, to start with, this is where I was born.
I was born on January 5th 1961 at the Chula Vista Community Hospital. For those who don't know, Chula Vista is a small town just south of San Diego. From a look at maps.google.com, the building appears to now be a nursing home.
View collingwoood manor nursing facility in a larger map
From there I was taken home. It was a little cottage near the interstate with a clear view of the airport and close to where my father worked.
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Now, it's been a long time since I'd seen the home movies, but I recall that we lived on a corner, which would be this empty lot here. But according to maps.google that house on the right corresponds with the address on my birth certificate. I don't talk to my parents so there's no way to confirm which it is, but it's one of the two in the picture. Although I was just a toddler when we left this location, I still have memories of standing on a couch and watching through a window as the planes landed.
Then we moved to Jutland Drive.
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We stayed here until my father bought his first house. I was 4 years old then, and I still remember what it looked like before we moved in. I actually remember going with my parents to the sales office where they finished the deal. Afterwards we drove back to the house dad just bought and saw that a realtor was inside it showing the house to other people. My father couldn't resist going inside to tell them that the place was now his. Then we drove back to Jutland Drive to start packing. A day or two later, while dad was at work, and my brother at school, my mother and I had Jack-In-The-Box for lunch on the floor of what was to be my bedroom. It was just the two of us, mom telling me that I now had a bedroom of my own. The sun was streaming through my window onto the floor around us. The rest of the world did not exist. I think that was the best moment I ever had with my mother.
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I lived here with my parents, until finishing high school. It looks better now than it ever did when we were there.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
From all that I have seen and experienced, the best way to avoid homelessness is to surround yourself with people who love and care about you. And you do that by being someone who loves and cares about others. In times of trouble, and yes, we all can face difficulties in life that could completely destroy our lives, we need caring and loving people to help us though them. Without such people in your life, you are at a much greater risk of becoming homeless.
Having people in your life who are loving and caring isn't always an easy thing to achieve. Many factors are involved, it isn't easy to just up and change your personality, and patterns of behavior, and all the other things that effect how people respond to you. But, if you think you could ever become homeless, then this is the area of your life you should work on the most.
I have received many emails over the years from people asking this question: "how to I avoid becoming homeless." They find themselves facing homelessness and don't know what to do. Sadly, at the point when you realize that you are on a path to homelessness, it's usually too late to do anything about it. If you've been unemployed for a while, and have received an eviction notice, have tapped out all your resources, you have no one to turn to for help, more than likely you will become homeless.
To avoid being evicted from your home, the best thing you can do is to stay in communication with your landlord. Keep them constantly appraised of your financial situation, and though you may have very little money, always give them the majority of it. If they are willing to accept a partial payment from you, then you are in a good situation. It is not easy to come back from being behind on rent because you find yourself, in essence, having to pay twice as much, if not more, than you originally bargained for when you first moved in. Suggest to your landlord a repayment schedule that will get you caught up with your rent in a fair amount of time.
Be willing to humble yourself to ask family and friends for financial help. Just be very careful about this, because if you get yourself into a financial mess with them, they just might end up disowning you. If you do get a loan from anyone, stay in constant communication with them as well, so to reassure them that they will get paid back and in a timely manner. And actually repay them, don't keep blowing them off. They won't put up with it for as long as you might think.
You can try going to local churches for financial help, but don't expect much, if anything, from them. Despite what you may know of the Christian faith, most churches either can't, or won't give money to a complete stranger, especially in amounts that would actually help cover rent and utilities. What funds they may have, they will want to save for the needs of their own congregation. So, yeah. If you the kind of person who is vulnerable to homelessness, it would be a good thing to become a member of a church. But, this goes back to surrounding yourself with people who love and care for you.
Most city governments have funds available to help people with rent and utilities in emergency situations. Qualifying isn't always easy, and requires jumping through many hoops. But if it saves you from becoming homeless, it's worth it. Unemployment Insurance can help, but you will only get a fraction of the monthly income you were used to, and it usually takes many weeks for the first check to arrive, once you have qualified. And those checks will not keep coming indefinitely. The same is true with food stamps. Although food stamp benefits come in one monthly lump, it usually amounts to only 1 dollar per meal. If you spend any more than that, be ready to go hungry before the end of the month.
Monday, January 17, 2011
I want more readers. What can I do to make this blog better? What should I do here to get you to come back more often, and to get you to share this blog with others? All suggestions are welcomed and will receive a reply. Email me at thehomelessguy at gmail.com Thanks!
I'll get back to my post on Homeless Alcoholics shortly. But, I wanted to mention something since it is a current event. As you know from another recent post, my next door neighbor was killed in a fight. He was cut in the leg with a knife and quickly bled to death.
It is sad that he died that way, but no one was surprised by this turn of events. This guy was not stable, had serious mental health issues, was a violent drunk, and was drunk most of the time. And so too were many of the people he invited over to his place. As you can imagine, it was not pleasant living next to him. He and his friends made loud noises at all times of day and night. I complained to the management of the facility to no avail. Management's message to me was basically, "learn to live with it." So, to drown out the noise I had to make noise of my own. I'd turn on the A/C or heater and crank up the fan. The white noise from that helped some. During the day I'd also put on head phones to make my own music louder than the crap they were listening to. My next door neighbor also though he was a musician and would play an electric guitar with amplifier. This guy and his friends would also get into fights and yell and cuss and generally make a racket. Sometimes they would go elsewhere to party, but then they'd all come back over here, sometimes 3 or 4 in the morning and wake everyone up.
Well, now this guy is dead. Eventually, management will move someone else in. Hopefully the next tenant won't be so noisy. Still, the next one could be worse. As bad as this guy was, they guy in the unit before him was actually worse. I don't quite understand it, but for some reason, management likes putting the rowdiest people in the units around mine. It makes me think they are trying to drive me out of here.
Another turn of events that has helped create some quiet around here is that the guy who lived on the other side of the man who was murdered was also a noise maker. He would also drink heavily. Sometimes I'd catch him sitting out front of his apartment with a large glass of beer at sunrise. By mid day he would be hollering at the women in the near by parking lot. After dark he would start howling and barking at the moon, literally howling and barking as loud as he could. This guy would also crank up his radio loud enough to be heard a city block and a half away. When other people came to talk with him, he's ghetto it up with loud and foul and obnoxious language about women and how he would kick someone's ass or how no one was ever getting one over on him, etc. If the one neighbor wasn't making a racket, the other one was, and sometimes they'd start up together. Eventually they'd get to drinking and would eventually wind up having a fight of some kind. Well this other neighbor hadn't been around for a few weeks, and someone in the building complex speculated that he had gone to jail for something. Today, I witnessed someone moving this guy's stuff out of the apartment.
So, the two rowdiest and rudest neighbors of mine are gone, and for good. That is certainly relieving the stress of living here - by at least two thirds. There is one other neighbor who can stir things up, though I have a hard time making an issue of it, it doesn't seem to be his fault. For him I really feel sorry. This guy is in constant conversations, and sometimes argues, with people who don't really exist. He too can crank up the noise. Often I'll be awaken in the middle of the night by his yelling - begging for his visions to leave him alone. Still, for the past few days even this guy has been mysteriously quiet. Heck, he might not even be home. Or, perhaps someone has gotten him back on medication. Whatever the reason, I know that I'm enjoying the quietest time I've ever had in this apartment. I only hope it lasts a while.
Friday, January 14, 2011
The most troubling and most misunderstood of all homeless people are homeless alcoholics. So much so, that they should be considered a different type of social problem, beyond that of merely homeless.
Alcohol in any measure has the effect of reducing a person's natural inhibitions. That is why the behavior of an alcoholic is often erratic and unpredictable. Whatever emotions a person is harboring will quickly come to the surface when drinking. Most homeless people deal with anger issues, and so it is not uncommon for the homeless alcoholic to become violent when drinking.
Given this behavior of homeless alcoholics, it is no wonder that few if any people ever attempt to get close enough to understand them. But, what contributes more to the misunderstanding is that alcoholic homeless people themselves are deceptive and dishonest about their condition. Certainly, everyone has secrets and complete honesty by anyone is hardly found, but with homeless alcoholics dishonesty and deception are taken to absurd levels.
With people unwilling to learn about homeless alcoholics and homeless alcoholics not wanting to be understood, it is no wonder very little progress has been made in dealing with, and ending, this type of homelessness.
I recall seeing a film in elementary school that discussed homeless people. This filmed labeled homeless alcoholics as "survivors," but to me they did not appear to have survived anything, but were overcome by their circumstances, their lives were completely destroyed. I was too young to understand the many meanings that could be derived from that word. Now that I think about it, the film was using the label "survivor" to indicate that these people were surviving from one day to the next, and that there wasn't much else to their existence other than surviving. When throwing around the word "survivor," it is important to be clear which meaning of the word you are applying. I think you can rightly use the word in describing homeless alcoholics, but only in a narrow context.
They lost everything
Except for rare cases, the homeless alcoholic has lost everything he or she ever had. The job is usually the first to go, then family then house and every other possession. All of it has been squandered in pursuit of the next drink. For many homeless alcoholics, this kind of loss is more devastating than they can deal with, they commit suicide. Those who don't could be labeled "survivors," for that fact as well.
There is a significant change in the mind, and perhaps even in the soul, of a homeless alcoholic, when they have completely bottomed out and have lost everything. Instead of fighting against alcoholism, they turn and embrace it. They allow it to become the cornerstone of their existence. Alcoholism becomes their guiding force. Their entire life's focus shifts from battling alcohol to battling every obstacle between themselves and alcohol.
Everything a homeless alcoholic does, and I mean literally everything, is a means towards the one goal of obtaining alcohol. When they wake up in the morning and get out of bed it's done for the sole purpose of finding and drinking alcohol. If they stop first to eat breakfast it's done so to have the energy necessary for going out and finding alcohol. When they stop and chat up another person, making friends with them, it's done so only because he believes this person will help him in his quest for alcohol. If a person does not fit into the homeless alcoholics scheme of getting alcohol, the alcoholic will not bother with him. Because he has already sacrificed everything he's ever cared about to alcohol, this homeless alcoholic has no qualms about sacrificing anything else, or anyone else, that comes his way.
With everything calculated towards the goal of more drink, the homeless alcoholic soon develops a shtick, a method of talking to people to help him achieve his goal. With time and practice this shtick is developed and refined to meet the different people and situations the homeless alcoholic will meet during the day. It is all geared toward either enticing or provoking people into being accomplices in his effort to attain alcohol.
Panhandling is the foundation of a homeless alcoholic's career - obtaining money from anyone so to pay for alcohol. And it's from this foundation that all other skills are developed. Panhandling is not limited to strangers on city streets. They will bum money from anyone if they can get away with it, friends, family, clergy, homeless outreach workers, cops, truly anyone. In a city like Nashville, that is both a college and tourist town, homeless alcoholics are exceptionally successful at panhandling. Yes, I understand that by posting this for the entire world to see, I may very well be encouraging other homeless alcoholics to come to Nashville. Well, I'm not going to let that deter me from telling the truth of the situation. Hopefully, this will instead provoke city leaders to take a more active roll in finding solutions to this problem. Panhandling can take on many forms, from the long drawn out story sob story, to the blunt "why lie, need beer." Whatever tactic works best to achieve the goal, given the ever changing situation of the street, is what the homeless alcoholic will apply. The motivation to feed their addiction makes them very creative and adaptive.
Being Your Friend
................................(to be continued)..........
Thursday, January 13, 2011
David was always displaying signs in his front window,
messages to the world about himself.
According to the news, he was out with some friends, got into a fight, was stabbed in the leg and bled to death before an ambulance could get there. http://www.police.nashville.org/news/media/2011/01/12.htm
Addendum: (Jan 14th) Last night about 10pm a couple people whom David was with the night he was murdered, came by his apartment. Somehow they had a key to his place, and they began going through his things, attempting to take his few valuables - that is, until some alert neighbors confronted them, and stopped them from taking anything. And these neighbors stood by until the intruders left. The police were called, but they never showed up.
I've been meaning to write a couple "thank yous" to the people who threw me a birthday party. Nathan Baker was the instigator of the whole thing, he has extended himself to me as a friend since we first met. When I struggle with some of the day to day realities of my homeless experience, he is there to help me through it.
He met up recently with a young lady who just happened to be employed as an event coordinator with Dandy Lion Events, so she came along and decorated and made party favors and ordered the fantastic birthday cake, and was fun to have around. This is where she works ~ dandylionevents.com
And this is the fantastic cake that was incredibly tasty:
crumb de la crumb
And of course my thanks most of all, to those people who came to celebrate with me, on my 50th birthday.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Starting the first of this year, I put myself on a new diet. It is not so much a plan to eat less as it is a plan to eat better, a plan to eat healthier foods, and to eliminate certain foods that are bad for me.
Right off the top, I've decided to drastically reduce my gluten intake, if not remove it all together from my diet. For those who don't know, gluten is the part of wheat that is not so good for your digestive tract and is known to cause potbellyness. Except for a couple of bumps due to birthday celebrating, I have been gluten free. By the way, it really doesn't help New Year's Resolutions having a birthday in early January. Just as soon as you get started, you find an easy excuse to break your resolutions. Anyway, now that the birthday bash is over, I'm back on the diet.
I've also decided to completely remove high fructose corn syrup from my diet, and again, except for the birthdayness, I haven't had any. I actually don't crave sweets like I thought I would.
The other main item I've removed from my diet is soda, and that I've actually kept up with. I've been drinking more tea, and on my birthday, I had a big fat glass of Dos XX beer. But the soda, that's something I am really craving. I think about it all the time. I don't have any in the house so all I have to do is stay away from the store and I'll be ok. hmmm.
I have also make it a point to no longer eat at fast food restaurants. Let me tell you about fast food places like McDonalds. When a person is homeless, McDonalds becomes a welcome shelter from the weather, a source of extremely inexpensive food and drink, and over time it becomes a place of familiarity, a place to belong when you don't really belong anywhere. Also, for myself, McDonalds had become a dependable source of internet access. luckily I can get wifi from the businesses near my home, so I can just stay home and avoid McDonalds all together. Still, I miss no going there. Many of the employees at both McDonalds I frequented knew me well enough to predict my order before I said a word. They all knew that I didn't want pickles on my McDoubles. They also knew that when I showed up, more than likely I wasn't going to leave until they made me leave, which was often past closing time.
I'm not eating any less than I was before, I'm just getting full on other things, although it's kinda hard to create that full feeling without bread and pasta and such. Now, instead of grabbing some M&Ms, I dig into an avocado, instead of drinking a 2 liter (or more) of Dr Pepper every day, I drink water and occasionally some tea. A friend and reader of this blog recently sent me a case of canned Salmon. It's already gone, but wow, that's some tasty food, and healthy too.
Although a gluten free diet means no more spaghetti noodles, that doesn't mean you can't have the rest of your normal spaghetti ingredients. Several times I have browned up some ground beef, poured some Ragu on top if it along with a tad bit of salsa for flavor, and then mixed in a whole can of green beans to replace the noodles. Keep cooking till the green beans are tender, and wow, that stuff is filling and good tasting.
With the extremely cold weather, I haven't been getting out much so to exercise, but that will be next. Exercise will keep me distracted longer so that I won't think about food so much, and will help to increase my metabolism. Then we will hopefully be seeing more drastic weight loss.
By the way, I did not weigh myself when I started this diet, but I did take some lovely "before" pictures. If I am able to drop several clothes sizes, I will post side by side before and after shots of myself.
Mentally, I'm feeling more alert, and thinking more clearly than before the diet, that in itself is a good thing. And I'm not so depressed as I usually am, although with the cold weather cabin fever is a concern.
I will make a special page here for my diet posting, as it really doesn't have anything to do with homelessness. Still it is important to keep track of, hopefully I can do so in blog posts.
I have begun a new page on this blog listing names, phone numbers, websites, etc., of the homeless service providers in Nashville. Either click on the link entitled "Nashville" in the page header, or click on http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com/p/nashville.html
Monday, January 10, 2011
I have recently rewritten this blog post, hopefully with more clarity. You can find it at
There is only one path to homelessness, but there are many reasons why it happens. And the differences in those reasons are very important, they are more important than the cause itself.
The Difference between How and Why
Let me digress for just a moment here. The difference between "how" a person became homeless, and "why" they became homeless is important to consider. Often, people confuse those two words, they use them interchangeably. I think this is perhaps the biggest reason why people become confused about homelessness, about why it exists, and what can or should be done about it. In short, "how" describes only the process of becoming homeless, the steps taken. "Why" is what we consider when determining the reasons something happened, why a person ended up on that path to homelessness.
Though it is important to know how people become homeless, the true cause of homelessness is found by asking why they are homeless. Understanding the difference between how and why people become homeless directly effects the process of helping people overcome homelessness. If people only focus on the "how," and disregard the "why," they will fail every time, at ending homelessness.
Homelessness is caused by a lack of money
Every single person who becomes homeless does so the same way, they all follow the same basic path. They all ended up in a situation where they didn't have enough money to pay for a place to live. Either they lost a job, spent all the money they had, or they left a home where someone else was paying the bills. That's "how" they all become homeless.
Two types of homeless people
In answering the question, "why" they become homeless, why they ended up with a lack of money, at this point we find two distinguishable types of homeless people. There are those people who become homeless only because of financial mismanagement. How they organized their finances was insufficient to deal with necessities required to maintain a home. They made a few incorrect decisions with their money causing them to have inadequate funds to pay for housing. For this group, it is that simple. And for them, the solution to end their homelessness is equally as simple. All they need do is correct their financial situation and in a very short amount of time, they will find themselves back in a home. For these people, the "how" and the "why" of their homelessness is, for the most part, one and the same. Their homeless experience lasts a very short time - from just a day or two, to a few months at the most. Often, these people fix their homeless situation by themselves, or with very little assistance. The majority of people who become homeless fall into this category.
All other homeless people fall into a separate category. These people also experience a financial crisis, but for different reasons. Their decision making processes are impaired by extenuating circumstances, such as mental illness, or addictions. It is important to note that a person does not have to be completely crazy to have a mental health condition that interferes with their decision making process. Depression or anxiety, or other brain function differences, such as Asperger's Syndrome, can impair their abilities and cause them to become homeless. All of the people in this category require treatment specific to their condition before they can successfully leave homelessness. This treatment involves teaching coping skills so that these people can effectively control their condition and prevent it from interfering with their decision making processes. The amount of time it takes for these people to leave homelessness depends on the severity of their condition and the quality of treatment they receive. There are fewer people becoming homeless this way, but because very few services are available to them, their homelessness can last a long time. Many homeless people die while still homeless and awaiting help.
With homelessness, we have one "how" and two "whys."
How people homeless is always due to financial mismanagement. Why people people become homeless is due to either improper decision making only, or improper decision making due to conditions that interfere with a person's decision making process.
It is of the utmost importance that this distinction between types of homeless people be made. Confusing the two types will make solving homelessness more difficult. It is wrong to assume that all homeless people have a mental health condition or addiction problem. Many people will not hire a homeless person or give them financial assistance because of this assumption and may unnecessarily extend a person's homelessness. At the same time, it would be a mistake to give a job, or money, to a homeless person who has a mental health condition or addiction because they may not be able to handle those responsibilities successfully. Not only is it a waste of resources, it could lead to a worsening of their condition. Before things like a job, or money, are given to a person with those extenuating circumstances, it is important to first determine if they have received proper treatment and have developed adequate coping skills. Know also that such assistance to this type of homeless person may have only a limited effect, easing their homelessness, but not curing it outright.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Ok folks, I'm firing up the video camera (yet again). So far I've made about 982 introduction videos without any follow up vids. This time, hopefully, I'll actually have some content for you. That's the plan anyway. If you've been following this blog a while, you know not to hold your breath. But, ya neva know. This could finally be what it should have been all along.
PLEASE ~ CHECK OUT MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL AT http://youtube.com/user/thehomelessguy. AND PLEASE CLICK ON THE LIKE BUTTON AND MAKE COMMENTS. I don't care what you say, all comments improve ratings, besides, I won't be reading them! haha. You know I can't keep away from what you write about me!
Friday, January 7, 2011
Since this blog is enjoying a new audience these days, I think it best to explain a little about myself, where I'm coming from, and maybe where I'm going.
I first became homeless back in 1982. I had just turned 21 years old, and my parents insisted I move out of the house. I was totally unprepared to make such a move so within a few months of moving out, I landed on the streets of Nashville, homeless. The actually reason for this was unknown until just recently when i discovered that I have a condition called Asperger's Syndrome. It is a type of high functioning autism.
Though I have normal cognitive abilities, my brain is wired differently than is typical, which hinders my ability to socialize in an acceptable fashion. What most people take for granted in their day to day interactions with others, I struggle with, and for the most part fail at miserably. This inability to function normally in society is so extreme that it has caused me to be ostracized, and marginalized. It is the major reason for my divorce, it is what prevents me from making and keeping friends. It causes me to lose jobs. The list of symptoms of Aspergers is extensive. No one suffering from this condition has all the symptoms. I have about 75% of them. Check out my tab on Aspergers for more info.
I have constantly struggled against homelessness. I have had experienced several episodes of homelessness, (7 or 8 episodes) leading to my being labeled chronically homeless. Though I have found ways off the streets, inevitably my life would fall apart and I would end up back on the streets. In the 29 years since first becoming homeless I have lived half of that time, 14 years, literally on the streets. I've also spent years living in the grey area between homelessness and homed. I have lived in rescue missions, and halfway houses and other programs. I am currently part of a Housing First program. Well, it's not a true Housing First program, but it's Nashville's best attempt at it. I have been living in this unit for over two years now. It is the closest thing to having my own place. Still, I consider it to be more of an upscale shelter system than my own home. I have a case manager who tries to get me the help I need. It's not an easy task considering the limited resources available for homeless and indigent people. Though extremely small, it is a place of my own, a roof over my head, a door that locks, and I decide who comes and goes. It is a level of autonomy and privacy most homeless people do without.
Over the years I have experienced many aspects of homelessness, from living in shelters to living in a car (did that for a couple years), sometimes I even slept in an alley. I have also participated in several projects, the Nashville Metro Homelessness Commission, The Mayors Task Force on Ending Homelessness, an advisory council for the Homeless Health Clinic. And I was part of the core group that created and launched The Contributor, the most successful homeless newspaper in the country.
In 2002 I started The Homeless Guy blog, at the suggestion of people on a discussion board, who frankly, had become tired of my many rants and ravs. They said that perhaps a blog would be a better outlet for me. Looking back, it was again my Aspergers that made socializing in an acceptable manor impossible for me on that discussion board.
At least now I know the actual cause of my problems, and so I can "hopefully" take the right corrective steps, so to make a better life for myself, and perhaps stay off the streets for good. This blog was extremely popular when first started. And though it has enjoyed some notoriety over the years, I haven't been doing much with it lately. I've been thinking of doing more here. Maybe it's time to get motivated with it again, and see what I can make of it. Lately people seem more motivated to learn about homelessness, and seem, in general, to be open minded about the subject, more than they were when I first started blogger. Time will tell.
For some reason, Blogger decided to move my oldest blog posts off of my blog and into archive.org.
You can find all my posts, going all the way back to 2002 by using The Way Back Machine at archive.org. Or you can just use the link I have provided here. http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com
Thursday, January 6, 2011
I think I owe Ted Williams, the golden homeless voice, a bit of a thank you. The number of readers my blog has entertained today had tripled from the usual number, apparently because people were searching the internet for more information on him. Checking my site meter, I found that many people googled, and yahooed, "the homeless guy with the voice." Number one listed on those searches was my blog.
Thank you all for stopping by.
I do want to say something about him. I think this is an amazing thing for him. I hope for him the best. This new opportunity may be the very thing to lift him up off the streets. But, there is something I must say. I know the tale tell signs of crack addiction, and Ted has got it all over him. He said in one video that he has been clean for 2 years. I just don't believe it. I think he is currently using. And because of this, I would not be surprised that in the not too distant future we will hear a story about him falling off the wagon, using the money he earned to buy dope and ruined his life once again. I very much hope that's not the case. It is, though, a real possibility.
As for me, today was a good day. I had lunch at Blackstone, courtesy of a reader of my blog. Thanks, Greg.
Another friend is wanting to throw a birthday party for me. I very much appreciate him wanting to do so, but I don't know how well that will go. I'm not really known for being the sociable type. I don't go to parties, and for the most part, people have stopped inviting me to such events. With my social anxieties and other social inabilities, I'm not sure that many would be inclined to come. Still, a couple people have rsvped. That's better than nothing.
I need to get a new ID card made as my current one expired on my birthday.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Tomorrow is my birthday, I'll be turning 50 years old. Wow, that's such a big number. A number belonging to old people, grumpy bosses or nosey mother-in-laws. But there is nothing typical about me. I know.
I see pictures on FB of all the get-togethers, celebrations, birthday parties. People smiling, happy, being near each other, talking and telling jokes. Enjoying life. There will be no birthday party for me tomorrow. There never has been. I don't draw people to myself in a way that inspires them to do such things.
Ten years ago, on my fortieth birthday, I worked. At the end of the work day I asked my few co workers if they wanted to go do something. They all declined. So I went by myself to a strip club. A strange thing happened there. It must have fallen out of someone's pocket earlier, but in the darkness and strobe lights I found 3 one hundred dollar bills folded up in a chair near the stage. I didn't leave that place until most of that money was spent.
I have no plans for tomorrow. I won't be going to a strip club this time. At my age now there's not much point. But who knows, I might get lucky, somehow.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Hello all you blog readers out there. I'm feeling better today than yesterday, which was better than the day before. I am still keeping to my diet, although food is running low. I will not eat anything gluten unless I become desperate.
I didn't get out to sell papers today. I don't know what it is, but something in my head is keeping me from leaving my place for more than short periods of time. Hopefully I'll be able to break out of this place for good.
In the mean time, I'm on facebook.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Ok, today is January 2nd. Still, I don't have a real blog post for you, but still trying to make a habit of entering something on the blog every day. I am feeling better than yesterday, and it may very well be my change in diet. I hope so. No Gluten (wheat, flour, breads, etc), No High Fructose Corn Syrup, No Diet Coke, No Diet Dr Pepper, No sodas at all. Also, I have have very little Dairy. What I had for dinner was ground up ground beef, green beans and some spaghetti sauce all mixed together. I've only had water to drink the past two days.
Tomorrow is the 3rd of January and the day most people will be going back to work. I'll see if I can't get out to sell some papers. My Birthday is on the 5th.
Real blog posts coming soon.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Ok, here it is January 1st. And I am posting, technically. I have some subjects that I want to write about and will make a sincere effort in blogging more often. But lately I've been feeling fatigued, both physically and mentally, so I'm really doing nothing more for today, except saying, "Hello New Year, and hello to you, good reader, too.