Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

On Being Homeless

Someone in damnportlanders asked some questions of folks who've been homeless. I answered, but then I thought I should post it here.

I was homeless about 18 years ago. I was living on the beach in Hawaii. Before anyone says "but it was Hawaii," I have two words for you: try it.

One Monday, I found out my best friend was moving to Hawaii. Six days later, I and four others were on plane with a one-way ticket to Honolulu.

I would sometimes sleep on the beach, but the police were constantly waking us up and making us move on. They didn't care where we were so long as the tourists didn't see us.

As for food, I shoplifted a bit (I'm not proud of that.) I always wished I could remember the businesses involved and somehow pay them back.

There was also a place called "Perry's Smorgy" which had a walled outdoor seating "all you can eat" restaurant. If you could figure out how to get inside without going past the cashier, it was heaven sent. I ate their several times and had bags in my backpack to stash extra food (which didn't last long without air conditioning.) I still remember the last time I snuck in. One of the bussers caught me sneaking over the wall. I stood there and we stared at each other. It was pretty obvious that I was starving, so I think he felt sorry for me. I just walked past him and went straight to the buffet. I was determined that if the police arrested me they would do so with me stuffing my mouth. Fortunately, they never came.

There was also "Reverend Claude du Tiel's Peanut Butter Ministry." It was in downtown Honolulu and it was tough to get to, but I could get a (bad) hot lunch if I hiked into town. Staying near it wasn't an option because it was a bad part of town and I was concerned about my safety.

Wendy's had "all you can eat" french toast specials in the morning. Some mornings I would go there, fish a relatively clean plate from the trash along with a coffee cup and walk up to the counter and ask for a refill. I couldn't do that much as I didn't want them to remember me. I still remember one manager who finally recognized me and some friends and he delivered our food personally. The plates were piled with tons of french toast. I was very grateful.

Keeping clean meant using the free showers on the beach. I would often shower in my clothes in an attempt to wash them, but not having money for deodorant or soap, it was still pretty miserable.

I wound up meeting many other homeless people there. One lady carried a machete with her everywhere because she was afraid of men attacking her. Others were seriously mentally ill and had no hope of getting a job and bettering themselves. In fact, aside from a group of homeless men who left their wives and families to preach the gospel and called themselves "the Apostles," the prospects of many of them getting work was bleak.

As for myself, I tried very hard to keep clean and relatively healthy. However, even though I looked as presentable as I could, getting a job is very difficult if you don't have an address or phone number you can list on an application. Many jobs wanted me to start out "on call", but that's tough to do when you have a camp site on a beach.

It was actually a fascinating event in my life and I have some pretty wild stories to tell about it (some of which can't be repeated in polite company.) After I pulled myself out of it, I was a much better person because I vowed that I would never let myself get that low again.
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