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.
I think I had heard you mention once before how you had been homeless, but I wasn't really sure as to what degree. It was really interesting to read this account. It sounds like an amazing experience, and helps explain the extreme amount of drive that you seem to have to better yourself in all sorts of ways.
A friend let me use his address and I managed to get a part time job at a fast food joint. I called my aunt Jenny and she sent me $100 (for the record, homeless people with out of state ID trying to cash two party checks have the cards stacked against them.) That, plus $80 I saved from the job was enough to get me a ticket out of there (fares were much cheaper then.)

The same night I got back to Longview/Kelso, a friend let me live with him in exchange for me being a housekeeper.

Were it not for having friends, I've no idea how I would have gotten out.
I certainly know the feeling!! If it weren't for my friends I would have been sleeping in my
car or on the streets...I felt very
lucky to have floors to sleep on when I didn't have a home!!
Thanks for sharing. Especially after a bad day at work, this helps me w/ my perspective again. ;)
It's nice that people helped you out in the restaurants.

I remember reading about someone going to Gibralter and being surprised that it looked just like England, complete with tramps living in the doorway to Boots the Chemist. If you have to live in the doorway to Boots, you might as well do it somewhere warmer and dryer than England
Wow, I am absolutely amazed at that story. I am particularly grateful to my parents for helping us out during the period between us coming back from the US to about January this year.

It is good that some of the people in restaurants understood your predicament and helped out.
I spent some time homeless as well. It's hard to talk about and not easy for me to reflect on. Thank you for sharing.
yeah I was a bum for a while....homeless....from about 14 till about 20 or 21 I drifited around quite a but sometimes I would live with my mom, untill something happened and she kicked me out again. Sometimes i travelled around....hitchhiked here and there sometimes i would just meet people and they would let me bunk or hang around with them for a while. other times I would crash at friends houses....when I could. I also went on a partying binge once and when you party you can usually find a place to stay but it is scary and I have had some rather horrible experiences from that. At one part in my homelessness I remeber sleeping in this one backyard....and the lady that found me just woke me up and made me breakfast and let me use the bathroom I was rather shocked. I know a couple people who have the same feeling about it as I do. We would do almost anything to not be homeless again.
Way to go...
Learning to live with out a home is an important skill.
However not a recommend form of lifestyle.

I know that in the back of my mind I'm never really worried about "what would happen if I lost my job and my apartment" because I know how to get by.

Holy shit!!! Sounds like my last 8 months in Hawaii (reason #1 why I joined the military). This would have been in '94
Thanks for sharing. have you thought about posting more to this journal, or even creating a journal for stories? I'd love to read more.
Oooo, how interesting. You should share more stories about yur experience if you're comfortable with the idea. I know I would be interested.
Oh, most of my family wants desperately to move to Hawaii. I don't realy get the urge. It's a very nice place (I've been to Maui and Hawai) but I prefer Oregon. One of my favorite parts of my vacations there was asking people what they did before they moved to Hawaii. I encountered a hell of a lot of people from the west coast.
I'm moving right now and it's a pain, but thanks for posting that it puts this all in perspective.
Nothing more than me having to work when I need to move. If I don't work I can't pay rent on the place I'm moving into, so the burden is on my room mate. I don't like burdening anyone with my stuff, but I had to do it this time.

I just can't imagine, for all of my stupid complaints, being homeless. But it's always on my mind. I'm literally one paycheck away from homelessness. Thank whatever for friends!