10 things being homeless will teach you

Share a survival experience with us and explain what you learned from it. You might help someone.

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10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by SuperBanki » Sat Apr 14, 2012 5:23 pm

Hey guys, if any of you read my intro post, you'd know I was homeless in UT for a period of time, and while it certainly sucked, I did learn a number of things from it. I figured I'd share a few with you all, who knows, it just might help you out, and it helps me work through a troublesome time in my life. Please don't take offense to any of this, I welcome discussion though.


Lesson 1: You Have Too Much Shit
Now, this might seem pretty self explanatory, but I didn't realize it until I lost my living space. I was living in a student housing apartment, had a single room to myself, and shared a living room, kitchen, and bathroom with other people. I didn't have too much room for stuff (or so I thought), but when it came down to it, I had way too much shit. Here's a partial list of what I remember having; Book collection (Entire 3.5 D&D collection, Novels, schoolbooks, etc.), Dishes, Clothing, Bed/sheets/blankets, computer, lamps, plus all kinds of personal stuff.

When I had to "Bug Out" (I actually did only have time to grab a few things), I only had about 10 minutes to grab shit and get out. So I grabbed my backpack, shoved it full of some clothes, grabbed my computer bag, and threw my dice in there, threw some food in a garbage bag, grabbed a few other things, said goodbye to by entire book collection (I'm tearing up now just thinking about it) and booked it. And you know what, yes I miss all that stuff, especially my book collection, but I didn't need them. And this leads into...

Lesson 2: Always Have Your Shit Together
Some of you might have every last little thing planned out on what to take if you have to leave, but I'm sure many of you like me, don't. Now I'm not saying you aren't prepared to Bug Out, but how many times have you gotten in your car and left for work, or wherever, and realized you forgot X. Maybe it was your only phone charger and you forgot to charge it, or maybe it was that notepad you meant to bring to jot down some ideas, or even a pen. I was completely unprepared for what to do if I had to leave.

I now have duplicates, and even some triplicates, of those little things. I have a phone charger that's dedicated to my BOB, a notepad, pen, etc. Think of those little last minute things you are gonna grab, and if it isn't too expensive, consider buying a duplicate to stick in your bag. I had 10 minutes to GTFO, so I forgot almost all those little things. Make sure you don't!

Lesson 3: Know Your Location Thoroughly!
I'm sure many of you know at least the general layout of your town, but do you know when each store closes, when they dispose of the food, who bleaches the food before tossing it, where the local "thugs/druggies" tend to hang out or when they get there, what public restrooms have a big enough sink to wash up in? These are very important things to consider, as it'll help you eat, be able to get out of the weather for a bit, clean up, and avoid trouble. Next time your out for a drive, try driving by that outlet mall and looking at the hours, try driving by there again after they close and see who's around. Remember, Knowledge is Power.

Lesson 4: Always Present Confidence, But Don't Always Believe It
When you're out on the street, you're going to be meeting a lot of different types of people, some of them are scum who will latch onto you if you seem insecure, or lost. Sometimes this can be prevented simply by appearing confident. Don't show those druggies walking up the street your weakness, stand upright and look them in the eye when they get close. This will unnerve them and make them think twice about fucking with you.

On the flip side, don't believe in your presented confidence too much. With that example above, it would have been much better to get away if possible and not even have to confront them. Sometimes believing you are capable of something tends to get you in trouble, just because you believe you can handle yourself in a fight with those 3 guys, doesn't mean they didn't just take some PCP and will destroy you. It's better to avoid that completely.

Lesson 5: You Don't Need AC to Live (and other things)
Some of you may not realize in Utah (even in the "winter") it can still get up to triple digit heat if you're unlucky. When I actually had a place to stay there I stayed inside almost as much as possible, AC was my best friend. Once I lost that nice, wonderful convenience I was miserable for a while. Eventually though, I acclimated. I learned to stay in the shade during the hottest times, where there would be a nice breeze blowing, where the water was so I could cool off. Don't get me wrong, even then it was still HOT, but I learned to deal with it.

Same thing with a lot of modern conveniences, I made do without a car, without a microwave, without a lot of things. If you put your mind to it, you can do a lot.

Lesson 6: You're Going To Finally Lose Some Weight
I was about 275 before I was homeless, and during that period of time I ended up losing about 80 pounds. This wasn't a good thing, believe it or not. I didn't know/was able to eat enough, most of my diet consisted of water (easily 2 gallons a day) and candy bars or if I was lucky some stale burgers from BK. I also wasn't aware of how much weight I lost until afterwards, I know I lost weight, just not how much. This was a scary thing to realize. I don't know how to counteract this, but it is something you NEED to keep in mind. Maybe if I knew more about the wildlife in the area I would have been able to supplement my diet with more meat, who knows.

Lesson 7: A Weapon Can Be A Bad Thing
So one night, I'm walking back to the church I have burrowed a pit under to grab some shuteye and I ended up stumbling across a drug deal taking place. It was too late for me to avoid notice, so I just kept walking. They didn't seem to pay much attention to me until one of them noticed a knife sticking out of my pack and told me to give it to him. So as to avoid breaking forum rules about discussing illegal things I'm going to skip over most of what happened. Long Story Short, One of them ended up with the knife and I ended up with a GSW. Maybe if they didn't see the knife I would have been fine.

Lesson 8: Hospitals Don't Give A Fuck About You If You Don't Have Insurance
Most states have some sort of medical insurance you can get for free if you're homeless/below the "poverty line". If I had known this back then, I would have made out better. Hospitals, when they know you don't have any insurance, tend to put you on the backburner for aid. I sat around for 2 hours before seeing a doctor about my GSW (to be fair, it wasn't horrible, just a chunk of flesh missing) but people who were better then I was and had insurance were in and out before I was even in. Moral of the story, hit your Welfare Office AS SOON AS YOU LOSE YOUR MEDICAL COVERAGE!

Lesson 9: A Gym Can Be A Lifesaver
If you can do it, sign up for a local gym. There was one around that cost something like $20/month and I found an ad on a car that got me the first month free. I begged for that cash, just so I could pay for the gym. I'm not talking about joining for weight-lifting, or strength training, I joined just for the showers. Keeping clean is a huge deal, and you should take every chance you have to do so. I lucked out and they even had a "Therapy Pool", basically a huge jacuzzi. I loved sitting in that and just relaxing after a nice long shower. This gym even had a little washer for a swimsuit that I typically used to launder my clothes, one piece at a time. Check some out around you, and keep it in mind.

Lesson 10: Things Will Get Better
Just because you are now homeless doesn't mean you will be so forever. It took a lot of time for me to realize this, and I got severely depressed before this. If it wasn't for joining that gym, I never would have met the friend that ended up taking me in. Make sure you socialize where you can, however you can. Maybe that means chit-chatting over a book at the library, or maybe it means commenting on someone's car. But however you do it, make sure you are somewhat presentable when you do! Don't look like "that homeless guy", try to look more clean shaven.


Well, I hope you guys didn't get offended by anything, hope I didn't break any rules in posting the things I did (don't think I did, but I may have overlooked something). Maybe some of these things will help you out, but I sure hope you're never in the position I was in. Take Care!
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Regular Guy wrote:Just FYI, it is lawful for the police to use one level of force above the criminals level of force. I'd say using a gun is one level above face chewing. YMMV.

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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by the_alias » Sat Apr 14, 2012 5:42 pm

If you were 275lbs and lost weight that is a good thing.

Sorry to break it to you but waddling around at 275 is not healthy.
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by SuperBanki » Sat Apr 14, 2012 5:46 pm

the_alias wrote:If you were 275lbs and lost weight that is a good thing.

Sorry to break it to you but waddling around at 275 is not healthy.
Agreed, but losing so much weight the wrong way is not a good thing. It has brought up major health issues I'm still dealing with today. I'm glad I dropped the weight, but due to the way/sheer amount of time I dropped it was unhealthy.
Polie wrote: I couldn't live with out smokes, coffee, chocodiles, and Gold Bonds Medicated foot powder for the ol' giggle stick. (It's like a thousand dancing ferries.)
Regular Guy wrote:Just FYI, it is lawful for the police to use one level of force above the criminals level of force. I'd say using a gun is one level above face chewing. YMMV.

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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by the_alias » Sat Apr 14, 2012 5:58 pm

Best of luck with your recovery then.
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by majorhavoc » Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:07 pm

the_alias wrote:If you were 275lbs and lost weight that is a good thing.

Sorry to break it to you but waddling around at 275 is not healthy.
Losing weight that way was not a good thing. If his diet was candy bars and stale burgers fished out of the trash, I seriously doubt his overall health at 195 was anywhere near as good as when he was 275.

SuperBanki:

I'm really sorry you got that advanced degree from the school of hard knocks, but thanks for sharing those insights. I too was homeless for about 4 months, living in a tent in the woods at various locations on the periphery of Portland, Maine. I would have liked to have stayed in a single spot, but I was twice run off by the police. The police generally don't care one way or another about the homeless, just as long as you're homeless somewhere else. You immediately become something less than a person in their eyes however.

I can vouch for your advice about joining a gym to have access to a daily shower (and in the winter, a warm environment for a few hours out of the day). If you've never been without a heated home and access to hot, running water, you don't know what a hot shower really is. You think you do. But you don't. Personal hygiene is your last line of defense if you hope to claw your way back into the good graces of humanity.

I can also attest to the astonishing indifference the health profession has to human suffering if you can't produce a health insurance card.

And finally, your lesson 10 is perhaps the most important. When you're homeless, you spend a lot of time alone with your thoughts. You become your own worst enemy and if you're not careful, you can convince yourself that you somehow deserve the predicament you're in. Hope, especially in times of real privation, is something that isn't always easy to come by.

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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by by-the-throat » Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:11 am

During our own period of homelessness we lived basically bugged out to a local campground. Shower facilities were onsite there so that is an option if you are thinking weekly rather than monthly (we were only out for a month overall)

You'd also be surprised at the number of fast food joints that will give you a free meal if you offer to sweep up the parking lot, shovel the walkway, pick up cigarette butts or whatever. A lot of time a junior employee doesn't want to do that shit and they get a free meal on the clock that they don't always eat, so you can sometimes get the hook up if you try.

Also, the one item of your wardrobe that you don't want to skimp on is your shoes, but don't get footwear that is too nice or you might just get rolled for it. Not a problem where i was, but I can see it being a problem in some places. The homeless are all too often considered safe targets for robbery but the difficulties are mitigated some if you don't look homeless or if your shit doesn't look like it is worth stealing. Still, crappy shoes plus walking all the time is a definite no-go.

Good thread, thanks for posting.
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by Niblick » Sun Apr 15, 2012 3:04 am

While I truly hope to never find myself in such a predicament, I understand it can't always be helped. A lot of good insight here so far, thanks everyone for sharing.
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by 1776 » Tue May 08, 2012 9:12 pm

Thanks for sharing. It used to be most folks could say with confidence "I'll never be homeless." Now, being homeless is a great possibility for many people in theses tough times. Would you mind sharing why you had so little time to leave school? Most folks know the day they have to be gone from their home/apartment and usually have at least a few days to prepare.
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by CoTTer » Wed May 09, 2012 4:15 am

I JUST got done being homeless for a month, truth be told it was pretty nice month. I pretty much took it as a vacation, during that time hitch hiked around the great state of WA. Right when I became homeless, I went to the local DSHS like mins after it happen. I was able to get 250 bucks of food stamps a month, so I did not go hungry at all. I ran into police a crap load (I was opening carrying my glock, so it was not rare for cops to just check in) they were pretty nice to me, more then often would point me to a near by place so I can shower.

I would avoid homeless shelters though, those places were just fucking horrible.

Each person will take to being homeless differently. I myself enjoy it and was more like a vacation for me. Some ppl have it harder and some don't. My brother has been homeless for almost ten years, that is by choice. He eats enough food a day that he himself will toss away his left overs, his health is pretty good (He has health insurance from local DSHS, so he gets check ups. He also has food stamps through them too) Those yrs that he has been homeless, he has hitch hiked to every single state and has seen some cool places and meet some cool ppl.
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by AZMedic » Wed May 09, 2012 4:31 am

I think #8 is kinda wrong as the only people that know if you have insurance at the hospital is the billing dept.....hell registration doesn't even ask that when they register you at my locals and then others dont want the info unless that A. Admit you to the floor or B. Discharge ya.
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by DJH » Wed May 09, 2012 10:30 am

Lesson #11 (from my own experience.)

When you are no longer homeless, you gain a greater appreciation for everything around you, and take far less for granted.
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by SuperBanki » Wed May 09, 2012 10:34 am

1776 wrote:Thanks for sharing. It used to be most folks could say with confidence "I'll never be homeless." Now, being homeless is a great possibility for many people in theses tough times. Would you mind sharing why you had so little time to leave school? Most folks know the day they have to be gone from their home/apartment and usually have at least a few days to prepare.
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Polie wrote: I couldn't live with out smokes, coffee, chocodiles, and Gold Bonds Medicated foot powder for the ol' giggle stick. (It's like a thousand dancing ferries.)
Regular Guy wrote:Just FYI, it is lawful for the police to use one level of force above the criminals level of force. I'd say using a gun is one level above face chewing. YMMV.

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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by SuperBanki » Wed May 09, 2012 10:36 am

AZMedic wrote:I think #8 is kinda wrong as the only people that know if you have insurance at the hospital is the billing dept.....hell registration doesn't even ask that when they register you at my locals and then others dont want the info unless that A. Admit you to the floor or B. Discharge ya.
In my experiences they ask upfront if you have insurance or not. I haven't ever made it past the front area without being asked, or having my girlfriend asked.
Polie wrote: I couldn't live with out smokes, coffee, chocodiles, and Gold Bonds Medicated foot powder for the ol' giggle stick. (It's like a thousand dancing ferries.)
Regular Guy wrote:Just FYI, it is lawful for the police to use one level of force above the criminals level of force. I'd say using a gun is one level above face chewing. YMMV.

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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by polliedes » Wed May 09, 2012 1:07 pm

by-the-throat wrote:You'd also be surprised at the number of fast food joints that will give you a free meal if you offer to sweep up the parking lot, shovel the walkway, pick up cigarette butts or whatever. A lot of time a junior employee doesn't want to do that shit and they get a free meal on the clock that they don't always eat, so you can sometimes get the hook up if you try.
I used to work in a conveniece store and we would hire the homeless frequently for minor jobs like that. We would give them something to eat and a few bucks. Our offical policy store policy was "If you are spending money, you are a customer. And if you are not spending money and are not bothering anyone then you are not a problem." Basically as long as you they did not panhandle on the premises they could hang out all they wanted. We let them come in and sleep at the tables, come in out of the rain or what-not and whatever else we could get away with. It's amazing how people will follow your lead with little things like this.
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by TacAir » Wed May 09, 2012 1:56 pm

SuperBanki wrote:
AZMedic wrote:I think #8 is kinda wrong as the only people that know if you have insurance at the hospital is the billing dept.....hell registration doesn't even ask that when they register you at my locals and then others dont want the info unless that A. Admit you to the floor or B. Discharge ya.
In my experiences they ask upfront if you have insurance or not. I haven't ever made it past the front area without being asked, or having my girlfriend asked.
My daughter works in admitting at a major hospital - and that IS the 1st thing they ask. They will work out a payment plan, offer discounts and so on if you are willing to at least try and pay. So many seem offended at being asked to pay, it was a surprise to me.

Shortly in the future, that same facility will 'stabilize' a pt and send them on their way - they cannot afford any more freebies... That well is running dry. Welcome to 1950....
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by duodecima » Wed May 09, 2012 8:57 pm

SuperBanki wrote:
AZMedic wrote:I think #8 is kinda wrong as the only people that know if you have insurance at the hospital is the billing dept.....hell registration doesn't even ask that when they register you at my locals and then others dont want the info unless that A. Admit you to the floor or B. Discharge ya.
In my experiences they ask upfront if you have insurance or not. I haven't ever made it past the front area without being asked, or having my girlfriend asked.
Yeah, the billing people always ask pretty promptly (tho occasionally they'd get to come back into ER with their little portable and ask their questions after we'd fixed the "trying to die right now" problem.) But it's NOT prominently featured in the clinical chart, which is what the nurses and docs are looking at. Yeah, I knew where to look for insurance info in the chart, but I almost never needed to know that, so many of the people talking to you had no clue about insurance. I'm not going to claim they may not have been reacting to the clues that said "homeless," that's certainly possible. The advice about finding out what you are eligible for ASAP is extremely good advice!
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by Tater Raider » Wed May 09, 2012 9:23 pm

duodecima wrote:
SuperBanki wrote:
AZMedic wrote:I think #8 is kinda wrong as the only people that know if you have insurance at the hospital is the billing dept.....hell registration doesn't even ask that when they register you at my locals and then others dont want the info unless that A. Admit you to the floor or B. Discharge ya.
In my experiences they ask upfront if you have insurance or not. I haven't ever made it past the front area without being asked, or having my girlfriend asked.
Yeah, the billing people always ask pretty promptly (tho occasionally they'd get to come back into ER with their little portable and ask their questions after we'd fixed the "trying to die right now" problem.) But it's NOT prominently featured in the clinical chart, which is what the nurses and docs are looking at. Yeah, I knew where to look for insurance info in the chart, but I almost never needed to know that, so many of the people talking to you had no clue about insurance. I'm not going to claim they may not have been reacting to the clues that said "homeless," that's certainly possible. The advice about finding out what you are eligible for ASAP is extremely good advice!
Public hospitals are excellent, in my experience, about finding a way to get stuff paid for too.

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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by Tank Woman » Wed May 09, 2012 11:32 pm

Oddly enough, I had an experience just today along these lines.
I had an abscessed molar and went to the dentist to have it pulled. When I got home I started to go into shock, cold, rapid pulse, groggy, shallow breathing etc. Anyway, my hubby took me to the emergency room, and while I was laying on the steel table of torture, a fellow came into the room next to me. The nurse asked him the usual questions which I really didnt listen to, but when she came to the insurance part, he said he had none. And she told him "Lets do the lifesaving stuff before we do the billing stuff."
I smiled. Sort of. :P
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by tookieblueeyes » Thu May 10, 2012 12:48 am

This entire thread, thus far, has been full of some very useful if not interesting information!
I have actually learned a lot and I feel humbled.
Every single one of you whom have lived homeless at some point in your lives for any amount of time have my respect and admiration because it is not something I would wish on anyone, nor would I wish to do it myself. It doesn't look like "a vacation" and perhaps I am a little too spoiled with my queen sized bed, my video games, my closet full of clothes and tons of shoes... I feel like a jerk :( but you all are very strong individuals and I am humble enough to admit that you all are more than likely much stronger than I could ever hope to be... :wink:
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by Dave_M » Thu May 10, 2012 12:50 am

I don't know if I can post in this thread without violating the, 'no politics' rule even while giving real input. :?
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by JackBauer » Sat May 12, 2012 9:47 pm

As this is a prepper forum, the number 1 thing I would expect to hear is what are you doing differently now to avoid another round?

And yes I've done a stint of homelessness in my youth. It's sucks. Back then the solution was to join the army or marines--not sure if thats an option in current events.

My #1 & 2 lessons: Always have a safety net/support system so things don't go south so severely and quickly. Starts with simple preparation.
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by KnightoftheRoc » Sat May 12, 2012 10:37 pm

tookieblueeyes wrote:This entire thread, thus far, has been full of some very useful if not interesting information!
I have actually learned a lot and I feel humbled.
Every single one of you whom have lived homeless at some point in your lives for any amount of time have my respect and admiration because it is not something I would wish on anyone, nor would I wish to do it myself. It doesn't look like "a vacation" and perhaps I am a little too spoiled with my queen sized bed, my video games, my closet full of clothes and tons of shoes... I feel like a jerk :( but you all are very strong individuals and I am humble enough to admit that you all are more than likely much stronger than I could ever hope to be... :wink:
You never know how strong you can be, until you have to be- don't sell yourself short. Most people have a lot more "in the tank" than they realize. One of the biggest lessons I learned in the army was that most of my physical limitations were actually mental, not physical; if you believe you can't march 20 miles with all your gear, then you can't. To prove that to us, they constantly lied to us about how far we were going to march that day, until it was over- the 10 mile march was 15, the 20 was 25, etc. By bursting these bubbles of preconception, they showed us that we WERE capable of doing much more than we had thought, and you couldn't argue with the results- we'd already done it. The flip side is, if you believe you can, you CAN. Much like the little engine that could, you can psych yourself up into managing almost anything.
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by Boondock » Sat May 12, 2012 10:49 pm

Cockroach wrote: Back then the solution was to join the army or marines--not sure if thats an option in current events.
I did exactly that in 1988. Liked having three hots and a cot so much, I stayed more than eight years.

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Lycosa
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Re: 10 things being homeless will teach you

Post by Lycosa » Sat May 12, 2012 11:03 pm

Great thread, and I too feel sorry for anyone having to be homeless. I have spent some time a couple years ago fighting local legislation that basically made it illegal to be homeless in my local city. It seems that far too many local political bureaucracies manage to be able to make legislation that basically makes it so that 'if we can't see it, it doesn't exist'.

I don't know what it's like around the rest of the country, but in my area I've never, in my entire life, seen as many people standing on street corners with signs asking for help in any form.. and I don't live in a major city either. Homelessness is a huge problem that isn't likely to go away any time soon and stories like these are the majority of what people are facing. Today, the norm is not drugs, alcohol, or apathy that puts people on the streets, but lack of opportunity and/or lack of skill that allows for a paycheck that could even come close to supporting themselves or a family.

Personally, I can sort of relate to these stories to a degree. My wife and I live in an RV in my son's yard. The reason we do is because my son has a family, works his ass off to pay his bills, raise a family, and attempt to get a college education at only 21 years old. My wife and I have sacrificed our own ambitions to ensure that my son and his family will never have to worry about whether or not he can keep a roof over his head. We pay him quite a bit to 'rent' a spot in his yard and we sleep better at night knowing our family is safe from that awful predicament.

Some things piss me off pretty good and watching good American citizens suffer is one of them. What's worse is when you watch the city pour in enormous amounts of money building roads specifically for golf carts and other nonsense projects for the upper class retirees meanwhile almost no help is available to the ever increasing amount of people that are watching their lives and everything they've put together get stripped apart peice by peice. I'm really not some extreme liberal, but damn I also find it hard to support political agendas that want to cut legitimate social programs in this time of hardship across the country. I'm definitely not trying to start a political debate, but seeing people suffer every day as you just travel to and from work or the store tends to have an impact on you if you have any compassion at all.
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