Meet Marta and Chuck -- life without a home in the meanest city in America -- an interview

Meet Marta

"We are lucky. I thank God for our blessings everyday."
"We are lucky. I thank God for our blessings everyday."

Meet Marta and Chuck

She is waiting for me as arranged, in front of the sports bar in the Landings Plaza, in south Sarasota. She slings beer there, two or three evenings a week, along with three other part time jobs – another waitressing gig serving breakfast in a diner, and a weekend job picking up trash in a parking lot.

I recognize her immediately. She is just as described, petite, blond, forty-something, colorfully dressed and judging by the big smile she flashes as I approach, full of the joy of life.

“Marta?” I stick out my hand in the universal symbol of greeting. “I’m Lynda.”

She drops the four plastic bags she is carrying and holds up her soiled hands. “I’d better find a place to wash first,” and makes a mock fierce face. “I was collecting bottles and cans.”

The plastic bags clink and rattle as she picks them up. “Let me get rid of these.”

I follow her to a leprous –looking minivan, a Dodge Caravan, maybe 1998 or 99. She opens the back hatch, swings it high, and carefully deposits the plastic bags alongside two bedrolls, several plastic cartons of clothes, boxes of food, personal effects, towels, a folded up tent – all the flotsam of someone on a camping trip.

Unfortunately for Marta and her partner, Chuck, camping is illegal for them in Sarasota and the surrounding environs. They are homeless.

She pulls a five gallon container of water forward, until the spigot juts out from the van and pours some water into a plastic ice-cream tub. A bottle of Sunlight dish soap appears in her hand, and she adds a few drops to the water. She washes her hands, dumps the used water surreptitiously under the vehicle, and then, offers me one to grasp. “Pleased to meet ya.”

“Where would you like to go?” I ask, because our agreement is, Marta will talk to me openly about life as a homeless person in Sarasota, and I will buy her lunch. That’s all she asked, even though I’d offered to pay her for her services as a guide.

“Out on the key,” she replies, and I realize she means Siesta Key – tourist paradise and the pride of Sarasota – the white sand of the beach earning “the key” the honor of second best beach in the U.S. and, she informs me, a place where homeless persons are definitely not wanted. “Let me change.”

She disappears into the van and re-emerges dressed in a wrinkled but clean sundress. We walk over to my car. I will drive. Marta and Chuck cannot afford to buy gas for anything less than a trip of absolute necessity.

It is the off season, so parking on Siesta Key is not the problem it would have been at other times of the year. It doesn’t escape my sense of irony, that we walk through the lush streets of millionaire’s homes and luxury condos, admiring the beautiful, professionally landscaped grounds, the up-market autos, and the well-dressed inhabitants of this wealthy enclave, while discussing the quality of life for those too poor to afford a home.

“How long have you been homeless?”

“Two years and five months.” Again, she flashes that brilliant smile. “We’ve gotten pretty good at it. Nice to be a success at something.”

She explains. “There are two kinds of homeless: those that give up, let go and sink – they’re the dirty ones, the beggars, the winos, the crack-heads and the sick. Then, there are people like us – we keep going, keep trying and manage to maintain our dignity. Chuck and I work all we can, but most times we only make enough to feed ourselves, keep the van rolling and treat ourselves to a motel room once in a while to get a hot shower, and a good night’s sleep. “

For a minute, she stares up at the sky. “And I have two kids. They live with their father and his wife, and have since I lost my job and the house. I give them two hundred dollars a month – not much, I know – and sometimes that’s hard to get – but I always do.”

“Do you see them?”

“Every chance I get.” She fishes in the fabric bag she carries and hands me a photograph, two boys ten and twelve.

We’ve arrived at the commercial sector of the island, an oasis of oyster bars, restaurants, patio cafes, boutiques selling designer clothing, Birkenstocks and fine art, and the usual assortment of tee-shirt and tourist junk shops.

Marta chooses a simple sandwich shop and orders a cheese and vegetable wrap and a fruit smoothie. “First thing you have to learn when you’re homeless – do all you can to keep up your health. If that goes; you’re done for.”

Over lunch she tells me a little of her history. “I worked as a teller for a bank for twenty years. Yeah – I was one of those idiots who believed you got a good job and kept it, and then, you’d be all right. They went bankrupt four years ago, and I was out of a job. But a lot of banks went under that year, and unemployed bank tellers littered the streets. I had unemployment for a while, but that ran out. The government didn’t start the extended benefits until this past year – too late for me.”

“I tried to keep the house, but then the bank forced me out. My ex took the kids, thank God. I see women on the streets with their kids, and I’d never wish that on mine. He’s an okay guy, my ex and he’s helped me as much as he can, but he has a wife and four kids to support now, so I don’t ask him for anything. He’ll let me and Chuck park on his driveway sometimes – you know when the cops are on the prowl and it’s hard to find a safe place to sleep. Like I said – an okay guy.”

“What you just said – when the cops are on the prowl – can you explain that?”

“Oh – they are such assholes.” She takes a bite of her sandwich and chews hard. “It’s been so bad in Sarasota lately – you just get to sleep in the car and they come knocking and tell you to move on – or worse. If they’ve seen you around before – they’ll arrest you and impound your car.”

A look of sudden inspiration swept across her face. “Here, look at this” – she hands me a pink document –“It got so bad here in Sarasota and we couldn’t afford a motel room, so we went down to Venice to try find a place to park where it’s quiet. Sure enough, a cop gave us -- a warning.”

I read the ticket – their crime, “bedding down.”

“He said he was doing us a favor. He could have charged us and then we’d face a fine of $500 or thirty days in jail, and our car and stuff taken away. We moved on.” She laughs as though this is the most hilarious thing she’s ever heard. “$500 fine for being poor!”

“May I borrow this?”

“Keep it. We used to be able to camp out in a section of bush on the other side of the I75, but the cops came there, ripped up everyone’s tents with knives and forced us all out. They drove us out like cattle and a lot of us lost our stuff. Now if we want to use the tent, we have to drive all the way to the state park, pay their fee, and then drive all the way back for work. Doesn’t pay to do it. So we sleep in the car, sometimes at a gas station – with permission, or at McDonald’s – with permission, but even with permission the cops move us on.”

She finishes her sandwich. “We try and get a motel room every third or fourth night, so we can get some sleep. And a hot shower is a nice break from the cold ones at the beach.” She sits straight up in her chair. “I take some kind of shower every day. You let yourself go – that’s the first step to a bad end.”

Marta tells me she met Chuck, her partner, in the first few months of life without a home, at a shelter. She was happy to meet someone sober, kind and hard-working, and she needed a man in this life, to keep her safe. In the first three months of homeless life, she was raped twice and robbed a number of times. And Chuck finds street life with a female partner safer as well. The cops are easier on him now than when he was alone.

“Not exactly the height of romance,” Marta says, once more laughing that marvelous laugh. “But it works for us. Want to meet Chuck?”

Today, Chuck had a day’s labor working for a friend in the landscaping business, pouring concrete for a patio in one of the yards here on the key. He was to finish at three, and in the meantime, Marta suggested, we’d take a walk on the beach.

Around the side of one of the shower and change sheds by the entrance to the beach, I was startled to see a pair of female legs sticking out.

“That’s the problem,” Marta said. “When you’re not left in peace to sleep at night, you can’t stay awake in the day.”

Legs behind the change shed.

Thats the problem, Marta said. When you're not left in peace to sleep at night, you cant stay awake in the day.
Thats the problem, Marta said. When you're not left in peace to sleep at night, you cant stay awake in the day.

We saw the Beach Patrol in their dune buggy driving toward us. Marta went to the unconscious woman and woke her. “Come on, wake up. You’ll get arrested.”

A young, light-skinned African American woman followed Marta back to the path. She was groggy and dazed. “Thanks.” She stumbled down the path away from the beach.

Siesta Key beach is truly beautiful. The sand is soft as talcum, and so white as to be dazzling in the sun. The water, blue-green close in and azure blue further out, brilliant sky and white sand form a contrast that is hard on the eyes. We walked along the water’s edge.

“Have you had no luck at all in finding a full-time job?”

“Try getting a good job when you have no address. Try getting anything without an address. And though we both have cell phones, we can’t always afford minutes, so” – she shrugs, still smiling – “what do you do?”

“It’s a good thing,” she continues, “we both have friends from better days. The owner of the bar where you picked me up, he’s known me for years so he gives me work whenever he can – and Chuck, too. He’ll get him to clean the kitchen and whatever else he can find. And the guy Chuck’s working for today – he gives him side jobs. Chuck worked in construction, a framer and dry-waller, but he’s been without full time work for years. He gets little jobs by word of mouth, again thanks to friends. He’ll do anything.”

Her smile grows wider. “We’re lucky. I thank God for our blessings, every day.”

I am amazed at her attitude, and feel humbled by it. The silly things I worry about.

We make our way back to the main street. Marta makes a call on her cell phone – lasting about twenty seconds. “Save the minutes,” she says, snapping it shut. “We can meet Chuck now.”

Meet Chuck

"We work and work and never get enough to get off the streets."
"We work and work and never get enough to get off the streets."

"Survival is a full time job"

He’s a big man, cleanly dressed even though he’s worked pouring concrete since eight in the morning. He grips my hand, more tightly than my arthritic bones can tolerate and I wince.

“Sorry,” he says, and by the look of him, he means it. He poses for me, with his work implements. “Let your readers know we do work – most of us do. We work and work, but never get enough to get out of the street.” He grins. “Survival is a full time job.”

Chuck wants to take a shower after his labors, so we walk back to the beach, but we have to wait. Beach security is nearby, and they will question him, dressed as he is, and carrying his back-pack, he fears. Sarasota doesn’t want homeless people using public facilities.

Once he deems the coast clear, he takes his shower, changes quickly in the three sided shelter, and emerges, clean and damp.

I offer refreshment at one of the cafes or bars.

“Thank you, ma’am,” Chuck says in his soft drawl. “I’ll take a tea.” His voice drops. “I’m an alcoholic, sober for six years, now.”

We sit in a patio bar, and they tell of the trials of their life. “Summer is the worst. It’s so damn hot, and hard to work, hard to sleep and there are so few people out on the street, we stick out like sore thumbs. At least in winter, we can blend in better,” Chuck says.

Marta adds, “Sometimes we go walk around Walmart, just for air conditioning. But you can’t stay too long if you’re not buying. They watch for us [homeless people] on their video cameras.”

“And winter?” I ask.

“Easier,” Chuck answers. “In winter, you can always use another blanket, but summer” – he laughs ‘’ “once you’re naked, what else is there?”

“What is your biggest problem?”

“The police,” they chorus.

Chuck adds, “If they’d just leave us alone, we’d do all right. We’re not hurting anyone. We don’t do drugs, or drink. We don’t steal. You’ve no idea how it feels to be hunted down at night and rousted out. In Venice, they told us to get out of town; if we were there the next morning, we’d be arrested and do thirty days.” He huffs out his disgust. “ We used to camp a lot, but now we can’t.”

We discussed the idea of camping, and Chuck laid out his ideas on the subject. I promised I’d include it in my article. I was impressed with how much thought he’d put into the plan.

“And it doesn’t make sense,” Marta says. “Florida is one place where a life of camping is feasible, but no – we can’t. There are lots of people living in campers and trailers, but they too are forced out. There’s a law that says you can only put a camper on land specifically licensed for that purpose – so there you have it. All that empty land, and we can’t use it. Does that make sense to you?”

“Or all the empty houses,” Chuck adds. “Dog in a manger – know that story? Well that’s the local government.”

“What’s worse is the way people look at us.” Marta places her hand over Chuck’s. “They think we’re lazy and this is all our own fault. Like somehow we deserved to have this happen to us. No one works harder than Chuck.”

She makes one request. “Please tell your readers that we are good people. We work hard and we try hard, and we don’t deserve to be treated like this, chased away and threatened. We are God’s children, too. We’re not asking for help or handouts – just to be left alone.”

I promise I’ll quote her, and then ask, “Do you like opera music?”

Sarasota – Number One Mean City in the U.S.A. – according to the National Coalition for the Homeless

Sarasota, population 55,000 now enjoys the dubious distinction  of being labeled “the meanest city in the nation” toward homeless people, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.  This rating is based on the number of “anti-homeless” legislations passed by local governments.

The city’s ordinance 05-4640 has generated national attention, not helped by recent reports of a plan to play opera music in Five Points Park to deter homeless people from gathering there.

It started in 2002 when the city enacted its first no-camping laws, which included bans on public urination, and panhandling. In the first five months of this new law, Sarasota police arrested more than 120 people charged under the ordinance. A circuit court judge struck  it down as unconstitutional.

The city tried again, only to have a judge rule it penalized “otherwise innocent conduct” and left too much discretion and power to the police.

The city commission passed a third version in August of 2005. This time it was disguised as a “no lodging” measure, whose wording did not exactly prohibit people from merely sleeping outside, but rather forbad residing outdoors.

This ordinance was upheld on December 29 of 2005.

A local attorney, Chris Cosden, who has successfully challenged this ordinance twice, and is appealing this third version said, “This latest edition is a thinly masked attempt to make homelessness a crime. What’s going on here is the city of Sarasota trying to make the lives of the homeless so miserable they’ll go elsewhere.”

“We should not be treating other human beings this badly.”

Michael Stoops, spokesperson for the National Coalition for the Homeless said, “We have never seen a city so determined to pass anti-homeless legislation.”

However, City Commissioner Palmer said, “The negative attention is very demeaning to this city, and we don’t appreciate out-of-town critics suggesting that city officials are out to harass homeless people.”

“The whole purpose of the ordinance is to protect the homeless. It’s an attempt to try and keep people from living unhealthy and unsafe lives. I think most people feel the reason the Commission did this was to help, not hurt.”

Warning: sleeping in your car is a crime

Marta and Chuck, harassed out of Sarasota drove to Venice to get some sleep in a parking lot. They received this warning ticket -- their crime -- "Bedding Down." They could face $500 fine, 30 days in jail or both. They were told to get out of town.
Marta and Chuck, harassed out of Sarasota drove to Venice to get some sleep in a parking lot. They received this warning ticket -- their crime -- "Bedding Down." They could face $500 fine, 30 days in jail or both. They were told to get out of town.

Who are the meanest cities according to this report?

I have copied it here, verbatim.

#1 Sarasota, FL. After two successive Sarasota anti-lodging laws were overturned as unconstitutional by state courts, Sarasota passed a third law banning lodging outdoors. This latest version appears to be explicitly aimed at homeless persons. One of the elements necessary for arrest under the law is that the person “has no other place to live.”

#2 Lawrence, KS. After a group of downtown Lawrence business leaders urged the city to cut social services and pass ordinances to target homeless persons, the city passed three “civility” ordinances, including an aggressive panhandling law, a law prohibiting trespass on rooftops, and a law limiting sleeping or sitting on city sidewalks.

#3 Little Rock, AR. Homeless persons have reported being kicked out of bus stations in Little Rock, even when they had valid bus tickets. Two homeless men reported that officers of the Little Rock Police Department, in separate incidents, had kicked them out of the Little Rock Bus Station, even after showing the police their tickets. In other instances, homeless persons have been told that they could not wait at the bus station "because you are homeless."

#4 Atlanta, GA. Amid waves of public protest and testimony opposing the Mayor’s proposed comprehensive ban on panhandling, the City Council passed the anti-panhandling ordinance in August 2005. In the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Atlanta stood firm in its resolve to criminalize panhandlers. A Katrina evacuee who was sleeping in his car with his family after seeking refuge in Atlanta was arrested for panhandling at a mall in the affluent Buckhead neighborhood, even after he showed the police his Louisiana driver’s license, car tag, and registration as proof that he was a Katrina evacuee. In addition, during the first week in December, the Atlanta Zoning Review Board approved a ban on supportive housing inside the city limits.

#5 Las Vegas, NV. Even as the city shelters are overcrowded and the city’s Crisis Intervention Center recently closed due to lack of funding, the city continues to target homeless persons living outside. The police conduct habitual sweeps of encampments which lead to extended jail time for repeat misdemeanor offenders. In order to keep homeless individuals out of future parks, the city considered privatizing the parks, enabling owners to kick out unwanted people. Mayor Oscar Goodman fervently supported the idea, saying, “I don’t want them there. They’re not going to be there. I’m not going to let it happen. They think I’m mean now; wait until the homeless try to go over there.”

6.    Dallas, TX
7.    Houston, TX
8.    San Juan, PR
Santa Monica, CA
10.  Flagstaff, AZ
11.  San Francisco, CA
12.  Chicago, IL 
13.  San Antonio, TX
New York City, NY
15.  Austin, TX
16.  Anchorage, AK
17.  Phoenix, AZ
18.  Los Angeles, CA           
19.  St. Louis, MO
20.  Pittsburgh, PA

When laws are found to be illegal

These practices that criminalize homelessness do nothing to address the underlying causes of homelessness. Instead, they exacerbate the problem. They frequently move people away from services. When homeless persons are arrested and charged under these measures, they develop a criminal record, making it more difficult to obtain employment or housing. Further, criminalization measures are not cost efficient. In a nine-city survey of supportive housing and jail costs, jail costs were on average two to three times the cost of supportive housing. Further, existing supportive housing only has space enough for 25% of the current homeless population.

Criminalization measures also raise constitutional questions and many of them violate the civil rights of homeless persons. Courts have found certain criminalization measures unconstitutional:

For example, when a city passes a law that places too many restrictions on begging, free speech concerns are raised as courts have found begging to be protected speech under the First Amendment.

When a city destroys homeless persons’ belongings or conducts unreasonable searches or seizures of homeless persons, courts have found such actions violate the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Courts have found that a law that is applied to criminally punish a homeless person for necessary life activities in public, like sleeping, violates that person’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment if the person has nowhere else to perform the activity.

Laws that do not give people sufficient notice of prohibited conduct or allow for arbitrary enforcement by law enforcement officials can be unconstitutionally vague. Courts have found loitering and vagrancy laws unconstitutionally vague.

In addition to violating U.S. law, criminalization measures can violate international human rights law. The United States has signed international human rights agreements, many of which prohibit actions that target homeless people living in public spaces.

Marta and Chuck have a solution

Marta and Chuck had a good idea – campgrounds, for anyone who needs them, charging a minimal fee, or work around the place – a safe place for those trying to get ahead to stay, and sleep without fear of being rousted. . And although it would not work in North Dakota or Maine, it would in Florida and other “balmy” states.

The trouble is, this level of living is now illegal almost everywhere, (another example of anti-homeless legislation.)

Many churches and service groups would fund and supervise such campgrounds. And if laws allowed, private operators might open for-profit campgrounds, which even at a minimal fee of $25 week, would more than make enough to cover operating costs, particularly if residents were required to pitch in and keep the place tidy and secure.

People without homes are camping out anyway – no matter how many laws are passed. Marta and Chuck would like to see the experience made as clean and safe as possible. At least, that would give them an address, they say, and a sense of “home” – something very important.

Chuck and Marta hope you never experience the loss.

Marta adds, “God bless you all.”

For further information on Sarasota's latest tactic to deter the homeless see my hub "Of mice and men -- does Sarasota know the difference"  Click here

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Comments 98 comments

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pgrundy 7 years ago

The campgrounds Marta and Chuck have worked other places, and some advocates are pushing for them. It's better than what they are going through, though of course not ideal. Their story reminded me of the Grapes of Wrath and the government camps that were so much nicer and less exploitive than the private fruit farms that exploited the displaced workers during the Depression--and the impromptu camps on the edge of town where local police harassed the Dust Bowl refugees.

Thank you for this excellent piece. People don't realize how many of the homeless WORK and still can't get enough together to live indoors. A deeper irony is that several of the cities on your list are plagued with vacant houses that can't be sold at any price, just moldering away.

Marta ssid, "I worked as a teller for a bank for twenty years. Yeah – I was one of those idiots who believed you got a good job and kept it, and then, you’d be all right. They went bankrupt four years ago, and I was out of a job. But a lot of banks went under that year, and unemployed bank tellers littered the streets. I had unemployment for a while, but that ran out. The government didn’t start the extended benefits until this past year – too late for me.”

Ditto. I mean, me too. So far I still live indoors. I wonder how long that will last?

nicomp profile image

nicomp 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

"These practices that criminalize homelessness do nothing to address the underlying causes of homelessness."

Homelessness is not being criminalized. "Bedding down" in a car, loitering, aggressive panhandling, sleeping on a sidewalk are being criminalized. Everyone is subject to the same laws.

I appreciate your writing and your work to put a human face on people who choose to be homeless. We have 2 general categories of homeless; the mentally ill (who should be cared for by the state or by private charity), and those who live in their car or on the street by choice.

Your portrayal of Marta leads me to believe that she has chosen her lifestyle. She may have convinced herself that she cannot rise above her circumstance.

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pgrundy 7 years ago

I'm glad I'm not nicomp's mother. I hope she is making her mortgage payments.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi pgrundy, thanks for your comments. Yes, they were an interesting couple, and people I'd be happy to know.And theirs are circumstances that could happen to any of us.

Nicomp - As soon as I saw your name on the email telling me you'd left a comment, I knew exactly what you would say. How dare you presume to understand the lives of others and to apply your own sense of self-rightousness to them. Most of the homeless do work -- contrary to your ever so informed opinion and they do not choose to live in their cars. How about you go down to the streets and interview some of these people before you sit in condescending judgment of them. So long as people prefer to live in the myths of their own closed minds, such as you do here, the problem will only get worse.

nicomp profile image

nicomp 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

@lmmartin: I formed my opinions based on your writing. Obviously that's all I have to go on. I made that clear in my original post. After reading your accounts of Marta's behavior and her comments, I came to the conclusion that she is lucid. If I'm wrong, I can live with that. I didn't have the advantage you had; I didn't meet her in-person.

papajack 7 years ago

Gutsy, honest editorial. Have you thought of applying for Lou Dobbs' old job? You'd be a hell of a lot better at it than he was.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi papajack, Why thanks for the compliment. I spent the last three days working on this. There's still a few typos -- takes my stupid fingers a long time to get them all out. But, again, thanks. I worked hard to get all the info I could.

Nicomp, I deleted your comment directed to pgrundy as I found it insulting, obnoxious and belittling not only to her, but to the subject matter at hand and the people I interviewed for this article. Take up your quarrels somewhere else.

Your second comment I accept. But I wonder at your distinction -- anyone who is homeless cannot be lucid? It is possible to be sane and poor, you know. Once more, I feel the need to remind you, that you as a well educated young man do not have the life experience to pass such judgment on others. Not everyone has enjoyed the benefits of your life, nor have you dealt with difficulties of theirs. Now, let's leave it at that.

papajack 7 years ago

In regards to nicomp: They say that if you lined the population of the world up side by side, you would discover that more than 100% be asses.

kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 7 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

This is horrifying! My heart breaks for these people and everyone in this situation. People want to call this a Christian nation, and yet where is the compassion? You did amazing research here and presented facts that few us know about these laws and I commend you for interviewing people to really put faces on the issue. I hope you submit this to the newspapers in the area and even other papers because we need to learn what is actually going on here. Now, we are criminalizing poverty - what next, debtors prisons - that sounds like where it is going. Please keep us posted on this one! Thank you.

Pgrundy, As always, I admire your honesty!

Papajack said it all on his comment about asses.

Nicomp, your comments are to be expected - you seem to support the status quo no matter what - you, like many others, don't understand that people can be in situations where they need compassion and help even though they have played by all of your rules. You are critical of others who take time to study issues that address serious problems and dismiss the hard work of good people who fight for those who have no power, but need to be heard.


jiberish profile image

jiberish 7 years ago from florida

This was a fantastic article, and I commend you for writing it. The homeless are not all there by choice, yes some are, but those like Marta and Chuck are intelligent hard working people who have fallen on hard time. Most of America is only a paycheck away from being in their shoes, and once you find yourself in this spot, yes it takes a lot to get back on your feet. Again, great article, and yes, Lou Dobbs job would be a great consideration if it wasn't on CNN. Happy Thanksgiving!

nicomp profile image

nicomp 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

Hey all, thanks for the pounding... makes me feel like I'm on the right track. Y'all will probably never see this given that the moderator can't differentiate between a thoughtful response and a personal attack. It's his sandbox and he's welcome to make the rules. No worries there.

I will remain lmmartin's 'fan' and continue to read his stuff, but I won't bother to comment anymore. A Christmas gift to the Libs, perhaps?

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you, Kartika. These are question I ask myself. There's no money to be made building affordable (cheap) housing, and in many places there are ordinances against it. So, no one is building them. Buildings must be of certain taxable level. About the only things built here in Florida these days are schools (at least in my neighborhood.) These same bylaws are the ones prohibiting private 'campgrounds.' All it would take is a shift in viewpoint to allow people to live in peace at the level they can afford. Can you imagine the luxury of having a fixed abode after you've been on the streets for 2 1/2 years, even if it is just a tent on a patch of ground.

jiberish -- Thank you, and all I've said in previous comments (the nice ones) applies equally to you. Oh, I don't know -- I think my ethics could bend enough to accept something from CNN, so long as I got to say what I wanted. That, I understand, is not the case, by and large.

Oh-oh -- to everyone, before I forget -- Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. (This is my first American Thanksgiving -- I'm not usually here at this time of year. And guess what -- the friends who invited me for supper, also invited Marta and Chuck. My hostess -- a lovely New England woman says, "I always make way too much, so bring them over for suppah."

LiamBean profile image

LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

> Your portrayal of Marta leads me to believe that she has chosen her lifestyle. She may have convinced herself that she cannot rise above her circumstance.

No nicomp you did not make your comments based on Immartin's writing; you based your comments on your own prejudices. If you can't be understanding at least make an attempt to be honest.

I have been where Marta and Chuck are. It's very hard to get out of the cycle. The lack of address is a very big deal to almost any employer you care to name. Once a person reaches the status of "homeless" no matter how they get there they become persona non grata.

Of course you should not be expected to understand this unless you've been there. Obviously you've never been there.

Idiotic as your comment is I hope you never are.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Wow - is that timing or what? Just as I was about to answer nicomp, liambean did. But I'll do so anyway.

nicomp, I did not delete your thoughtful(?) comments, I deleted one I considered disrespectful given the subject matter and to whom it was directed. Such a callous response to someone who is dealing with her own problems, who can definitely relate to the situation of Marta and Chuck -- she deserves a more THOUGHTFUL response.

You are sincerely invited to comment all you wish on any hub I write. I would only ever deny a comment I didn't want in "my sandbox" based on tone, not content. Never content. Keep your comments respectful not only to other hubbers but the subject matter. I can distinguish between a thoughtful response and a knee-jerk reaction.

And to think, just three hubs ago you agreed with me on something. Oh, by the way -- I'm a woman.

Liambean -- nice to see you as always. I've read a lot of your hubs too, but usually by the time I get there, the other comments have pretty well covered it. I'm honored you take up my cause. And hope you read the other hub Of Mice and Men. That's what got me on this subject.

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kartika damon 7 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! And, lmmartin, I'm happy your friend is having Marta and Chuck come to dinner. Best, Kartika

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someonewhoknows 7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

I known "some" homeless people,mainly single men.and at least one young woman that would rather live on the street than stay in a shelter.One reason is theft.Another is harrasssment by other homeless people.Being homeless doesn't confer a positive moral character.I'm sure many of those in shelters are not single or without children and not all shelters are bad.Your the only one who can decide what your character is or will be in the future.I remember an old movie titled " How they made me a criminal " Interesting psychoanyalitical subject matter for people to contemplate for sure.We seem to think that we are what we do.That maybe true only insofar as we let it.We are what we tend to think we are,but only as long as we continue to think that way.Are we always the masters of our fate?There those who would tear you down,and never allow you to rise again? If the community doesn't at least try to help,the homeless they become part of the problem.Do,we truly have closeknit communities ,or just loose associations that we call communities.How many people have moved to a new city in another atate,and never bothered to get to know the people they moved next to,before they moved in,only to be disappointed to find out later that they really didn't like the neighbors.Was it just,the fact that the houses were nicer,and property values were going up.Crime can happen in nice neighborhoods too.Then ,I can understand someone not wanting to move into a neighborhood where a large number of houses were in disrepair,and the same is true of someone who wants to move out of that same neighborhood,but can't afford to,and the city decides to take your house and pay whatever to fair market value is,leaving you to try to find affordable housing elsewhere.We as a society have decided that we are going live for today and let tommarrow take care of itself and think that there is nothing wrong with that idea.That's why we are in the mess we are in today.Things can't go on the way they have,or we will continue doing what has been done in the past.We are all in this life together and we all have to learn from our mistakes as a society,or we are doomed to repeat them.

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you someonewhoknows for your thoughts on the subject. You're right -- many homeless are not comfortable in the shelters, for the reasons you mention. Marta had bad experiences in the shelters -- it's true. But for Marta and Chuck, I suspect it is their desire to do for themselves -- even though that's limited and doesn't include a home -- rather than live on charity. This couple doesn't panhandle, or steal. They are working people who go to church and sit next to you. Many families are in the same position. The shelters do the best they can, but aren't for everyone.

I understand why Marta and Chuck do not wish to live in a shelter, and I think they should have the right to make that decision.

And lastly, a fact some people forget -- the shelters can only handle about 25% of the homeless population.

We must sound like Scrooge -- what, are there no work houses?

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Beata Stasak 7 years ago from Western Australia

Homelessnes is here to stay and it is heartbreaking to see that the more developed country the more homeless people it of the reason is that well off people are used to their well earned comfort and space, they are not ready to share it for free...

In many developing countries large families and friends share cramped space without complaint. THey don't know what individualism and the personal right means.

I just heard one comment of the well off American on TV saying: " I earn my money and I pay my bills and I am not going to help anyone, they should do the same like me."

I believe that one reason for the homelessnes in our developed countries is reflected in this attitude.

Anyway THANK YOU for commenting on my hub, my loyal hub reader. All the best from Beata

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pgrundy 7 years ago

When I was a young woman there were very few homeless in the city where I grew up, and the homeless that were out there were mostly alcoholic men. The chronically mentally ill were mostly institutionalized or in some phase of that. Not that institutionalization is better, but at least they were indoors being sporadically abused instead of out in the open air being regularly abused. Alcoholic men stayed at the Salvation Army or the Hope Rescue Mission and both places tried to sober them up and help them--they still do this. There was no public 'homeless shelter' because there was no need.

NOW there are so many homeless FAMILIES that the four story shelter is full up with a waiting list all the time and people with kids are living out of their cars. Very little public housing is available. There are two days a year to apply for what little there is and the apps are first come first serve. Everyone else can go away for six more months, the government doesn't care where, just not in the open.

My point is, we CAN house people who have problems without breaking society's bank, and we once did. This all happened when the U.S. was NOT considered anything remotely resembling a socialist nation. We have lost our way morally. If it continues, we will have little worth saving.

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LiamBean 7 years ago from Los Angeles, Calilfornia

Just a side note to your article. I notice Santa Monica is not mentioned. I think it qualifies as a "meanest city." Some years ago I was part of a group that fed the homeless on the beach (this is the west coast). We'd get food donations from local stores and bake shops and set up a few tables at the beach and feed people. Some weren't homeless and would pay for the food we brought. Most were homeless though.

Santa Monica decided it had enough of the "homeless problem" and passed a number of ordinances designed to put an end to the problem. One of them was a requirement that anyone distributing food had to get a permit from the health department to do so. What did the health department do? They would not issue permits. This, in effect, made food distribution illegal and put an end to it permanently.

They also passed some ordinances regarding loitering and sitting/laying near store entrances. These ordinances effectively ran the homeless out of Santa Monica.

The net effect? The homeless crossed city lines into Venice Beach a few yards away. Now Venice has a "homeless problem."

I find it troubling that the NIMBY attitude never accounts for the other guys back yard. Get the problem out of my neighborhood and to hell with the other guy's back-yard.

Of course this solves nothing.

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi pgrundy -- Happy Thanksgiving.

With timing being all, SNN an all news local station here in Sarasota county, aired a special on the the plague of bed bugs in the shelters (and some hotels.) Another arm of the problem is that existing shelters work as a temporary measure and time there is limited. If you're not back on your feet before your allotted grace period, you're back on your own. The people at one shelter who arranged the meeting with Marta and Chuck said they were fairly typical of the working homeless. Both had been through the shelter, both still unemployed and without housing.

Everything here depends on "the season" -- that three month period from Christmas to Easter, and the last few years have been disastrous. This means the "little" jobs aren't hiring, or are not hiring full time, and the situation is expected to get worse as small and medium sized business will now face mandatory health insurance costs for their employees -- solution: no full time workers, only casual.

I talked with some of the people living at the shelter, and they all said it was difficult to live with so many strangers, the drug use, theft, crime, the illnesses that spread like wildfire, and of course, the mandatory rules (curfews at night and out by a certain hour in the morning.) Although they were grateful for the shelter and assistance -- no one I spoke with considered mass shelters a good solution to their problems.

And as I stated above, people like Marta and Chuck feel they are making it on their own, or would if only they were left alone. The only vestige of pride they have left is that they work, feed themselves and don't take charity. Isn't that the American spirit incarnate? Marta's first response to my friend's dinner invitation was "What can I bring for the table?" No charity for these two -- no sir.

I must say, I walked away full of respect for this couple, and in awe of their coping abilities and their attitude.

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Beata, Thanks for your comments. The attitude you describe is typical of some, the self-righteous, "I made it just fine -- why can't he? It must be his own fault." I don't know if it is supreme selfishness or simply denial. Many don't want to face the fact that the situation could happen to anyone,including themselves.

Hi Liambean -- The same bylaws are in place here. It is now illegal to feed the homeless in public places. Why? It attracts them (as though they were unpleasant insects or something.) And that is the point, you're right -- move along, get out of our town, and you can become our neighbors' worry. It seems to me that shelters are used as containment as much as assistance. Why are you sleeping in your car -- get to a shelter. Why are you feeding them in a public place -- they can eat at the shelter. But the shelters are full. The shelters are short term.

Out of sight, out of mind.

And a note to everyone. This morning I received an email from a reader who is homeless and asks that we all stop using the term "the homeless." He says that is a dehumanizing term.

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pgrundy 7 years ago

Immartin--My point wasn't that shelters are the solution. Everything you say about shelters is true. They all have revolving doors.

My point was, there was a time when we had a social safety net such that people hitting hard times never fell so far as to have to live on the street. I miss that time. I think, instead of figuring out what to do with the growing homeless population (or in addition to figuring out what to do with it), we need to find ways to stop people from falling through the cracks and onto the street in the first place. That's not only the humane thing to do, it's the sensible thing to do, and there's a public health aspect to it as well.

No one benefits when we create an underclass so 'under' that they work hard to live on the street.

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi again pgrundy. I am in complete agreement with you there, and understood your intent. I suppose my little tangent was based on so many responses that say, "There are shelters erego they choose to live as they do."

My home country, Canada, has a highly developed social safety net, and still there are those falling through the cracks, but for the most part they are a transient population, undocumented and possibly suffering mental illness or drug addiction. Families have access to immediate shelter, and we do have a fair number of subsidized housing developments in most cities. However, these services are stretched these days with the downturn in the economy -- which is nowhere near the problem here, at least in Alberta. Strangely enough, many of the foreclosed houses there are in the upscale market. This is not to say the homeless problem doesn't exist -- it does, but in a different way. We don't leave families in the street -- at least not for long. We can't. In our climate they will die, and neglect would be criminal.

I understand the two countries approach social issues from very different view points -- I should, living in both. I often hear my American friends say things like, "Save us from your social programs and taxes" but if I added up U.S. income tax, social security and health insurance, Americans pay out just as much. I've also been told Canada is a leftist, Marxist, communist country, but entrepeneurs flourish there, freedoms are guaranteed, and the security of knowing you'll get medical care, or assistance with your elderly parents, and basic necessities of life should you hit hard times, is worth any amount of name-calling. I'm not really on a tangent, though it may sound like one. My point is, with the hard economic times facing America, perhaps a good look at how other societies deal with social ills like poverty and homelessness, without the blinders of preconceived prejudices and political dogma, might be worthwhile.

The idea of "I'm not paying for anyone else. If I can make it, so can they," presupposes a level playing field. It is not. Sorry, but the reality is all men are not created equal. I used to wonder at the people living in the housing projects in New Orleans -- dreadful places -- particularly the Desire Project, and imagine the lives they must lead. For the most part, those on hard times have done their best with what hand they are dealt. It's an ongoing irritation that those fortunate enough to grow up in an environment of plenty, get a good education, have the connections to get ahead, look down and feel superior to those who by sheer accident of birth, did not have these benefits, and then say "Well if I can make it, why can't they?"

My years of experience here in the U.S. tells me Americans are not a heartless society. Why some feel it necessary to voice such heartlessness is beyond me.

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pgrundy 7 years ago

Maybe the heartlessness is more an effect of corporate media and the internet. For example, it is clear that a great majority of Americans want health care like Canada has--single payer, available to all, paid for by all--and yet the loudest voices are the hateful ones, so those are the ones we hear online and on the news. It gives a false impression maybe. I hope you are right about that.

I see where you were coming from. I thought you misunderstood what I was trying to say--thank you for clearing that up. We are on the same page I think.

I like what you said about we are not all created equal. Every person does not have the same start, the same capabilities, the same opportunities, yet much of the rhetoric is predicated on the belief that we start out equal and so anything we get is ours alone and anything we don't get is due to laziness. That attitude angers me. I promise I'll shut up now! lol!

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AdsenseStrategies 7 years ago from CONTACT ME at

It's possible that a core problem here is one of "police culture." The city I live in at present has police who seem generally pretty tolerant of the homeless. However, I have lived in Montreal, where police seem to go out of their way to harass, particularly aboriginal people; yet my roommate was from Toronto (the suburb of Scarborough, more precisely), where he said police were much more amicable to "fringe elements" than in Montreal. I also lived in Freiburg, Germany, which is full of "street punks", and in three years I don't remember the police visibly harassing them... So, I would say this issue of local police culture is relevant to the story...

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

pgrundy: Please don't shut up. The whole point is engage in debate on the issues, something I find wonderful about these pages. And my denying one comment here -- the first time I've done so -- was for blatant disrespect, not content.

Hope everything is well in your home for this holiday, and tell Bill he is my thoughts and I wish him a speedy and complete recovery.

Hi adsense strategies, I think you have a good point here. Some societies hold their police to "maintaining the peace and upholding the law," others to "keeping the streets safe for the taxpayers -- your employers." Part of the problem regarding homeless people here, according to one judge, is that existing by-laws leave too much power and discretion to the police. And we all know what power can do to a person. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

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Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Great and well written Hub, Lynda - you have the wonderful gift of bringing out simple humanity through your writing. It is sad that two hard-working people are systematically forced outside the system - using legal doublespeak to drive them away is totally barbaric.

I take on board Pam's point about empty vessels making the most noise, but the 'Nicomp' type of uncaring attitude does not portray the US in a good light.

I liked Beata's point about development being an issue - so many people cannot afford a home because of the artificial property boom that pushed rents out of reach for many. In Sparta, we have no homeless (other than the Gypsies, through choice), simply because rents are affordable.

I have a friend who makes a few Euros a night selling roses in the tavernas - he can afford to rent a bedsit in someones basement - not the Hilton, but warm and cozy. Beats living in a car :)

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Sufidreamer. Happy you dropped by. Yes, I've spent time in many parts of Europe, and the bedsitter type of arrangement (enjoyed by yours truly) and an excellent arrangement for those with limited means, does not exist in most parts of North America. Those that would develop a suite in a basement or garage are prohibited from doing so by zoning bylaws. The closest thing I can think of would be decrepit hotels renting by the month. (Gag! Better to live in a car.) That is the crux of the entire problem -- affordable housing (not necessarily houses per se, but even a room with the basics) doesn't exist. That's why Marta and Chuck's vision of a campground for tents, campers and trailers makes sense -- but is again, illegal. I think Marta and Chuck would be happy with even a place to park their car for sleep, at this point.

Martyjay 7 years ago

An excellent insight into the plight of the homeless. There is a lot of truth to the statement that many of the homeless do not like their situation. For various reasons, many not their fault they are forced to live that way.

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hello Martyjay -- I'm sure most of the homeless would like to have somewhere they can call home. Until that is possible, I think they'd like somewhere they can sleep without being afraid of being arrested, or rousted out. It could come to any of us -- I know my husband and I live one the edge. It would only take one wrong step.

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Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

I just read your 'of Mice and Men' hub immediately before coming to this one. I hadn't appreciated that any proportion of your homeless people might actually be working. This fact alone puts a whole different slant on things. I had assumed (wrongly) that the homeless you were writing about, were long-term unemployed, or addicts, or mentally ill. Of course none of these deserves to be on the streets, but surely to goodness, a working person of any description should have enough to pay for shelter? Chuck and Marta seem to see a solution in permanent campsites for the homeless, but that's not a realistic long-term answer. What's needed is affordable housing.

As in Canada, the UK has a social safety net in place for families, the elderly, the incapacitated etc., and although there are those that fall through the cracks, there can be very few Brits living in genuine fear of ending up on the streets. Our housing costs are high, but as in Sufi's comment about Greece, we do have basic accommodation available in bed-sits, shared apartments etc, that low waged people can access.

I have been shocked by the whole health-care debate, and the uncaring attitudes of so many hubbers, but I am more saddened than shocked by the contents of this hub.

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Amanda, Of course you are right -- the answer lies in affordable housing, but it's not likely to happen in the immediate future. Many people balk at life in a shelter, for a variety of reasons already stated in some of these comments. For a short term solution, I do like Chuck and Marta's idea of campgrounds which would at least provide a fixed abode, a safe place to sleep and a chance for these people to develop some semblance of community. Chuck's plans included the idea that residents would all be required to work together to keep the campgrounds clean, secure (security being a big issue, he believes) and functioning without intervention of the police. He spoke at great length about his plans and believes he could find sponsors -- but the law is against them. That has to be the first step -- changing bylaws to allow the campgrounds, or to allow folks to build a suite in the garage to rent, etc.

I think we're going to see the problem get a lot worse before long.

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pgrundy 7 years ago

Do you think that one of the reasons there is so much resistance to campgrounds for the homeless is that having such places would instantly reveal to the world how many homeless there are?

I do.

Also, once a large number of homeless people are gathered in one place, they become a community, not isolated disenfranchised entities vulnerable to abuse. They could want things. They could use the campground address to vote, get jobs, seek benefits, etc.

But mostly I think city governments just don't want the number of homeless visible to the world. This is why they bust up the impromptu tent cities forming on the edge of towns and in waste lots---embarrassing to the city. Makes it harder to attract development dollars and so forth. Money matters more to city governments than people.

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someonewhoknows 7 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

PGrundy - Your right when you say "money" appears to be more important than people.Just look at all the public money that is spent on section 8 housing.There are people in government that make money from the system because of the connections they have and the deals they make to build public housing.That wouldn't be so much of a problem if they didn't overcharge the government or the taxpayers in order to provide that housing.

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi pgrundy, I think you may be right, although the reasons given seem to be law-enforcement concerns (as though homeless people are automatically criminal) as well as 'city planning' ones. I've travelled in a few developing nations and squat settlements are quite the norm there. Perhaps government officials would be overly embarrassed to have the evidence of poverty out in the open for the world to see and measure. Wouldn't that put an end to the claims of superiority to have third world slums attached to every city? Yes, I think you've touched on a truth here. Still, a better solution than move-along must be found.

Hi someone who knows -- educate me -- what is section 8 housing? Is this a subsidized housing project. If so, I do hope they do a better job than some of the housing projects I've seen in some cities, particularly New Orleans. I was appalled by the "projects" there. And corruption will always rear its ugly head in such cases and not only here, but in Canada, too. We've seen some nasty scandals in public building projects -- patronage, pay-offs, the use of substandard materials used when top-grade was paid for -- things like that. Is this what you're referring to?

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Patrice52 7 years ago

A little off track here, but not by much. Since, Nicomp threw out the "Lib" word, I'm truly curious. Conservatives are sometimes referred to as the "religious right", but though they are labeled as such, from SOME of them you see so little compassion for others that I would assume should be a part of their religious beliefs. Again, from some, and possibly the most vocal, it would seem that they are against aborting a fetus for religious reasons, but then don't care what happens to that child once it is born. After having said this, I want to clarify that I'm aware there are many religious liberals and I'm sure there are conservative atheists. Still this question has haunted me for a while.

This was a great, eye opening hub. I instantly thought of the time that my son's teacher informed one of the students that if they didn't buckle down and study harder they would grow up to be "trash" and pump gas for a living. I so took offense to that statement and still do! We are all NOT created equal. There are many people whose abilities limit them to pumping gas for a living and they are NOT trash. And I've said for years, long before our current economic crisis, anyone who is willing to do a hard day's work should certainly make enough money to afford a roof over their heads, food on their tables and affordable health care. But as Joy Behar would say, "Maybe that's just me".

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Patrice, there's the right; the religious right; there's the rightly religious, and then there's some who make right a religion. It's often hard to tell the difference. Most of the truly religious I know are quite liberal which makes sense as Christianity is all about liberal tolerance and generosity. Many who claim to be religious right seem to have forgotten that part. Who can figure?

It's these artificial divisions that pit the population against itself that ensures nothing gets done. But one can assume that's exactly what the powers that be want -- the real point of it all.

I'm fresh home from visiting some people I know who just returned from a Glen Beck rally in TheVillages, Florida (which should have been a clue -- right?) One of them proudly showed me the tee shirt he'd bought while there. It said "I'm exercising my First Amendment and if you don't listen, I'll exercise my Second Amendment."

Not exactly on the subject, but I'm still affected enough by some things I heard to simply have to write it. I did suggest that his right to free speech did not incur on me, or anyone else an obligation to listen. I went home before the Second came up. I have to write a hub on it, I think.

No, it's not just you. No humans are trash. I hate terms like "trailer trash" or "white trash" -- so very dehumanizing. What is sadder is that there are many people pumping gas (or the like) whose abilities are equal to greater things, but their opportunities are not.

Thanks for the comment.

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kartika damon 7 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Patrice, I agree that there exists this irony that many on the religious right who oppose health care reform and social programs for the poor, claim to follow Jesus but seem against the compassionate teachings they profess! I have always said there are those who care more for the unborn than the born! How can you say you are pro life but you aren't going to make certain children have health care and their mothers can feed their children?

Pgrundy, When I was a little girl, my mother told me that no one in America goes without food or shelter - they can always go to the salvation army, so I understood your point about how things have changed - this is not the way it once was.

We are now a nation known for having a large population of homeless, uninsured, working poor, and unemployed, while the right wing insists we know how to do it better than Canada, the UK, or other countries who have more compassionate systems. I think it is an arrogance born of delusion!

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Patrice52 7 years ago

I love it when the judgemental say, I worked hard, I went to college and then went back to get my master's degree, to get where I'm at. If I can do it they can too!

Even if this WERE true, you'd then have to wonder if everyone were so well educated, who would be there to watch their children, or do their hair, or service their cars, or clean their houses, or wait on them when they went out to eat, etc., etc., etc. In other words, who would be left to keep their lives so comfortable?

All of these hard working people also deserve to make enough money to put a roof over their heads, food on the table, and purchase affordable health care! They're not saying they should have the very well educated's Mercedes or mansions, but just the basics would be nice.

I think part of the reason we see more homeless today is a move into more corporations or big businesses. When I was a teenager, many employers had only 30 or 40 employees and knew them all. And they would be very embarrassed if anyone found out their employees were living in poverty or doing without health care for lack of money. Now there are so many corporations where the bottom line is all that matters, and employees are only faceless numbers.

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ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

I find it comforting to remember that most callous and self-interested types, regardless of the high regard in which they hold themselves, are only a pink-slip away from the same conditions suffered by the people you interviewed.

Given current conditions, no amount of technical expertise or seniority on the job is sufficient to ensure security.

It's nearly certain that a small population of technicians and such will be "kept" by the plutocracy.

I suppose there will always be those who would prefer to live on their knees rather than die on their feet.

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ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

Something else occurs to me. Criminalizing homelessness means PROFIT for the ever more privatized penal system and the diversion of more tax dollars away from needed services and into the budgets of law enforcement and the justice system. In this case, the phrase justice system seems a bit of a non sequitur.

I remember a segment from one of George Carlin's routines that dealt with homelessness. One place he suggested for building shelter for the house-less was golf courses. A waste of millions of acres of perfectly habitable land for a boring, mindless, elitist game used by amerikan businessmen primarily to discuss ways to better obtain private ownership of every last square inch of Earth. Sounds like a plan to me.

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Kartika, Hi Patrice,

The majority of those well-educated, well-endowed sorts were born into the environment, into a family with the means to provide opportunity and the stability necessary to make the most of it. There are those who can honestly say I made it on my own -- but few. There are many who played by "the rules" and through no fault of their own find themselves with nothing after years of work. And still many more who never had opportunity, or the background to develop their skills. Chuck said, "Survival is a full time job." I think this is one of the most important statements in the whole article. How many are on the hamster wheel, running and running only to end up in the same place?

I'm sure many feel that way right now. I know I've worked hard all my life, and through downtrends etc, found my asset base whittled away from under my feet. Pgrundy also expresses the feeling of "what do I have to show for it."

For others to say, "It's your own fault," I believe is denial of their own precarious positions.

Hi Coldwarbaby, There is much truth in what you say -- though I hope all is not as hopeless as you think it is. George Carlin is one of my favorite comics -- such a sarcastic wit, with a clear view of our world. I recently watched his "It's not good for you" concert on organized religion.

I drive around my area of Florida and what do I see? Empty houses, empty strip malls, half built developments left for lack of funds, empty vacant land. No need to use up the golf courses -- no lack of space.

Prisons are over crowded. No place for the homeless there either.

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ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

One in every hundred adults in the population of amerika is in prison. The prison system, like nearly everything else, is being increasingly privatized and run FOR PROFIT. Like any kapitalist enterprise, that is its sole purpose. More inmates mean more profit and profit is the only consideration.

I am somewhat surprised that debtors' prisons have not been re-instituted. We are so near indentured servitude already, it's only a short step to incarcerating debtors and forcing them to work at menial labor to pay off what they "owe". It would create added profit for the prison system and the labor would be even cheaper than undocumented immigrants.

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cindyvine 7 years ago from Cape Town

This was such an excellent hub. I too have been homeless with my three kids, not in America but in South Africa. I'd fled a crazy husband who wanted to kill us, ended up destitute in another city. We were about to sleep on the beach when someone picked us up and took us to the Salvation Army Family Crisis Centre. I sympathise with Marta. I was an experienced qualified teacher but I couldn't get a job. I didn't have pharmacy or check out experience so couldn't get a job there, no waitressing experience so restaurants were out, and told that I was over-qualified to get a job in the daycare. As I'd been teaching in private schools I wasn't on the state's redeployment list, so basically I was unemployable. For three months, I guarded cars at the racecourse across the road, until I managed to get a job at another international school in a different country. So I understand the desire to work and how hard it sometimes is to get a job. I think Nicomp's comments show that he is a Nicompoop. Nobody chooses to be homeless. It's desperation that puts you there, and circumstances.

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lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you Cindywine for sharing your experience. What Nicomp doesn't realize is that it could happen to anyone -- anywhere. And for many, it is extremely difficult to return to "average" living -- particularly when there are no full time jobs and you are stuck in a hand-to-mouth existence.

Hi again Coldwarbaby, Debtors' prisons would see three quarters of the population incarcerated -- what a thought. 1% of the population in prison and another 1 to 2% homeless, but everything is fine for the rest. Don't think so. I think we'll see the situation get a lot worse over the next few years.

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PegCole17 7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Thanks for this insightful hub that brings to light the plight of the less fortunate. As a society we turn our heads and pretend not to see, or we pass laws that makes it a crime to be poor and homeless. Shame on us.

Providing inexpensive housing has not elevated the ranks of the poor in the past. Look at the projects - not a haven for inspiration or self improvement.

We must provide educational opportunities for retraining our displaced population so that those like Marta, who want to work and do work, can begin to qualify for better paying jobs that will support their daily needs.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Peg, I understand where your coming from on education, etc, but it is something of a circular argument when there are no 'better' jobs available. Many people who are well trained, well educated have lost their jobs. That has been Canada's response -- funding for training for non-existent jobs. Hasn't helped a whole lot.

How does someone apply for student loans, let alone register for classes without an address.

And inexpensive housing doesn't have to be projects -- God-awful places, I agree. There are other alternatives than giant warehouses.

I'm not saying we shouldn't find solutions, but "give them training" is one of those knee-jerk answers that is easy to throw out there. Not easy to put in place or practical in the current situation.

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kartika damon 7 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Cindyvine, I agree with you - some people don't have the capacity to feel empathy and have to go through the fire themselves to really get how much it hurts - they instinctively blame anyone going through tough times - Understanding takes time and a willingness to learn; they seem to take the easy way out by choosing to see things in the most simplistic of terms.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

lmmartin, You're absolutely right about the education solution. What was I thinking? I should know this from personal experience, having recently endured two full years of husband's unemployment after being terminated by a major computer manufacturer. I had just left my corporate job after 13 years, finally having enough of the RIFs, WFRs, Downsizing, Rightsizing and other euphemisms for the reality of firings that were rampant in my age group (50+).

Eventually he found a job that employed little of his intellect, paying about 30% of what he had earned before. It is only through the grace of God that he has since found employment at his former level of earnings and skill set.

Those were three tough years of worry, fear, and scarcity but we never did without anything really critical. Thanks to our planning for early retirement (now ravaged savings) we were able to scrape by even with ongoing car payments, mortgages and bills.

My friend in Florida is not so lucky. She lost her lucrative job in the mortgage underwriting business and has remained unemployed for three years. Her prospects are dim for reemployment even now in that industry and considering that she is middle aged and starting over, she fears she will end up living under a bridge soon. Where are all the jobs that were supposed to come from the bank bailouts?

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

I know what you mean about ravaged retirement savings. Through a series of unfortunate events over which we had no control, my husband and I are also slightly more than middle-aged and looking at our much reduced situation. But, I don't worry about it. Can't. What good would it do?

This is part of what I'm trying to say here. This generation will go into their later years with less resources than the previous two. What will that do to society, considering the baby boomers represent an unnatural bulge in society's demographics? We'll need new bridges to accommodate us.

People look to the government for answers (and then protest of growing government when they respond) but all the govt can do is throw money at the situation in the hopes that something will change. That's why we don't see solutions. The banks used that money to buy up smaller banks -- not to alleviate the crushing pressure on individuals.

I seems to me those who insist we all do for ourselves should at least change local legislation to allow the poor to do what they can. I'm intrigued by Chuck's plans and often find myself wondering what I can do to help bring them to fruition. (Not much considering I'm not even an official resident.)

Thanks for sharing your story. Yours is one most of us share at this point in history. Those of us who've seen the fruits of our labors disappear in the past decade are indeed facing an uncertain future. How are the bridges in your neck of the woods?

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 7 years ago

Yes Sir. Thank you. This is a primo story about primo strife. I'd like a real revolution - one where we all are committed to loving our brothers and sisters! I'm a fan Immartin Dude.

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liminal 7 years ago

"$500 fine for being poor!"

The death of the American middle class. I hope our American cousins find a solution to this; the United States is a wonderful country, Americans are great people and they deserve so much better!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Mickey Dee -- dude! Trust me -- you don't want a real revolution. That brings nothing but chaos and destruction. You want to make change within and that can happen as simply as standing up in a town-council meeting, or getting beind a plan such as Chuck's and helping to get community support. Much better than violence of revolution. Trust me.

Hi Liminal, nice to see you at my hubs. Yes, I too hope that compromise can be found for a better solution to homelessness. I can't help but feel as long as we look for a "cure" we will overlook the symptom. I think the best way to deal with this is to change existing by-laws and allow campgounds, and to allow citizens to build rental accomodation on their existing property. We do not need massive projects to shovel them into and keep them isolated and stigmatized. We should try find some solution that integrates the homeless throughout the community. The building of 'bed-sitters' in garages and such would defintely help the working homeless and the landlord as well.

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

Wow - what a great Hub. It really portrays the terrible plight of some good people. I'm a fan.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks suziecat7, glad you liked the hub -- they are good people, and I learned much from them. Hope you come back to read more.

MagicStarER profile image

MagicStarER 7 years ago from Western Kentucky

The remark by ColdWarBaby: "I am somewhat surprised that debtors' prisons have not been re-instituted. We are so near indentured servitude already, it's only a short step to incarcerating debtors and forcing them to work at menial labor to pay off what they "owe"."

I have often wondered the same thing... I sure hope they don't read that and get some ideas....

Things are certainly bad enough as it is!

Things really are bad - I really agree that most of the people who are homeless are good people who are victims of our economy and broken system. Here in Kentucky, in Paducah, there are homeless people everywhere, and nowhere for them to go. There are only 2 shelters and they both have waiting lists that are months long... There are only a couple of places that provide a meal. All our local food pantries and charities are over-burdened, with no donations coming in, and with bare shelves, having to turn people away. We have homeless people walking up and down the streets, and sleeping in the doorways of churches, in parks, under bridges, and wherever they can. There are quite a few families with children living in cars or in tents. No one seems to care - nothing whatsoever is being done about it.

You are right that we can not "cure" the situation.

We must first understand that these people who are going through this are people just like you and I. And we must learn, as a society, to be compassionate and kind on a one to one basis, not just point at "the shelters" or "the Salvation Army" as a solution and say we did our job. Those places are not going to fix a thing. They are just a band-aid on a gaping wound. One of the homeless shelters here does not have a phone, will not help people with transportation to look for jobs, does not do anything to help people get on their feet. And after 30 days, it's "Ok, your time is up!"

Those of us with resources must help those who have none. Don't you have someone in your family who needs help? Well, get busy and help them. Several generations of families used to live together and pool their resources. In many other countries, they still do. In Mexico, several generations share the same living area - grandmother is built-in babysitter, sons go to work, cars are shared, women share in the cooking and housekeeping chores. If one has a problem, the others help. It works. There is strength and security in numbers - all must learn to cooperate and contribute. We need to re-think our values. They are no longer workable.

Last winter I barely had a roof over my own head, with no running water (could not afford to fix the pipes), no income, nothing... But several times I brought homeless people home and let them sleep on my sofa, rather than let them sleep outside in the freezing cold. You might question if this was safe or not - but I am a pretty good judge of character, and no one killed me in my sleep. We as a society must return to the old values - and families and friends must learn to work together and not turn their backs on each other.

We as Americans must return to self-sufficient ways. If we are not part of the broken system and do not depend on it, then it can not affect us. By this I mean, get your own land, get off the grid, raise your own food, and be independent and self-sufficient. We do not need all the luxuries society has convinced us we need. Our ancestors did not need them, and neither do we. All we really need is food, water, clothing, and shelter, and interaction with other humans. We can learn to provide this for ourselves and not have to depend on the system, nor the government, nor anyone else for these things. If they are not providing these things, then they can not take them away, can they?

We must get back to the land. It will feed us and give us a living. We must learn the skills we need to know to be self-sufficient. Those who are in the cities must get out of them, they will be death traps. They are already becoming that way. There is cheap land to be had in the rural south and in other parts of the country. I mean as cheap as $1200 an acre. Try LandandFarmdotcom to find cheap land.

Also worth investigating further are intentional communities where groups of people join together and live as cooperative communities. I am going to write a hub about these communities soon. Some are sustainable living "ecovillages" on farms in the country, and others are housing coops in cities... Where all members contribute to the expenses and to the necessary work of keeping the places up and keeping everyone fed and clothed, etc. (Somewhat Communistic, you may say, and I agree, but at least those people are not homeless, nor are they hungry...) You can learn about where there are Intentional Living Communities at their main web site at:

If you are homeless, or about to become so, perhaps you can find one of these communities in your area and live in one. There are quite a few of them... (I have actually considered doing this, but have found that their "rules" are rather strict - like one place only lets you have $2 a day, and all other money has to go to the "community". Some won't let you drive a car, etc...

I'm sorry I ran on like this lmmartin - but this is an excellent hub, and I thank you very much for writing it. I hope it will open some eyes and get people thinking about what they can do themselves to help others less fortunate.

I am not trying to say here that the ideas I am mentioning will solve the immediate problems of those who are homeless. But they are certainly something we can all be thinking about - maybe as a way of planning ahead and making sure we don't end up in the street and a way to help others too.

marcel285 profile image

marcel285 7 years ago from New Zealand

Why is it that America constantly claims to be number 1, yet they have so many homeless people???

I'm from NZ, and the government there is one of the worst, but there are few homeless people in NZ. Because in NZ, and Australia, there is an unemployment benefit, so people don't live on the street. The ones that do, deserve no sympathy, because they revieve a benefit which they choose to spend on booze and drugs.

Thanks for sharing immartin, this was so interesting, but heartbreaking.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hello Magicstar, and I thank you for your thoughts on this subject. As you point out, there are possible options, but some them will not fit everyone. Some people truly need to stay in their community (like Marta who needs to be close to her children.) There are no easy answers.

Hello Marcel285 - People in the U.S. do have unemployment benefits, but they do not last forever (nor do they in Canada or New Zealand) and when they are used up, well you know what happens. And I think even those who are homeless due to substance addictions are still deserving of sympathy.

Thanks for reading this article.

MagicStarER profile image

MagicStarER 7 years ago from Western Kentucky

Hey lmmartin! :) Thanks for not being mad at me for writing such a long monologue... I'm sorry but I do tend to get "riled up" about certain topics. Homelessness is one of them! You are so right that everyone, even those with substance abuse problems, are humans, and all have a basic right to shelter.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi MagicStarER, I would never be mad at someone expressing their opinions -- isn't that the whole point? I'm glad to hear you get riled up about homelessness, and wish more people did. Feel free to write a monologue on any of my hubs -- and have you read Of Mice and Men, Does Sarasota Know the Difference, another look at homelessness?

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 7 years ago

I commented to a "sir" as I couldn't tell before. No I don't want a violent revolution. But- "town meetings"- sorry - our culture will need many changes before I can think about a town meeting. You haven't read many of my hubs. I'm in there somewhere. There was a meeting once to establish humane responsibilities in war. Oh, let's call it the Geneva Convention. It is easy to "set rules" of fair-play about war in "conventions or town meetings". I'm not saying you and everyone else shouldn't go. You should. Thanks for a great hub.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Mickey Dee, and you're right that men do not often live up to their intentions, or their rhetoric, however, when I speak of town council meetings, I'm meaning to politic against anti-homeless legislation, not the "town hall" meetings of today's pundits. If everyone gives up on the democratic process, what is left?

Call me niaive but I do believe each one of us capable of creating change. It's too easy to sit back and say "Oh it doesn't work, and until change comes I won't take part." Unless you take part, change will never come.

You're right in that I haven't yet read many of your hubs, as I've been so occupied with preparing two novels. I will do so very soon, so look for clues of my presence in the next little while, and I apologize for the neglect. I normally make it a point to read those who speak out on my hubs. My novel-writing can tend to get all consuming, which is why I haven't produced any major hubs in a while. Hopefully, in the next month, that will change.

Thanks again for the comment. And don't worry about the sir.

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 7 years ago

Until America addresses the need for an overhaul of a justice systems that is terrible (okay right below this one someone can say, "Oh but it is the best!"), I see no need to jump in with much. Denial, indifference, and ignoring is the way we deal with money buying lawyers buying an appeal for some kind of justice. So- yes -I will stay out of a process for a lot of things because of a track record I've seen concerning abuse and apathy. Thanks for you reply. Thanks again for a much needed hub.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi again Mickey Dee, change needs to come from within, and if we all stand aside and remain outside of the process, change can never happen. Your view is one of hopelessness. Staying out of the process negates the right to criticize, and your view is one I hear all to often. This is the real problem with our society today -- those who refuse to participate because the system isn't to their liking, and then moan that things don't improve. It is all the fashion I suppose, to consider oneself above it all, and say I won't come down from my perch and join until everything is different. All we're doing is leaving the path clear for those with an agenda opposite our own.

Aley Martin profile image

Aley Martin 6 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

Hello Lynda.

Your article was not only well written, it exposes the main crux of the issue in very clear and simple terms. My husband and I lived in our small RV for 2.5 years and although others thought it was extravagant, it was no vacation. We could not get anything but temporary work, and had no car, so had to drive the RV to work every day, leaving our dog inside even on hot days (windows open of course and plenty of water)

We are both "professionals" who no one wanted to hire. Over qualified. Over 45 years old. Finally, we found a job as managers for a storage company that included housing. It saved our lives, but was not without its stresses. Long story Very one really cares when you are down and out. And now that so many are unemployed this will only become more rampant. Homeless people are not all lazy, stupid, or addicts. A major paradigm shift must occur to change the way people treat others in this world. It is shameful. That you for putting a face onto this issue. I am sorry to learn Florida is such a nasty place to be homeless.

Bless you for your Hub look at the other side of this topic.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you Aley Martin -- for sharing your story, and for reaffirming the homeless are folks just like the rest of us and each of us can be that position any day.

Glad to hear you've found a niche. Bet you're sick of your little RV. Lynda

ar.colton profile image

ar.colton 6 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

I appreciate so much how much effort you put into this article. There is so much detail, so much research and obviously so much care put into making sure that the working homeless are represented honestly. This was a truly enlightening piece and I am glad that I had the chance to read it.

I am surprised you posted it here though, as you probably could have sold it and gotten yourself and investigative journalist position pretty fast. Though I'm sure if thats what you wanted you would have it by now!

I aspire to creating articles like this. Thanks for making Hubpages a better place!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you ar.colton for your generous words of praise for this article. Here we are several months later and Chuck and Marta continue to live on the fringes of society, and the situation here on the Gulf coast of Florida looks to be getting worse, not better. There are now many more homeless, and with the possible destruction of the beaches, the effect on tourism, the continuing housing debacle -- who knows what is yet to come.

Thanks again for reading and leaving this comment.

saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

This is an absolute crying shame and your work on this masterpiece has to be commended. I to have witnessed homeless I write a fiction piece in one of my hubs about Donnie going over to the dark side. I also had a homeless friend who frequented my place of business for handouts and solace. My partner and I were kind and generous at every opportunity. Wally we called him was the Angel with makeup, I write about him as well in one of my hubs. It's a very sad state of affairs in America, there are countless numbers of people walking the streets homeless, people who had homes, jobs, food in their bellies and children. It's so unfair for the government to spend the money they do on other agendas, yet don't take care of the very citizens who voted them into office. Our societies of the world are dying and corruption is everywhere. Moral fiber is at an all time low, no one seems to care about homeless people, the ones that do are working 24/7 to comfort them where they can. Your story is just one of many out there, I commend your work and thank you for getting it out there, we all need to feel the pain and sadness for these people. Any one of us can be in their boots, and I know of a few who are very close to losing it all. Peace and Love.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you saddlerider. I'm sure Marta and Chuck would agree with you, and tell they are quite typical of the homeless -- not druggies, not drunks, not mentally ill, just hardworking people who can't make enough. Researching for this article was a real education. I wonder if I would have the same optimistic spirit were I in their shoes.

gg.zaino profile image

gg.zaino 6 years ago from L'America

Wonderful article Immartin!

As a survivor of the streets, and homelessness myself, I have absolute empathy with these wanderers, who's only wish is to maintain their dignity... their only crime poverty.

So many of the self righteous don't realize how close they really are to being homeless themselves.

In my particular situation,i lost my employment of many years, lost my home to my wife who divorced me and as a result, i lost custody of my daughter..loss loss loss!

The final blow was loss of my own dignity as a result of finger pointers and self righteous individuals who insisted that it had to be my own fault; that i could change my position if i really wanted to. Friends and family turned their backs and i found myself alone in an alien world. I made it out but in the time i lived day to day, hand to mouth, many didn't and found potters field their lot.

These same finger pointers crying out their indignation at the sight of the unfortunate and condemn, yet are in turn condemning themselves to ignorance and darkness.

Those unfortunates without a voice need ours to speak for them.

I'm so glad to find others like myself who are able to give light to the darkness. Thank you again. Anyone who sees fit to speak out against this injustice, and take a humanitarian stance gets my applause and follow.. i rated your article 'up'... B@peace Immartin and my thoughts and best wishes to our two survivors...great hub!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you ggZaino -- an absolutely fabulous comment! The poor are often made the scape-goats of society, entirely to blame for their own poverty and not deserving of our respect. In fact, sometimes listening to the political rhetoric of our times, they are not only to blame for their own plight, but the sorry state of the nation. Dickens would be so at home! Thank you for adding yet another face to the terrible, and increasing saga of the homeless in America. Lynda

IvoryMelodies profile image

IvoryMelodies 6 years ago

Immartin ~ Amazing hub. You are a gifted storyteller. I, too, am in this situation. Two and a half years ago I was laid off from a job along with many others, and things have been downhill from there. Unemployment benefits, along with two extensions, sustained me for a time. I found work again shortly after benefits ran out, but was so miserable after a year that I left. It has not been my choice, however, to remain unemployed. I once remarked that if applications and resumes were considered fine art, I would be rich. It takes a lot of time to look for work.

During my initial unemployment, I lost my tiny house and opted to move in with my parents. I'm a 40 something, and I'm grateful, but the close quarters are extremely challenging. I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and the love of family. I also have a constant cloud of guilt hanging over my head. This was never the intention. I have sold nearly everything I can make any decent money off of, and I am at the financial mercy of everyone else for many things.

While I am not homeless, I must say that bills still come. Just because one does not have a home does not mean that the wolf is not still looking for them. Bills surrounding the house still have to be satisfied, in addition to any others. And none of them really care whether you are unemployed. In the event that the house is sold for less than was owed on the mortgage, the remainder is considered capital gains and Uncle Sam wants taxes on that. In '09, Obama forgave those debts. We'll see about this year. Many people had much more expensive homes than I did, and they likely owe a chunk.

I've considered education and retraining, but not only can I not qualify for the loans (especially now, living in my parents house), I don't want them at my age. And our lovely government will only pay for so much, which isn't really much. The idea of starting fresh, to me, does not include a fresh batch of debt to the tune of thousands of dollars. I have also checked into assistance, and like many others, I fall through the cracks, as I am not disabled or elderly, nor do I have children. Like Marta and Chuck, I will just continue to pull myself up by the bootstraps and search out opportunity. My situation is just that, a situation.

On another note, I have sometimes thought that jail might not be so bad. In the first place, I've paid taxes for years. Let's see, I would get a free meal, a bed to sleep on, possibly a job, or if I exhibited good behavior, I might get to be part of a work-release program, and have a job when I got out! I've heard it said that there's cable TV, too. And let's not forget the free education that some seem to be able to obtain. I probably wouldn't qualify for that, either. lol - okay, now I'm just being bitter. I admit it.

On a more serious note, I agree with you in that I think our national issues will continue to get worse before they get better.

It's too bad our wonderful government did not see fit to bail out their people rather than the banks and automakers. Many folks might have paid off all or part of their homes, and thus been able to sustain themselves on lesser incomes. A pipe dream, perhaps, but then so is the American dream. Oh no, wait...that's a nightmare.

Thanks for Chuck and Marta's story. I pray they are doing okay. And all the readers that commented and shared their struggles. We're all in this together, whether we acknowledge it or not.

IvoryMelodies profile image

IvoryMelodies 6 years ago

Oh yes, and let's not forget healthcare in the jail scenario.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you IvoryMelodies for sharing your story with us. I'll keep you in my prayers and hope that things get better for you. Thank you for writing here. Where are you -- in which state? Lynda

IvoryMelodies profile image

IvoryMelodies 6 years ago

I am a Kansas girl.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Where in Kansas? I have friends in Wichita. Lynda

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

By some I would be called hard-hearted, but I have a little more experience with the so-called homeless than a few encounters and an interview with people I’ve just met. As I read this hub I saw many holes in Marta’s story and I know that all we can do is choose to take her at her word or not.

She does need to remember that the police do not make the laws. They are paid by our taxes to enforce the laws--laws that we have opportunity to impact if we want to actually do something about an issue that concerns us. Writing about such issues is important, and being willing to have open discussions about the issues and how our writing relates to them is even more important, but there is something that takes priority to all of that.

Getting out there and listening to the citizens and business owners who give to charity, pay their taxes, and abide by the laws is also very important. Still, there is something that takes priority. Getting involved in the law making process is the responsibility of every citizen, including writers who take up issues and when we make that the priority we can make a lasting impact on the homeless problem.

My area happens to be one that is an avenue for those who live off the grid, so to speak. For whatever reason they give, the bottom line is that they don’t have addresses because they live off of other people’s tax money and charity.

Our area is a seasonal thoroughfare for those who want to go south for the winter and north for the summer on the backs of others who work hard and give much. Mind you, I am not saying that everyone who works hard gives much. I’m just saying that many, many do.

Anyway, I am involved in a ministry that reaches out to needy people. We work hard to share what we have so we can give what they need. However, this requires the wisdom that is wrapped up in a wise quote that goes something like, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat well for a day, teach him to fish and he’ll eat well from now on.” Sometimes both are required, but more often than not, we find that they don’t want to fish.

Too many want to be given something to eat when it is offered, but they would rather have money for drinking and drugging at their leisure. They prefer what is base rather than to do the work it would take, rather than to make the sacrifices it would take to rise above their circumstances. To be sure, this is not everyone who lives on the streets, but it is far too common.

Here is one example that highlights why I take my general position toward the homeless. A man was standing with a sign at a crossroads near our ministry. Observing him for sometime, it was obvious that he was raking it in during rush hour. The next weekend, the same man passed through a park where our ministry was holding a gathering. It was an opportunity to interview the man. One of our most experienced workers sat down with him and asked if they could have an honest discussion.

Upon being questioned about why he would do what he does since he seemed like a fairly clean-cut, healthy man who could work at something, he replied, “Are you kidding? if I sit out there for 8 hours I can easily make $200. With the shelters and meal ministries I can live on that for a long time without working.”

Did this cause one of us to quit our ministry effort? Not at all. We know that this is the attitude of most that we reach out to. Our effort is bigger than this small man’s attitude. We have goals that include teaching a younger generation that character and work has rewards, and more. But this comment should not turn into a hub about that ministry.

I really meant only to present a different perspective since this issue is out there for discussion. I admit that I have not read all of the comments, but I do know that in my area our citizens work in charitable ministries that are committed to making sure that NO ONE is left out in the cold on freezing nights in spite of how the media represents the situation. Not too many years ago the news noted that a homeless man froze to death in our area. Turns out that he refused to go to a shelter--and there are more details that explain why.

No organization is perfect, the police department included, but I personally know policemen who do their job with sincere compassion, and to tell you the truth, I don’t know how they do it. Their training sometimes saves their lives in the face of the behavior of the homeless. They do their job, and they help people whether the people think it is help or not. After all, a two-year old may want to play in the street, but no one in their right mind lets them.

Our city reached out to hurricane Katrina victims and as well as individuals opening their homes to other families, a large community center was opened for them. They were provided with good food, good bedding, and police protection. They robbed and raped their own, they would not get involved in each other’s needs, but only complained of what we were trying to do for them. Many of them knew the “homeless” game well, but that did not stop us from trying to help them.

There is plenty of compassion among American citizens and this issue needs to be looked at from every perspective if there is going to be any real help given. Maybe there just needs to be more people who are willing to step into the leadership arena of the ranks who are willing to lead people who are willing to help by giving their time and money.

Just maybe the people who need to be more involved in the process of helping in the ranks and in the leadership arena need to be the homeless who are not the drinkers and druggies.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Marta and Chuck continue to be in contact with me, and they are not drinkers or druggies, nor do they take charity. They pick up what work they can and they both work hard. They found an illegal apartment someone built in their garage and were able to pay rent for the past several months. They were doing better until Sarasota by-law enforcement clued into the illegal apartment in their latest "law-enforcement" campaign...

Thank God, not all Americans are as judgmental as you are. That's all I have to say.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

Is it judgmental to try to look at every side of an issue from the perspective of everyone involved?

There would be nothing wrong at all if Marta and Chuck did take charity in any form, including legal government assistance. There is something wrong, though, if they do something illegal.

Whether a law is right in your sight (or in mine or in Marta's or Chuck's) is not the issue. People should abide by the laws of the country they live in. Charities exist to help people in trouble, partly so that they do not "have" to break the law. The man that froze to death chose not to take charity. He wanted to do something else and it cost him dearly, but charity would have helped him.

Charity groups will continue on in hopes of truly helping a few even though we know that many will not accept true help but simply want enablement for their various activities.

I'm glad you wrote about the issue. Your perspective is important to the discussion, as are the perspectives of others, including mine.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Yes it is judgmental. Charities are overloaded. Shelters have waiting lists and have instituted priorities -- women with children first. Not just in Sarasota, but many other cities, there aren't enough shelters. This is truth. Many of the shelters are unsafe and unsavory. Marta was raped in a shelter and many of the people I spoke with had their belongings stolen.

The poor don't have a voice in law-making and some laws are just plain unfair and are written for the property owners and tax-payers. People sleeping in their cars being rousted at night and harassed is not helping anyone.

Also, knowing Marta and a few others, I feel your language is insulting -- playing the homeless game. It is not a game for many of the honest working homeless. As the economic crisis here in Florida grows, and it is, and as real estate values plummet and rents drop, more of the working homeless are finally able to be housed. This is good for them, though bad for the rest of us. That has been the problem for many -- unemployment soars and those working at minimum wage jobs, or part time casual work cannot afford housing.

I did not deny your comment. I did not erase it, therefore I did allow you to speak your piece and present your perspective. But it is my freedom to disagree with you. And I do. And I am expressing that disagreement so what is your problem? Is disagreeing with you an insult? Is it disallowing your voice? Not at all.

Your attitude may be fitting to some that are 'bums,' but this article is about a whole new phenomenon -- the working homeless which is an ever growing sector of the problem. You want to paint all homeless with the same brush, and that is just plain wrong. Marta and Chuck do not beg; nor do many of the other working homeless I have come to know.

The working homeless have become a cause I continue to support, and I have had close contact with many in the year since I wrote this article. I offer free consultation service to the local Coalition for the Homeless as an accountant/administrator, helping them coordinate efforts. I've watched them form loose co-operatives and work forward. They are not the people you describe. As to the holes in Marta's story -- really, you haven't met her, and know her only from what I've written here. She is a good worker, always ready to help others and someone I now call a friend.

Have you any idea how difficult things are in Florida for many?

It is to their credit they are not looking for handouts, but a fair chance. Many of the homeless, at least here in Sarasota/Charlotte counties ask only that. They need affordable housing -- not charity.

So yes, dear RTalloni, excuse me but I find you very judgmental.

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

Most certainly it is true that charities as well as governmental agencies are overloaded with the "homeless problem" that you wrote about. And you are right, there are homeless people who are not playing it like a game, but too many are.

I am not at all insulted that you disagree with me, only saddened that in a small attempt to present a view of every aspect of the situation in your comments section I have been met with such venom.

I never called the homeless "bums," although some are, and I believe that I made it clear that all the homeless are not the same. If I did not do so adequately, though, it was a failure on my part. Please accept my apology.

As well, I did not think that you would deny my comments. I would have been surprised if you had for from your writing I did get the sense that you have a sincere desire to highlight the needs of the homeless and that you would want to glean information from the experiences of other people.

We need to highlight the issues related to the homeless, but more than that we need to be involved in a legal process of truly helping them. It is sad that some will not be helped, but it is a wonderful thing when there are successes!

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

This will be my last response. I did not react with venom but with vigor. I work with these people and know them well, and I am well aware I could easily be one of them. I thought this article made clear I was writing of the working homeless, not those suffering from addictions, mental illness or sheer laziness (bums.) Sorry you see it as venom. I was indignant at the assumptions you made.

We can put this discussion to bed now as it is 1 AM and I am supposed to be clearing up some work from my desk that must be done before Monday. Lynda

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

Sorry that I missed that your hub was only about the working homeless.

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NancyDL 6 years ago

This is for Ivory, who doesn't want to go back to school at forty: I ended up unemployed and desperate for work (with two degrees) at nearly sixty, and "school", in the form of extension courses and free online courses taught me Microsoft Office, which led to well-paying temp work, which led to a satisfying job. You are NEVER too old to learn.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Very true. I am also nearly sixty and very much an education junky, always taking seminars on writing, as well as teaching them. I think the problem is often not the age thing, but depression. Depression steals our motivation and optimism, not to mention our energy. But you know what? Learning something new is a good cure for depression. Thanks for the good advice. Lynda

kentuckyslone profile image

kentuckyslone 5 years ago

A very beautifully done article! I have known people who were homeless. I'm really wondering though how two people working various jobs cannot earn enough to have a place to live. It looks like they are very happy with each other and I admire them for that.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks for commenting kentuckyslone. I haven't had contact from Marta and Chuck in quite a while now, so I don't know what they're doing these days. Their happiness not only with each other, but with life in general was inspiring. Apparently, it isn't just a money issue when it comes to rentals, but the fact having lived in that 'nether' land of homelessness, meaning no references, etc. Still, all things considered, they are a very content couple. Perhaps something to learn here? Lynda

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Rette Lee 5 years ago

Hi Lynda, I LOVE this hub! I am ashamed to say that I am a native Floridian but I am thankful NOT to live there any longer. I find Sarasota's (and the state's as a whole) actions disgusting and vile to put it lightly. It sickens me that so many people are self-absorbed and judgemental and view the poor as "throw-aways". I cannot believe that we, as a nation, have the audacity to go to other countries and tell them anything. No wonder other countries hate us. We run all over the globe to help their sick and poor and to anyone who "needs our help" but we turn our backs on our own people. What is that? This topic enrages me because we just sit and look the other way when our own people are starving and homeless.

I would love to meet Chuck and Marta and tell them that YES! some people do care and we DO want to help give them a HAND UP, not a hand out.

If more people would put their narrow minded judgements aside and just get out and help others in our own communities, we would have fewer problems in this country.

It is utterly ridiculous that we pay for criminals to live in "humane" conditions but someone who has lost their job, has no home, and is not an addict or mentally ill cannot sleep in their car or even sit on a park bench because they are considered animals and unworthy of humane treatment. This is appalling, abusive and it has to stop!

Thank you so much for writing this hub and sharing this story. There is much we need to say about this issue.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you Rette Lee. I share your frustration with the nation's priorities. The American poor are often treated as though their poverty is nothing more than their own fault. I hear such strange comments, sometimes. Last night, Bill O'Reilly (and no, I don't watch FOX but have a client who has it on at all times, so there's no escape)-- anyway, Bill O'Reilly spoke about why should those who work hard be penalized and pay for those who "fail to prosper in our capitalist system." Yep. THe poor in other countries are the victims of their governments and administrations, their cultures and lack of opportunity, whereas here.... It's exactly the same. Cut funds for education, for social programs, for health and then blame those who fall by the wayside for their own situations. Thanks again. Lynda

Aline 5 years ago

This is one of the most touching articles I've read in a long, long time. I spent several months homeless two years ago and I know all to well how vulnerable you become, how dangerous the streets, how unsympathetic our society and what it feels like to be invisible.

It isn't easy to work your way back up. The system is stacked against you. If not for the help of some good people, I never would have made it.

Thank you, thank you for showing the homeless for what they are (most of them) regular people going through hard times. You are my new favorite writer. God Bless You.

Supper stozz 4 years ago

I hope the banks begin to rent out their homes that they have reposesed to couples like these, by renting out the rooms only.... ie a 5 bedroom home to 5 individuals or couples from off the streets like those in this story... this way the banks could recover the original debit , while dividing the liability of the home by the number of bed rooms.

If your home less and your reading this... hang in there as this will give you strength when looking back on this time....

And if your a Bank Manager Reading this DO the MATH income from (ie 5 to meet repayments)

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 4 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

One does have to wonder about the proliferation of empty homes versus the proliferation of homeless people. Priorities, priorities! Thanks for commenting and leaving your suggestion. Lynda

Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 3 years ago from USA

I used to stay a week every year in Sarasota. My parents had a trailer in one of the senior citizen parks. I never knew they treated the homeless so poorly. The warm climate probably draws people there.

I live near a city in the Midwest that is known for being one of the most altruistic in the nation. They have several shelters, grow gardens on bare city lots for anyone to eat, have huge donations for supplies every year for the homeless. The rich give huge sums for everything. This encourages many homeless to scatter here in the winter months.

They tried to pass a law against panhandling though. There were just too many of them. The law was declared against the state constitution. So nowhere is perfect.

I am sorry to hear that these people have such a hard life.

slcockerham profile image

slcockerham 2 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

Hey Immartin,

Great hub on a difficult subject! My heart goes out for the many homeless folks. There are many more since 2008 and all the home foreclosures and business failures. I've also written on homeless issues, as I've worked in ministry churches and at food banks for several years.

While I don't wish homelessness on anyone, I pray for and pity those too hard-hearted to empathize with those who struggle in homeless situations. Marta tells a true story that city and county laws unconstitutionally target homeless people and behavior, using the police to persecute them. I know her statements are true, especially in Fla., Texas, and other southern states.

Once caught in the web of being poor and homeless, it's near impossible to escape without the help of family, friends or other caring individuals.

Hopefully those that despise and persecute them will never have to experience the same tough situation as the streets, it might be rougher then! God bless you and all those homeless persons.

slcockerham profile image

slcockerham 2 years ago from Tallahassee, Florida

Hey Immartin,

Great hub on a difficult subject! My heart goes out for the many homeless folks. There are many more since 2008 and all the home foreclosures and business failures. I've also written on homeless issues, as I've worked in ministry churches and at food banks for several years.

While I don't wish homelessness on anyone, I pray for and pity those too hard-hearted to empathize with those who struggle in homeless situations. Marta tells a true story that city and county laws unconstitutionally target homeless people and behavior, using the police to persecute them. I know her statements are true, especially in Fla., Texas, and other southern states.

Once caught in the web of being poor and homeless, it's near impossible to escape without the help of family, friends or other caring individuals.

Hopefully those that despise and persecute them will never have to experience the same tough situation as the streets, it might be rougher then! God bless you and all those homeless persons.

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 2 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you, slcockerham.

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