Short Story About Homelessness: The Homeless Man and His House

Source

A New Day Dawns in Detroit for the Homeless Man

The sound of people starting their cars up to go to work is what usually woke him every morning. He stayed on a street on the east side of Detroit where, though there were several abandoned homes, many of the residents got up early to start their day. Nearby streets were abandoned to drug activity, homelessness, and crime. He stayed off those streets.

Inside the homeless man's abandominium (slang used to describe abandoned houses), he got up off his pallet: a rotten collection of filthy blankets and sleeping bags he had heaped upon the wooden floor to create a cushion on which to sleep. He looked around the room. It was an upstairs bedroom. There was grimy plastic over the sole window. Over in one corner, some ghost from the past had gotten cold enough to risk a fire. The charred plaster and wood seemed to stare back at him.

The house was abandoned long ago. Much like countless other houses in the area, owners had been foreclosed on, or had gone to jail, or worse. He had no idea who the owner of the house used to be. It was Deek’s house now, and Deek and his crew allowed him to stay there; that’s all that mattered to him.

When he had first moved his stuff in here, he had jumped at every sound and worried constantly that the owners would return and find him there. After awhile, that particular fear faded. Deek had shown up one day and asked him why he was there. He told him his situation and a typical street arrangement was made where he would spend whatever money he spent on drugs to buy them from Deek, or one of the people working for the drug dealer. It was a common way that the homeless could acquire a small amount of security.

With the arrangement, which soon became known among the people frequenting the street, the homeless man was left alone. No one bothered him, beat him for fun, or told him to get out of the house. He had attained pseudo-customer status, and that meant no one was to stop him from bringing money to Deek.

He grabbed a small cardboard box off the floor and produced a cold bagel. He ate it standing there in the dim morning light that struggled to reach him through the softly shimmering plastic window. The hardwood floors that had been so magnificent in their prime were now greasily coated with time objectified. He knew from experience that if your skin touched that floor, it would stick to it. He had been revolted by the sensation, and he always remembered to stand or set himself on his pallet. Most of his meals were eaten standing, as he ate his tasteless breakfast now.

He often wondered what had happened to the people that lived here. There was no evidence left behind, or if there was, a previous squatter had cleared it out or sold it. He imagined that several families had lived in the two-story home over the years. It saddened him, for reasons unknown, that the house had lost favor with normal people. It seemed to deserve better.

The homeless man was thirsty. For the past two nights he had failed to procure enough water for morning. He wouldn't make the same mistake again tonight. He went over toward the shut and locked wooden door and unlocked it. He grabbed his tattered Army fieldjacket – insignia, rank, and name dutifully removed – and went out, closing the door behind him.

Source

The Homeless Man and His Corner

Not only out of need but out of what eventually became desire, the homeless man had become a hustler. There were legitimate reasons for his reliance on other people's pity: food, clothing, and blankets. But nearly every cent he earned panhandling went for either drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes.

So as he left the street where "his" house stood and waited to cross the main boulevard before him, he breathed a sigh of relief when he saw no one else working the corner.

"The Corner" was the intersection of the interstate service drive and the boulevard. It separated the city from the suburbs and was heavily patrolled by a variety of law enforcement agencies. There were stop lights for traffic heading both north and west, providing ample chance for the opportunistic beggar to earn from compassionate motorists.

The corner, which the homeless man considered to be his corner, was lucrative and had the distinction of being the safest place to avoid arrest or harassment from passing police. This being the case, the homeless man wasn't the only beggar who plied his trade there. But this morning, it was bereft of any other and the homeless man felt the same short jolt of elation he always felt when he approached to find it empty.

He passed under a concrete overpass, his feet crunching gravel and broken glass. A brisk spring breeze blew discarded paper cups and plastic wrappers along the ground like strange urban tumbleweeds. A broken shopping cart leaned against a massive, nearby pillar. A few soggy plastic bags were matted to its steel wire bottom.

The homeless man approached the corner and unzipped his faded green field jacket. Reaching inside, he withdrew a folded cardboard sign. The light turned red and several cars pulled up and waited. He turned to face traffic and unfolded the weathered sign. It read:

Homeless

and

Hungry.

A raven-haired woman in a red Mitsubishi SUV glanced briefly in his direction. The light turned green and the motorists sped off.

The homeless man stood in the morning sunshine and waited with his arms at his sides, holding his sign. He was nearly six feet tall with a thin build. He wore a blue knit cap pulled low over shorn brown hair. Black and gray stubble peppered his jaw and cheeks, and green eyes searched the traffic hoping to snare a furtive glance and convey their silent, practiced message: help me.

His was a perfected art learned from years of living on the street. Homelessness had become a permanent state of mind; he had no one to call and no way back to a lifeline let go long ago and eventually severed with broken promises and drug addiction.

He stood on the corner as resolute as any legitimate worker and his daily toil would end long after other normal people had gone home to warm homes and loving families. His was a solitary existence and he'd long forgotten human concepts like self-pity and loneliness.

The homeless man was a lost soldier with bad memories, and as his penetrating and sorrowful gaze scanned the next lot of travelers stopped at a red light, all his thought was bent on only one thing: getting money from them to buy drugs so he could get his first hit of the day.

The dollar bills and change added up over the next hour and when he had enough to get what he needed to stop any resurfacing of bitter reality, he turned and left the corner behind...for now.

More by this Author


Comments 27 comments

silver lining 5 profile image

silver lining 5 5 years ago from Southwest

A veteran no doubt. So many of these soldiers come back damaged in ways that make them unable to take up where they left off. Sad.

Thanks


marieclv profile image

marieclv 5 years ago

Interesting read, I invite you to enjoy my own version of homelessness. http://evictedanddesperate.blogspot.com


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 5 years ago from United States Author

@silver lining 5 - Yes, indeed. And those that serve longer stints protecting their nation, often come back with 'where they left off' gone. This will be an even more pressing issue for the US to deal with in the next several years. Thanks for your comment.

@marieclv - I'm glad you had me read that because its important to note that 'being homeless' and 'becoming homeless due to drug addiction' are two completely different things. Its very important for people to see that and respond accordingly. My story leaves that to the reader to decide, how he became homeless. In this case, I make the assumption that the reader already knows of the emotional and economical problems soldiers are facing as they return home from a long military campaign.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

.....great writing again my friend and will be posted to my Facebook page with a direct link back here - I would love to see you receive more readers - as this is such an evocative piece in the capable hands of your sensitive writing style - I could picture it in the cinema of my mind - lake erie time ontario canada 12:35pm

and I like how you leave certain elements/facts out of your writing in order to let the imagination of your reader to decide.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 5 years ago from United States Author

Thank you again, epigramman. Stephen King once wrote somewhere to give the reader a little credit, and I picked up on it by leaving details out and allowing the reader to use their imagination. Your visits and comments are much appreciated.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

A brilliant read Jason and here's to many more to share on here.

Take care and have a great day.

Eiddwen.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 5 years ago from United States Author

Thank you!


fornalina profile image

fornalina 5 years ago from Poznan, Poland

It was brilliant but also so sad. He can have some great plans for our lives but we can have no guarantee than we won't end up like this man.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 5 years ago from United States Author

@fornalina - I think there is a way in, and a way out of every situation in life. It's up to mankind to look out for the one's that are struggling. By doing so, we sustain hope. Without hope, mornings like this one COULD be this character's reality for the rest of his life.

Thanks for reading and commenting.


jami l. pereira 5 years ago

voted up , useful,awesome,interesting and beautiful , great story ! very heartfelt and sad , thanks for the read:)


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 5 years ago from United States Author

@jami l. pereira - Sometimes the small details of being homeless are overlooked. Things we take for granted, for them, are lost. I purposely kept this story brief, and I hope, powerful. Thank you so much for reading.


PADDYBOY60 profile image

PADDYBOY60 5 years ago from Centreville Michigan

It was a very powerful story. And you are right, it is going to get worse in the next few years.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 5 years ago from United States Author

@PADDYBOY60 - Thank you. I'm seeing your prediction come true live here in the Detroit area. It never seems like it can get worse, but it does.


Sunnie Day 4 years ago

Wow Jason! A very touching and moving story. God bless the Veterans. Thank you for serving as well!

God bless,

Sunnie


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

God bless you, too, Sunnie Day. Thanks for reading.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Very good story. If I could, I would like to link this to my Helping the Homeless hub.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

@Becky Katz - Yes, please do! Any gains in recognition for what some of our veterans are going through at this very moment is important to me. Thank you.


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

You also might want to check out my 3 part story of our life, trying to get my husbands disability. Thank you for allowing the link.


billips profile image

billips 4 years ago from Central Texas

Excellent article - you have painted a picture that is probably lived thousands of times daily, all over America - sad, but true - B.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

This story made me sad. It happens all to often. Thank you for sharing someone's reality with us Jason.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

It's a stark reality, out there right now, and many will die living such a lifestyle. It's important to me to address matters like addiction and homelessness, because some of the people out there are amazing and lost human beings. Thanks for stopping by, Sunshine625.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

How sad and eye opening that our country continues to allow homelessness...there's got to be a better way! Reading your hub about this poor veteran broke my heart, seeking solace in an abandoned house and depending on a drug dealer to be able to live in peace. This is a truly touching story and all the sadder because of it's ring of truth. Voted all buttons across (except funny of course).


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

Of all the stories I've written, there aren't many shorter or more direct. This is it. This is what it's really like to have no one, to have nowhere to go. That's my message here, and I thank you for visiting, tillsontitan.


ThoughtSandwiches profile image

ThoughtSandwiches 4 years ago from Reno, Nevada

Jason,

As I was reading this I was thinking about numerous articles that I have read lately about the housing/homeless problem in Detroit. It was the Motor City that was in my mind the entire time I read this and then I saw that you were from Michigan...would that be the inspiration?

Beyond setting, you have spoken to a sad reality here for so many people, in particular, our veterans. This is a great job that I will be sharing!

Thomas


Shanna11 profile image

Shanna11 4 years ago from Utah

I like this Hub a lot... being from Detroit myself, I've seen and published some stories about the homeless people there. Not as good as this though.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

Hi, Thomas. Over recent years, Detroit has lost a significant portion of its population. This has left entire neighborhoods abandoned. It doesn't take long for some criminal entrepreneur to move in and take over. And the drug-addicted homeless are soon to follow.

Detroit is a great city, my city. But it needs some care, and not just from those living within its city limits.

Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it.


Jason Marovich profile image

Jason Marovich 4 years ago from United States Author

Hi Shanna11. Detroit has many different kinds of homeless stories, especially today. In the past, many times it was questionable behavior that led people to end up living on the streets. Today, there are people that can't find work. This applies to vets returning home from two wars. It should be one of the nation's highest priorities to ensure veterans receive every opportunity to work, and I'm happy to say that President Obama has embraced this cause.

Thank you for reading and still caring about Detroit!

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