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Homelessness-A Social Merry-go-Round

Updated on November 4, 2010

I've Fallen and I Can't Stop Going Round

   I have written hubs on this social dilemma of being homeless.  I have gotten my own children to understand homeless people better by taking them down to our local campground, illegal as it is, so that they would see firsthand what goes on and how some of these homeless people fight to survive, and fight to move on. 

   I also feel that I have only covered part of the problem, and only helped a portion of the problem to be seen.  This article is an attempt to discuss another slice of the pie, so to speak, to be represented and spoken for in my hubs.  The percentage of people represented here, is unknown to me, but is significant enough for me to feel obligated to say something so that someone knows this is also a part of the problem.

   Here is the loop, so that you know what I am referring to.  A number of people that are living down in The Riverbottom,  seem to be caught into habits, or lifestyles, that then sends them at some point, to jail for a time, usually six months or less.  They then come out of jail, back into the camping life that they left, and so on and so on.


Nels and a friend

The person on the left is Nels, about 10 years ago
The person on the left is Nels, about 10 years ago

books on the subject from other cities

What Are They Doing, What is the Cause?

Well, the obvious and logical assumption is that they must be doing something illegal to cause them to be arrested. To this assumption, as in court, I am going to make the plea of guilty, with an explanation. In court, this legally does still make you guilty, but a lighter sentence is handed down, given the circumstances.

Here are the circumstances. All of the people that fit into this group, are one or all of the following. They are mentally disabled, physically disabled, have little or no education, have never been trained or given any tools for employment, have never in their life had a job, or have been trained by their parents or family to be a hustler and by this I mean that whatever they were trained to do does not mean that it was illegal. Sometimes they were given the knowledge or education to hustle recyclables, fix things, side or odd jobs, that sort of thing. The latter group usually are given jobs to do that do not pay well, cannot be easily found or the jobs are spaced so far apart that one cannot live on the money earned.

Rather than try to categorize each of these, it would be not only easier but more meaningful to introduce some of these people so to speak, to you, by means of their circumstances.

First, allow me to introduce to you Nels. Nels is a man about 35 years old. When he was in his twenties, he was married and had two children. He was a carpenter by trade, and worked in that trade for about 8 or 10 years. He was buying his first house. What happened? He was a very quiet person and did not like most social situations. He avoided bars, movies, being out in public was just not his cup of tea. He much preferred to be at home playing with his kids. When his kids were about 6 and 10, a boy and a girl, his wife decided that she was not satisfied with this simple of a life. She wanted to go out more, have friends, etc. One day he came home from work to find that she had moved, and taken the kids with her, leaving no forwarding address. Nels was devastated. He stopped working so that he could look for his family. He started by going to the kids schools, their grandparents house, and so on. He found hot trails, but the best lead was one day when he caught a glimpse of his daughter on a playground, but by the time he got over to where he saw her, see wasn't there any more.

One afternoon several months into this, he was riding his bike downtown, and on a busy intersection was struck by a truck, knocked out of his shoes, mangling the bike, and putting him into the hospital. When he woke up, he only remembered that he was looking for his kids, and he totally freaked out, pulling out all of the tubes, he left the hospital without being checked out. The thing that really happened, was that the accident had put him into a coma, but he did not know this. He had been comatose for about 2 months, and the accident had been a hit and run. The whole top of his skull had been cut and was loose, to allow for swelling, was what had kept him alive.

His memory after that was sketchy at best, and he never did go back to the doctor for any follow ups. He felt pure guilt and hatred for himself for what had happened to his family. for he felt that he was guilty of making it happen. After that, he was lucky to make any progress to find his kids, and his mother who had been diagnosed with cancer during this time, and he had been caring for her and trying to get her SSI Disability, died, two days after they had approved her case. He felt like he had failed her also. He was then caught in a downward spiral of drugs, homelessness, and bad choices. I met him one day when my son and I were walking along the beach, and he spotted someone he knew, and told me he wanted to introduce me to him. We walked over to the pier, and under one end of it was the funniest sight I had ever seen. I saw a makeshift bed, and it looked like a bed complete with bedspread and pillows, with a foot, a big man's foot sticking out, and the rope of a large pit bull tied to it. His head and everything else was covered, including his girlfriend who was laying next to him. Laying all around him were items he needed to live, like an ice chest, clothing, and backpacks. We approached carefully and the dog got up, and I backed up slowly. My son called the dog by name, and his tail wagged, and the dog seemed very happy to see him. A voice came out of the blankets saying, "Who is it?" My son responded with, "It's me, Matt, get up you lazy ass, it is almost 9 o'clock, and you are going to get another illegal camping ticket."

"I don't care, I would just burn it with the rest," and with that, his head poked out of the blankets. He asked if that was really how late it was, and who I was, and with that my son introduced me. Nels immediately adopted me as his own mother, and from that moment on called my son his brother. I told him that I wanted to interview him for a project I was researching for, and he agreed right away, and showed up at my house for a family breakfast, and my first interview.

I found Nels to be a shy person, who would not be alone, and seemed to be able to acquire enough money to live like a high class homeless camper. His memory was fuzzy at best, and he seemed obsessed with punishing himself for losing his kids. The degree of punishment, and the object with which he dealt out the punishments varied from IV drug use, which he sometimes purposely missed the vein with so that he would get abscesses, and it would be very inflamed, and even when it hurt very much while he was doing it, would not show the pain, but would rush the shot so that it would hurt as much as possible. He also included tattoos, which now covered both arms from hand to shoulder, and he was working on a leg. He amazed me with the ways he could find to inflict pain on himself. He also was a very kind and amazingly nice person who once brought me a piece of furniture to my house that he knew I needed badly, from a thrift store on the other side of town to my house on a wagon. It was a large piece and was very heavy.

   At this time Nels kept himself and his girlfriend and their dog, fed and sometimes a place to sleep by selling speed.  He was able to make a fairly good profit off of the sales, because one of his friends dad was selling it to him at a discount price, and he split it up and sold it more expensively at smaller amounts, making a ten or twenty dollar bag enough for one person to get high on.  If he sold only 3 or 4 of them, he had enough money to feed them for a day or two. He was able to do this because he did not use that drug, his drug of choice was pain killers, preferably  pills, but if he could not find those, he would do heroin.  He never got arrested for any of his drug activity, but always it was for not keeping his probation appointments.  He just straight out refused to participate in that part of his responsibility regarding his probation.

He always went back to jail for a failure to check in with his P.O. after getting out of jail. There were a few times that he made it to this appointment, but he then would begin to shoplift things that he most likely did not even need. One time he got arrested for stealing a bottle of Fabreeze. Now remember, this is a man who lived in a small two man tent. He did not have curtains, or any furniture There was not anything in his tent except for his sleeping bag and maybe a small ice chest. There was no apparent need for Fabreze, and he even admitted to me that he did not need it. When I asked him why he then took it, he just looked at me and smiled, like we had a secret together.

Another Example

The other example I give you is a man that my husband has known for about 30 years. They spent the last year of high together, and worked together a lot. He was a very industrious person who had a very good knack at making his own model of bicycle.  It was a long framed low rider bike, and it had only one problem that he was working on that that was when you made a sharp turn of any kind, the pedal would hit the pavement.  He had a couple of prototypes that he sold immediately to people who were willing to back him financially in his endeavor. 

Marvin was a bit older than most of the homeless people that lived in The Riverbottom camping.  He always had his own campsite, and until he decided to live outdoors, had worked as a construction, or sometimes carpenter on a regular basis.  His problem was multiple, one he liked to do speed.  The other was an aversion to going to probation to see his P.O., probably because he could not get clean long enough to do it.  As a matter of fact, he would not even do the first visit, after getting out of jail when they give you 48 hours to go check in with probation and get your papers and next appointment to be tested.  They do not even test you at this very first check in, yet, he cannot, will not and never has been able to even go to this appointment.  His aversion to this is has so completely overtaken his life, that he has gone back to jail for failing to do it I would guesstimate at least fifty or more times, after which he gets a violation for failing to comply, and the first time they see him they pick him back up and he goes back to jail for 90 days violation of probation charge.

   Now you have to realize that Marvin is almost my age, and has children, I'm not sure, but I think 3 or 4 daughters that have kids, so he is a grandfather of at least 3 or 4 grand-babies that I have heard him talk about, and maybe more.  Still this does not seem to give him enough motivation to change this pattern.  I have offered to pick him up from jail when he gets out, and take him to probation myself, but he will still say yes and either not call me when he gets out, or will call me and then go to the store or some other excuse in the next 24 hours to cause him to disappear on me. 

   And the wheel keeps turning, turning, and turning, never changing, never even varying enough to call it different or a change.  These two men are their own worst enemies, and are the main cause of the reason they spend so much time in jail.  I say to them and to many other people who sabotage themselves so much that I know, even with the small amount of formal therapy training that I have had that there is another reason, for they seem unable to cope without the jail guard there to tell him what to do and when to do it.  It seems a real shame to be so institutionalized that you feel the need to go back to it so much that you actually give them the reason they need to re-enter them into the system.  Our system is filled with these types, for they feel so out of place in the real world, that they psychologically must go back, for it is where they do feel comfortable.


Submit a Comment
  • ddsurfsca profile imageAUTHOR

    deb douglas 

    8 years ago from Oxnard

    I know I left out a lot of different sorts of people that are out there, but I am trying to open a shelter myself, and I know a lot of these people, as a matter of fact I am taking in a 17 year old pregnant homeless girl tonight into my home so she is not alone in the night. I intend to continue writing hubs about the various kinds of homeless people out there, I have not forgotten anyone.

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 

    8 years ago from Florence, South Carolina


    good story. But you missed a large percentage of other categories of homeless. I managed a men's shelter for over 7 years. I have a story on it in hub pages. I have met these types as well. In fact I was homeless for a while myself. Why aren't there more shelters? Read my story "How to make money off the homeless" or something like that. But I liked how you told the stories of these two. Very educational.

  • profile image

    Howard Schneider 

    8 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

    Thank you for putting faces on the homeless for us. Too often we all forget that they are people too with lives and history. It reminds me of when I was waiting for the Staten Island Ferry several years ago and saw my old junior high school gym teacher. He was wandering around there speaking incoherently. Apparently some kind of mental illness had befallen him. I tried to approach him and ask if he was alright but he simply ran away. It should make us all remember that we are one incident away from falling into this abyss. It's always stuck with me. We must all urge our local governments and our churches to do more. Of course we should also do more.


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