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Lifestyles of the Poor and Homeless

Updated on September 16, 2011

Why are They Homeless

 Society today is often harsh and incorrect when forming opinions about our homeless population and how they live.  My son, who was fourteen years old at the time brought this to my attention one day when he made the statement that if those people would not be so lazy and just go get themselves a job, they would not have the problems that they have.

 Little did I know that this was the way most of the people in our society today thought too.  I made my son a deal that day, and told him that if he would go with me and stay at a camp of local homeless people that I knew, that I would take him to the fair every day that he did.

 It was a very interesting and eye opening time for both of us, and again both of us learned things that we had no idea about, and had not even thought about when it came to those kinds of people that we try so hard to avoid on the streets and sidewalks of our communities.

 What we saw and experienced those three days, not only was unexpected, but we saw that the people we were talking about, were real people.  They were not bums, hobos, alcoholics, and certainly were not lazy.  As a matter of fact, I can say that I never saw a group of people work so hard to survive and work to be a community among themselves ever before. 

 They had organized themselves into groups who:

>got food for the day

>made a way to cook the food for everyone

>>gathered enough wood to maintain a fire through the cooking and evening for warmth

>made sure every one's camp spot was in good repair

>took care of the animals

>hauled water

>went out and made money by whatever means they had that day

 This group formed what is called in sociology books as a sub culture.   These people were homeless for a number of reasons.  Most of them were either vets or young people, or a smaller number of them were just ordinary people who had lost jobs, gotten the bad end of a divorce, and so on.  They found that life was easier to some degree by banning together and working together, for alone it was not only lonely and dangerous, but it was nearly impossible to survive when you had to do all the things they did just to get through a day;

   The group that got food for the day, took up an offering of money from who ever had any, plus they went to the food bank and hauled all of that down into the river bottom where the camp was.  What was not gotten from the food bank they went to the store and bought from the money they had gathered.  That first night we had a very large pot of stew, that was shy on meat but was still tasty, and there was plenty for all.

  Those who took care of the animals, got dog food from I am not sure where, but all the leftovers from that nights meal was mixed with the dry food and all the dogs, seemed to be healthy and happy.  They also took care one dog who had a wound, and they cleaned it and applied salve.

  The group of guys who cleaned and repaired things in the camp made a new firepit, moved one of the large homemade tents over several yards, for it was being torn apart by a wind that came through, and they made sure all the tents were waterproof, for it was supposed to rain in a day or two.  This entailed locating enough canvas and plastics to do the job.

 The group that went to make money for the day had a few men that had gotten up early and went to the work by the day place that the church has.  They pay cash to anyone that shows up, and the community in turn goes to the church when they have jobs they need help with, like moving, yard work, painting or whatever it may be. 

 The rest of that group goes and make signs, that vary in content, but basically they panhandle.  The signs say things like "I need money for food"  or something to this effect.  Some of them have regular spots they use for panhandling, like in front of the post office.

  All in all, most of the group were back in the afternoon sometime, and the cooking group began.

  By the end of our three days there, my son had a different outlook on the homeless, for he changed his mind about them being lazy.  I agree, they are not lazy people.  They are people who must spend their time surviving instead of spending it looking for work of the traditional kind. 

  I contend that after days turn into weeks, and into months, people who live this way become used to it as a way of life, therefore missing the traditional ways of society less and less.  Also, as time goes by, they adapt to living outdoors, camping permanently so to speak, and miss less and less the niceties of indoor life.  The things like showers, which we take daily, are a rare specialty to these people.  They are used to cold "showers" which are from five gallon buckets warmed by the sun.  Because the water is hauled, there is more like two gallons of water in these buckets.

 Basically, the longer these tragic stories of humans continue to live like this, the easier it is for them to do so, the more accustomed they grow to it, and the more accepted it is for us to look upon them as "the homeless" and keep on walking, wondering as we go past them, why they chose to live this way, and why is it that they don't just go get a job and join society again. 

  Yes, and I also wonder, what is the answer to this tragedy that is happening more and more to people.  People who used to live in houses, who used to have jobs, who used to be some body's kid, who used to be a soldier, and what is there that we might be able to do to help make it better?


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  • ddsurfsca profile image

    ddsurfsca 7 years ago from ventura., california

    I didn't find the camp scary because I had a couple of friends that lived there, and felt somewhat protected, so do not for a minute think that I just moved in with a bunch of homeless persons on the blind. I would not do so with my child and this experiment was to prove to my son that they are people too. I sort of set it up with the camp before we arrived.

  • SteveoMc profile image

    SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

    Now why can't I do that? I probably have the same stereotypes of homeless camps that a lot of people have. I have taken students to a homeless shelter every year to make sandwiches for homeless residents of the city, but I would find going to the homeless camp too scary.

    Homelessness is tragic in our society for the mentally ill. Jobless people are among the ranks of the homeless and should be helped.

    I ofter wonder why we can't do more as a society to provide temporary housing for the homeless including facilities in a camplike setting.

    Nice thought provoking hub.

  • Kimberly Bunch profile image

    Kimberly Bunch 7 years ago from EAST WENATCHEE

    Wow! What an amazing story and you had the courage to step forward with your son to see and experience firsthand how they lived. You didn't even need to leave the country for this journey. Great insight!

    I especially like what you said here: "They found that life was easier to some degree by banning together and working together, for alone it was not only lonely and dangerous, but it was nearly impossible to survive when you had to do all the things they did just to get through a day."


    Thank you for sharing this moving first hand experience you had viewing and seeing upfront and close to what is really going on with our homeless population.

    Blessings :)

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

    I agree with Paradise7. I once was homeless but ended up managing a Christian homeless shelter for over 7 years. There are a good number of alcoholics and drug users and just plain lazy people. But there are also more and more joining their ranks due to the economy. Good story DD.

  • Paradise7 profile image

    Paradise7 7 years ago from Upstate New York

    This is very good. There are also many, many homeless people who are hopeless alchoholics or suffering from paranoid schizophrenia who live on the streets and would not fit in with this group.

    In short, there are as many different kinds of homeless people as there are different kinds of people, and you certainly CAN'T categorize them all as lazy or stupid or incompetent, or whatever. Good point, in this hub, that those folks whose survival is challenged every day, naturally spend their time with the daily struggle, and they are not lazy in this endeavor, at all, otherwise they wouldn't continue to survive.

  • Cagsil profile image

    Cagsil 7 years ago from USA or America

    That is one incredible article. I very much enjoyed that and it must have been an amazing to see. I have seen it and I also am reminded of those who are even shunned in these groups. The out-casts, those who are alone and barely make ends meet more or less. It is a shame what some people will do, but I think the problem lies in the fact that society itself has let them down and want no part of it. They have accepted their positions as being homeless, because many would rather not abide by what the majority of society wants. The direction many societies are traveling are extremely dangerous and inherent to those in power, and their abusive action on everyone. This was AWESOME to read and I am glad you wrote about it.

    I recently wrote a hub on Shame and Poverty. Not to mention, moral values and family values. I rated up and bookmarked. Thank you. :)