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Thread: Gems from the Gutter - part 1

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    Default Gems from the Gutter - part 1

    The very first lesson I learned about being Homeless. -- Never think that it can't happen to you. I had considered myself "above" those that were homeless. I learned quickly that it could happen to me. I was "blindsided" by events that caused me to become homeless. I allowed myself to be put in a position that eventually I could not control. Result : I became Homeless.

    My second lesson, Do not assume that someone, anyone will "help" you freely. I was "let down" easy sort of. My first stop Was at a Salvation Army Men's shelter where I stayed for a while. I had to pay rent to stay there, I think it was about $40- 50 /week. Until an altercation between myself and another caused my expulsion. It was over what the "rules" of the shelter were, the other "resident" was in violation and I brought it to his attention, this escalated to a shouting match. We were both expelled.

    My third lesson- never assume that those who are "helping you" will follow their own "Rules". When we had to go see the "front office" personnel we were given the opportunity to explain our side of the story. I felt since I had been following the rules I was in the right.... Boy was I wrong. To make this short and simple.. The one who broke the rules was allowed to return to the Mens shelter, the one who followed the rules (me) was evicted.

    You had better be prepared for the worst! Fortunately I was better prepared due to my gentle let down into homelessness. I had purchased some items and acquired others that were given away or thrown away. Due to my experience in the military and Boy Scouts and what I had seen thus far "on the streets", I chose a little different route than your typical homeless person. I spent my first TRULY homeless night as a "Street Person" in a discarded pup tent I was fortunate to "find" at the SA drop box.( Hey I felt they owed me anyway, they didn't follow their own rules.) First night was spent in a SMALL strip of woods next to the train tracks.

    Another thing that was in my favor, Some of those who had been long time residents at the shelter were on my side. Chief among those was the SA Cook, who provided me "on the sly" with some of my food. Others contributed some small items that they could afford to part with. So this is another lesson. It pays to have friends that are in a position to help,and are higher up in the hierarchy of homelessness. There is a hierarchy, among the homeless.

    Learn the hierarchy!! If you don't it could get you hurt,or worse. People (yes homeless are people) have seniority in regards to choosing the best spots,gettng in line for the "soup kitchen" etc. You had better be able to take care of yourself ( or make others think you are able to) if you try to butt in line. Some are just Posers, some are real. Observe and find out who is who. It could mean your life, or loss of life. I realize most people think that homeless people are just "bums" and some won't even give them the time of day literally. That just ain't true. I've met people that would surprise you that they are homeless at all. I've met a former NFL player (who I won't name as that is his business) who got into drugs and lost everything - everything, including his dignity and pride. I've met a former university Professor, who CHOSE to be homeless ( he had a home and money).When his Family came and picked him up he would go and stay a day or two then return to the streets. My point here is this - NEVER assume that someone is this or that, you could be wrong and it could even cost you.

    I started looking for a place to call home. I had an Army Duffle bag of clothes and other items that I wanted to keep. There were many places to choose from. Abandoned buildings,alleys, just look in your own town(no matter how big or small) and think about if you were homeless where would you stay. All of a sudden you will see many places that a homeless person could call home. Oddly enough I found a place not far from where I spent my first true night as homeless. It just took a little looking to find. My biggest fear was of being arrested for trespassing or vagrancy, that could mean losing everything I had, little as it was. I couldn't carry around my meager possessions all the time it was just too heavy and bulky. I found a spot on the railroad strip that had an old slag pile from some long past undertaking. It could've even stopped a .50 cal barret sniper rifle. It would hide my tent and fire from anyone passing by. Some chose underpasses and other spots that most would consider unlikely. Graveyards, under trailers from big rigs,alleys in trash piles, dumpsters,below ground entrance ways to buildings,behind parking garages,etc.etc. I was considered "Rich" by homeless standards. Look at my duffle bag compared to the bookbag backpacks most carry.

    I started to feel vulnerable being alone and isolated. I started looking for a campmate. One of my friends from the SA shelter was getting kicked out since he couldn't afford to pay his room and board there. The weather was fair so he joined me in a slightly larger area about 20 yards from where I had been. A hobo camp was started.

    We could get two meals a day from the "Mission" soup kitchen. So we weren't hurting there. a couple of times a week a group from the local churches would come out and provide meals and sometimes give stuff out,as well as churh services. The services weren't mandatory but it seems the better stuff was given out immediately following these services. So even those that hated religion would come and sit through them,to see what would be given out. Being homeless you depend on a very LARGE part on the generosity of other human beings,whether it's intentional or not. You scrounge,you Dumpster dive you do what it takes to get the things you NEED. You hope someone burns something in a pot and throws it away. You hope someone is evicted and their stuff thrown out and you can get some blankets or clothes. You target SA or Goodwill drop boxes. I think you may get the idea now.

    My Hobo camp started to grow. Some I said no to, some we accepted,some came and went drifting with the wind,looking for a better place. All contributed. Some things we needed we had to buy. We would Panhandle to get money, one of our members got a disability check at her mothers address. We got by,we survived. It is not easy, it is not pleasant,it is not safe. But we managed,as there is safety in numbers. We got water from a scrapyard that had a faucet outside by the door, we were on camera when we got it every couple of nights. They knew where we were,they could see our camp, they never said a word and the only thing we ever took was water. One place very close by, got broke into one night,we stopped them from leaving with what they took. We went and told the Police,They were surprised we did what we did. One of the nearby businesses gave us some food.

    Some of you may not know this, but the Railroad has their own cops.I found out the hard way. One morning as we were getting up and starting our coffee(compliments of the SA cook), Into our camp walked a Cop and another man and 2 others who stayed kinda' close to the road. As they walked in I said "Morning! Coffee?" The Cop started looking through our tents and walking around as if he were looking for something or someone. He said "No. we just do this about 2 times a year". I said "do what?" He said "we come in and run you off!" I said "well where are we going to go? we don't have anyplace to go!" he said in his best tough cop,boy are you in trouble now attitude as he got right up in my face- - "You don't understand do you boy, We ONLY do this about twice a year. We'll be coming in in about an hour and bulldozing this camp. So you have that much time to get what you want and get out!" While trying to perform his duty, he was in fact giving us a break. He was buying us time. We started scrambling and got about 95% of our stuff out before the bulldozer leveled our camp. We moved a whole 50 yards and waited 'til they were gone and set up all over again. The other man with the Cop was a railroad detective, I saw him one more time. He came back and told us that he could have all of us arrested for trespassing. My reply was -yeah you could, but the way I see it we are doing you a service and clearing all this land of combustible material and we are doing it in a slow and safe manner. One dead log at a time and preventing a potential fire hazard that could shut down these tracks and halt your trains from coming this way. He agreed and left and never bothered us again.

    Now I've entitled this "Gems from the Gutter part one" for a reason. There is some I'm sure I have forgotten that you will have questions about. I also want to give others the opportunity to contribute, therefore each can entitle their contributions part 2 part 3 and so on. This is not about me,although I have told you my story. This is about a type of Survival that I fervently hope none of you has to experience. I look back on my time as being homeless as being a sort of Spiritual Sojourn, a time I got to get to know my Creator as I understand my Creator. It helped me grow in ways that I never thought possible. I got closer to Mother Earth, I lived, I learned. Although It was a very sad and depressing time, it was also enjoyable to a degree. You see any survival situation,Urban or Wilderness is what you make it. The better your attitude the better your chances are. I hope you both Enjoy and learn from this. I'm sorry it is so long and takes so much of your valuable time. But this is one of the lessons you learn being homeless, Time is not important,you have no schedule except that dictated by survival and learning. Thank you for reading.

    This is the only picture I have of me when I was homeless. I keep it as a memento of what has been and what could be.
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    Last edited by pocomoonskyeyes; 08-20-2009 at 01:23 PM. Reason: spelling correction


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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Well, you certainly didn't waste my time. I enjoyed reading it. It's easy to think thoughts such as, "get a job" or "sober up" or some other justifiable reason for not liking someone different than ourselves. Not only do you offer insight into how to survive but you give homelessness a face, a name, a persona that I doubt many, if any, of us had before. For that, I thank you.

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    Hall Monitor Pal334's Avatar
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    I will say again, I always had less than kind thoughts about the homeless. After reading your contribution I can say that has changed quite a bit. Thank you for sharing. And as Rick said, was not a waste of my time.
    Last edited by Pal334; 08-20-2009 at 01:35 PM. Reason: last sentence
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    Senior Member tonester's Avatar
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    wow poco, thanks for taking the time for writing this. man this is such a strong story! like rick said, you really did give the homelessness a face, and you really did change the way i think about this and i thank you for that. again thanks for taking your time to write your story and thank you for even sharing your story with us!
    how dare i call this love and not bare my cross

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    Well Done.....Thank you....a good read. How did you get from that life to your current life.....????

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    Senior Member Stargazer's Avatar
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    Poco, Thank you for taking youre time to share youre story with us.I am sure we can all learn from it.
    Last edited by Stargazer; 08-20-2009 at 02:47 PM.
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    Senior Member Jonesy's Avatar
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    Thanks Poco.

    There is no manual for survival as a homeless person so I guess you are really doing us all a service because no one knows what life will bring tomorrow.

    Keep writing as much as you want. REAL life stories are very interesting to me and I appreciate you for sharing yours.
    -Jonesy

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    I sure don't mean to pry and if you don't wish to answer you won't hurt my feelings. Here's my question. What line of business were you in prior to becoming homeless coupled with Hope's question of how you overcame you homelessness to the life you live now.

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    I'll try and answer both Rick's and Hope's questions, I'll start with Rick's since it is in the beginning. I had a job that was seasonal, I did Inventories, mostly with Wal-Mart and Dollar General. It usually ran from January to late October-early November. I could collect unemployment as long as I had an address.When I lost the address I lost the unemployment.For the same reason (no address) I could not draw welfare or food stamps. I could not return to work without a place to get clean and all that,so that pretty much ended my stint in the work force as well.

    To answer Hope's question. Thank's to my Creator I am a Vet! There was a program with Volunteers of America called(I hope I get this right) Veterans Reintegration Program, I think it's complete title was longer than that, but we called it the Vet's Reintegration Program. What this program did was to help homeless Vets get the education,tools,and clothes needed to get back in the workforce. I knew someone who lived in a "flophouse" where we could get a shower before work. So that took care of that aspect of it. We went to my old job and I got hired back as they never wanted that to happen to me in the first place,and had wondered what had become of me. As soon as I got a paycheck I moved into that same flophouse and started from there.This all started happening after 9-11 I think it was the spring after that Tragedy. That's how I started my return to a "Normal" life. It took years to get from there to here but We kept slugging along and so far it has worked. I'm not rich( at least not monetarily),but I'm not broke and I definitely ain't homeless anymore.
    One more thing I had forgotten to say earlier I also owe my life to a dog. His name was Alex Treewalker. That dog would rather walk on a fallen tree than the ground. Well during the winter on the coldest night I pulled Alex in with me to stay Warm, It's a good thing too. The next morning a Preacher that worked extensively with the Homeless came to the Camp thinking that he would find a Frozen body. He was actually surprised when I came out to greet him. Second time in my life a dog has saved my life.

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    Quality Control Director Ken's Avatar
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    Poco,

    I've learned quite a bit from the experiences you've shared with us, and I appreciate that knowledge.

    More important, however, is the fact that, as a relatively new member, you have quickly formed bonds of friendship with many of us, some in person at the Jamboree and others by way of the Forums. You have chosen to share with us a chapter of your life that many would never reveal. You have taught me other things that go far far beyond the experiences you have spoken of.

    Thank you, Poco.
    “Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival.”
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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Poco - very interesting and insightful read. Thanks for sharing your story with us. We can probably all learn a thing or two from your story, and as Pal said - I have not always had kind thoughts about homeless folks. That started to change when I volunteered at a local shelter and worked with veterans stand downs, but it's always good to get a fresh perspective as a reminder that it could be any one of us, for a variety of reasons, thrust into a similar situation. Thanks again.
    Last edited by crashdive123; 08-20-2009 at 04:20 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by crashdive123 View Post
    Poco - very interesting and insightful read. Thanks for sharing your story with us. We can probably all learn a thing or two from your story, and as Pal said - I have not always had kind thoughts about homeless folks. That started to change when I volunteered at a local shelter and worked with veterans stand downs, but it's always good to get a fresh perspective as a reminder that it could be any one of us, for a variety of reasons, thrust into a similar situation. Thanks again.
    You know Crash you reminded me of the "Stand down" I went to. I was Grateful they had those. A local TV station was covering the story and some there that knew me and my story asked if I would be let them interview me so they could get the "real story" of what it's like being a homeless Vet. I found out later that I was on the news (they were shooting from a distance and I had other things on my mind) when they Bulldozed my Camp. Funny what you have to do to get on TV!!! I hope I'm never on TV again!!!

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    Quality Control Director Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pocomoonskyeyes View Post
    I hope I'm never on TV again!!!
    Gee, that's too bad. A television producer client just called me and asked me to extend an offer of $1 Million Dollars to you for a 30 second interview about the Jamboree. Just as I was about to call you, your post appeared, so I told him you weren't interested.
    “Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival.”
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    Senior Member Winnie's Avatar
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    I'd just like to add my thanks Poco.
    Like several others I will admit to having a dim view of the homeless. Thanks to you this is a generalisation I will not perpetuate. I look forward to reading more.
    Recession; A period when you go without something your Grandparents never heard of.

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    There are some things I can easily visualize. Building a shelter I've never attempted or spending a night in extreme cold. I have some basis of experience to project forward and think through the new scenario.

    I haven't a clue about survival in a homeless environment. Not only would I have to overcome the physical challenges but the mental ones as well and I have no basis of experience to call on. So being able to hear first hand allows me to begin another chapter in my skills repertoire. I feel like I've just completed, "Dear Diary", however. I look forward to not only additional input that you might share but any input others are willing to share as well.

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    Enjoyed this post. I tetered on the edge of an experience like this, when I was 17. I think you should copy paste your post into word or the reverse and write a book...It is something I have considered. But admittedly you have a better way with written words!
    Keep in mind the problem may be extremely complicated, though the "Fix" is often simple...

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    Uh Uh thank you CS I Thank you all. I didn't do nothing.

    I just hope there's someone else out there willing to contribute. Come on ya'll!!! Jump on in the water is warm. This ain't about me it's about US!! You all have experiences to share and I know you are out there, There's bad things that happen in life, if that weren't true then NONE of us would be here preparing and sharing. You could just help a Brother or Sister here.Share Please!!

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    Senior Member SARKY's Avatar
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    poco,

    Thank you for that. It certainly was an expression the indominatable human spirit.
    I know what hunts you.

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    Super-duper Moderator Sarge47's Avatar
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    Cool Yeah, go Poco go!

    I'm proud of the fact that I encouraged you to do this Poco. You have written what needs to be said. Now I'm going to add a perspective from the other side of the fence. You see I spent 4 years of my life "on staff" at a "Rescue Mission." I always had a great relationship with most of the folks staying there. Some have homes now and we still communicate to this day. I also fully understand what you mean about the heads of the shelter being the enemy at times. My worse adversary was not the homeless, but the director. He was Mennonite (as well as a "control freak".) & always felt superior to those that stayed a the Mission. He also took a vehmenate dislike to my getting "close" to the Homeless that stayed there. He once told me that if I really wanted to get close to them I should "ride the rails" with them & live in their Hobo jungles. (Keep in mind that this was a "Christian" mission!" There was one guy there who, at 18 was a pediphile & a registered sex offender, yet he always had my back! Men came in there on parole from prison who later on "made it" on the out-side. Yes, there were those who just wanted a life without work & responsibility, but there were also those, like Poco said who fell into a life of addictions: Gambling, alcohol, & drugs.

    One fellow came into the Mission on parole who was a "safe-cracker" & yet had the best work-ethic in the place! The guy I spoke about in the "Yo, Poco go" thread also had my back.

    There was a rule against drinking & doping while being inside the Mission. Many times I had to call the police to have the offenders removed from the property when they refused to leave. Several times the homeless folks made the mistake of swinging at one of the cops & they spent the night in jail. One woman did that on Christmas eve & that thought still haunts me, yet there were people there who were trying to overcome there addictions & we couldn't have that in the shelter.

    I was theatened with physical violence a few times, but nothing ever came of it. Poco, I'm so glad you came through it man! You are an inspiration! BTW, I "stuck" this thread!
    SARGE
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    Senior Member Ole WV Coot's Avatar
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    I can say I listened to a sermon at a city mission once for breakfast, wasn't homeless but just financially embarrassed. I was surprised at the number of vets, this was during the early '70s, too much combat and no help at the VA. I admire you for making it out. Men I knew turned to booze and drugs. I worked in alleys in a lot of cities and could tell a vet easily. Most still had their pride, few had given up. Helped those I could, money, food or booze, didn't judge.
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