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The Internet United States

How American Homeless Stay Wired 287

theodp writes "San Franciscan Charles Pitts has accounts on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. He runs a Yahoo forum, reads news online and keeps in touch with friends via email. Nothing unusual, right? Except Pitts has been homeless for two years and manages this digital lifestyle from his residence under a highway bridge. Thanks to cheap computers, free Internet access and sheer determination, the WSJ reports that being homeless isn't stopping some from staying wired. 'You don't need a TV. You don't need a radio. You don't even need a newspaper,' says Pitts. 'But you need the Internet.'"
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How American Homeless Stay Wired

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  • And yet (Score:3, Funny)

    by mikesd81 ( 518581 ) <mikesd1@ver[ ]n.net ['izo' in gap]> on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:14PM (#28153535) Homepage
    they can't seem to find a job.
    • Re:And yet (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:21PM (#28153599) Homepage Journal
      Been there, done that. Except that I had jobs while I was homeless. I got my fix from internet cafes and, better yet, university libraries -- for free. Uni internet library computers often run windows so they can be "tricked" into installing small programs using inconsistent enforcement of restrictions.

      More tips for the homeless: Trader Joe's [thecorsaironline.com] is a popular place for gourmet dumpster diving. University cafeterias also throw away things like packaged sushi when it hits the expiration date. Chinese food is the best to eat out of a trash can because the containers are often in tact and the abundant MSG preserves the food well. I love remembering Panda express' customers gasp in horror when I walked in and started fishing food containers out of their bins. It's also a good reminder of how much in America goes to waste. Go for the heavy ones ;)
      • Re:And yet (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:48PM (#28153827)
        You, good sir, are my hero. Had the good old homeless life for a couple weeks last October (thank God I'm out in California, so the weather didn't kill me). Food isn't too bad, as you can ask to do little cleaning jobs for shops in exchange for food and the like, but Internet was killer out here because you're expected to be registered at the university to use their computers, or at the library, and they want a permanent address for that sort. I don't know how long you did it, but my hat's off to you, getting through that and back to a normal life is a pain if you don't have friends you can crash with and shower at every so often.
        • Re:And yet (Score:5, Informative)

          by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:06PM (#28153973) Homepage Journal
          It's easy to shower without friends or crash-pads. Go to the local university or junior college because you get get into the locker room and shower without hassle. The phenomenon described in this discussion is actually widespread, in fact, the JC I was showering at(a popular one in Los Angeles) was known for people sleeping in its locker rooms and even classrooms after lights-out. This was back around 2005 when the economy was decent.

          Before I thought of that, I would rub my body down with body wash (while wearing boardshorts) and find an apartment complex with a pool or jacuzzi, then I'd get in and bathe in them! Scrubbing with fingernails exfoliates skin and the bromine keeps you clean while the body wash keeps you fresh, though just the bromine will suffice if you scrub with your fingernails.

          Just make sure you have more than one towl and do a drying rotation. In locker rooms I've seen bums showering who didn't even have a towel, and they used half a roll of paper towels from the dispenser to dry their body off! xD
          • Re:And yet (Score:5, Funny)

            by sodul ( 833177 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:38PM (#28154227) Homepage

            I've seen bums showering who didn't even have a towel

            But that's the most important thing to have !!! I means there is a whole series of books about how important it is to have a towel.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by ManyCowsMoo ( 843714 )
            As a certain towel would say: Don't forget to bring a towel!
          • Wow..that's amazing.

            Most places like that that I know of....college gyms, etc..all require you to show proper college or faculty ID to gain entrance to the facility. With all the recent year schools shoot ups...I"m surprised all colleges aren't more strict than what you describe by letting bums and strangers in to the facilities, much less on campus at all.

        • by Trepidity ( 597 )

          Which universities were you trying to visit? Most University of California campuses allow anyone to just walk in to the libraries and use them, and the ones I've visited have limited-time "guest" logins to both the computers and wireless internet.

      • Re:And yet (Score:5, Informative)

        by AlHunt ( 982887 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:36PM (#28154217) Homepage Journal

        It's also a good reminder of how much in America goes to waste.

        3,304 pounds of food per second. 263,013,699 pounds of food every day. 1.5 tons of food per year for every person in America. [endhunger.org]

        A couple of decades ago, Harry Chapin said something like "In a country where we produce enough food to feed the entire planet 6 times over, it's unthinkable that anybody shouldn't have enough to eat". Not much has changed in the interim.

        • Re:And yet (Score:4, Informative)

          by slashtivus ( 1162793 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:25PM (#28154533)
          Doing the math on those numbers, they don't even agree with each other.

          1) 365days * 24hours * 60minutes * 60seconds = 31,536,000 seconds. Multiply by 3304 pounds per second = 104,194,944,000 pounds per year.
          2) 263,013,699 pounds * 365 = 96,000,000,135 pounds per year. (Well, that's close... but wait...)
          3) Since you used pounds, I will assume the short ton (the smallest 'ton' available) = 2,000 pounds * 1.5... So, 3000 pounds per person * 306 million persons in America = 918,000,000,000 pounds per year. Oops.

          I'll admit that the smallest number equates to about 313 pounds per person per year for each American (less than 1 pound a day), bad numbers like that make me a bit suspicious of their methodology.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by AlHunt ( 982887 )

            Yeah, OK, I'll admit I snagged them direct. The 3304/second I'm quite confident in. It's a USDA number that's been floating around for some time and I have read the actual study somewhere in the deep dark past. I guess I'll have to go find it again.

            Sorry for not double checking the numbers before I posted them ...

          • by AlHunt ( 982887 )

            Dammit - 3044 pounds of food per second, not 3304. Sorry ...

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Vellmont ( 569020 )

            bad numbers like that make me a bit suspicious of their methodology.

            You should be more suspicious of your assumptions. The actual quote is:

            That turns out to be about nearly 1.5 tons of food per year for every man, woman, and child in the United States who faces hunger.

            The problems are really more ones of logistics than the actual food. Sure, we produce too much food and much of it goes to waste. But getting the food to the right people at the right time is the hard part.

        • It's also a good reminder of how much in America goes to waste.

          3,304 pounds of food per second. 263,013,699 pounds of food every day. 1.5 tons of food per year for every person in America. [endhunger.org]

          A couple of decades ago, Harry Chapin said something like "In a country where we produce enough food to feed the entire planet 6 times over, it's unthinkable that anybody shouldn't have enough to eat". Not much has changed in the interim.

          Yeah, because everything else in the world is so efficient, so the US for distribution network should be too.

          Here's a tip, nothing is 100% efficient, so give it up.

          Most engines are about 20% efficient. Solar panels are about 15% efficient. The US congress is about -10% efficient and yet people expect that ALL the food generated in the US should be utilized with 100% percent efficiency.

          And that is not considering the fact that in our capitalist economy, there is insufficient incentive to actually m

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Merc248 ( 1026032 )

        If you live in Seattle, Essential Bakery in Fremont is prime for dumpster diving as well.

        (I'm not homeless, but I'm a college student, and the bread is usually VERY fresh. I promise. :D)

      • by samcan ( 1349105 )

        I didn't know that there were that many homeless Slashdotters. :-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      But is it for lack of looking or for lack of jobs available?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's an easy one. Our economy is rigged from the top down to ensure that there are ALWAYS more people looking for work than there are jobs available. It benefits employers by ensuring that labor is always plentiful and cheap, via the laws of supply and demand. (Free market, my ass! A free market would be characterized by employers desperately trying to attract a few employees with lavish contracts, as most people would prefer to go into business for themselves if the cost of entry wasn't so artificially h

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I don't know about his specific situation; but, I can speak about mine. Homeless in the late 80's as a teenager. It's damn hard to get a job when you can't fill out the home address on the application -- they HR droids throw away "incomplete" applications. It's also hard to get called in for an interview, when you have no phone (we didn't have cell phones available in the '80s like we do now). At the time, the area I lived in had a very low homeless rate; so, if you tried to explain you were homeless so

    • Re:And yet (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Meshach ( 578918 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:30PM (#28153685)
      It sounds like he is not interested in finding a job. Someone capable of coordinating their life that well is probably employable. For some reason he dose not want to work.
      • Re:And yet (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:40PM (#28153751) Homepage Journal
        For some people(who often have jobs or keep some responsibility), being homeless is about freedom. I'd just exited a bad relationship with the woman I lived and then left another place to live because the management didn't fix shit (my pet peeve was that the jacuzzi was always cold, damn them).

        I finally got fed up and lived out of my car for a summer. I had more spending cash since I was employed, and I even went to school while living out of the car. Not worrying about a place to live is about having one less thing to worry about and more disposable money to save or spend.

        Of course, that lifestyle is a very lonely one, so I see why the man has adopted the internet as his support system. He may not be a shiftless bum - sometimes, people who've had enough just say "fuck it". And it's very liberating. But I don't recommend living that lifestyle long-term.
        • Re:And yet (Score:4, Funny)

          by Extremus ( 1043274 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:25PM (#28154115)
          This remembers me of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, when Arthur decided to go mad.

          "I will go mad!" he announced.

          "Good idea," said Ford Prefect, clambering down from the rock on which he had been sitting.

          Arthur's brain somersaulted. His jaw did press-ups.

          "I went mad for a while," said Ford, "did me no end of good."
        • Re:And yet (Score:5, Interesting)

          by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:34PM (#28154181) Journal

          I am all about individual freedom and I am last person in the world who would be in favor of anyone interfering with you living out of your car if that is what you desire to do in anyway beyond why I am about to say here. Consider this just friendly advice for a third party who's lack of personal affiliation with you might afford them some objectivity. Do not consider it in away a condemnation of your life style or an attempt to deny you it if it actually brings you happiness.

          That said you, admitted that its a lonely life style. You also apparently value your comfort as you cited the jacuzzi not being functional as a reason for leaving your apartment. You also apparently have some desire for the social pattern of cohabitation with a member of the opposite sex most others do.

          Not worrying about a place to live is about having one less thing to worry about...

          That is a very odd statement on its face. Most people have a pretty basic need for someplace to call home and when they don't have that there is little else they can think about until they do. That is one of the things that keeps so many people homeless. They are so preoccupied with being homeless and needing some place to call home they can't attend to the activities that would elevate them economically so that they could get a home.

          Obvious you were quite functional during that period. I just wonder if you were not experiencing some other medical condition that radically altered your socialization when you decided to get up a live out of your car for a time. You might want to see a medical professional before you do that again. If they tell you that your perfectly healthly and you feel like you want do it, then I would say go for it man! If they think something might be wrong then you might consider that for a time. I might not tell them you are planing to go live out of your car, something that radical might bias them as it has me. Since this about you and not the bias of others there no reason to tip hand.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            Humans were nomadic for much longer than they were "housed". Maybe living lighter is not quite the catastrophe it is made out to be?
            • Re:And yet (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @09:29PM (#28154555) Homepage Journal
              He's right, it's important to have stability. Living the bum lifestyle, especially without a support system, will cause one to regress into the animalistic survival instinct and become paranoid.

              Existing conditions, if any, will be exacerbated by the instability. Drugs or Alcohol make it worse. Any person who's seen homeless people talking to themselves on the street realizes that. That's why I made it a point to mention that I didn't do it for very long - I decided that enough was enough when I began to talk to myself and urinate in public. My job and my life were not worth tossing out like that, and now I live a comfortable life in a place with a functional jacuzzi ;)
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            There was a This American Life about this a few months back:

            http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=358 [thislife.org]

            Two poets 'decided' to become homless to 'focus on their poetry'. As the story goes it was really less about choosing to be free as it was about being put on the street by their substance addictions and minor mental health issues. The Parent Post sounds to be pretty stable (after all he returned to normal life). But I think a lot of people who "decide to go homeless" are really people with d

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by hairyfeet ( 841228 )

              I have a friend that I went to HS with that has been living on the streets off and on since graduation in the mid 80s. He floats between AR,TX, and KS. When the weather becomes too hot or too cold in one area he hitchhikes to the next. I have to agree wholeheartedly about the mental illness. He is very smart and with some long term therapy could be a productive member of society.

              What none of us knew in HS was that his mother was getting him high from 8 years old onwards. Therefor he has absolutely no contr

          • Re:And yet (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Daneurysm ( 732825 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @12:05AM (#28155415)
            I think you may be reading too deeply into his situation.

            I suffered (or, rather, endured) a very similar situation. I was cohabitating with my girlfriend. Things didn't work out, I had to get out. I was unemployed at the time, so for the couple months I was sleeping out of my car and/or couch surfing (people get sick of that really quickly, the polite notice it and act accordingly).

            I got a job, saved up some cash and got a place to live. But in the months leading up to that I was homeless. While I wouldn't reccomend it, especially to the light of heart, it isn't neccesarily nearly as much an indication of an underlying condition so much as a sign of lack of concern for something most people would obsess over.

            Was it comfortable? No. Was I happy about the situation? No. Did I make the best of it? Damn straight I did.

            In the time that I was homeless I managed to secure a job, save money to get a place to stay, form a new band and coordinate practices and shows. I kept up with my myspace and emails on a daily basis. I didn't dumpster dive. I had money to purchase food. But I wasn't obsessed with needing a place to call home. On a temporary basis. I knew that I was working towards that and I was dealt (or had caused my self to have to deal with) a bad hand. Live, learn, etc.

            There is nothing in that behavior that suggests that I need to get 'checked out'. The GP as well as myself both enjoyed a reletively high standard of living, however we weren't so entrenched in our way of life that when our situation was drastically changed that we fretted needlessly over our lack of walls.

            ...and yes, GP is right. It was VERY freeing. It was a sense of freedom that was underscored by a need for change and progress. As I wasn't content living that way for any extended period of time. But being honest with myself and coming to terms with my situation allowed for me to accept what had happened, formulate a plan to change that and not worry in the interim.

            So I went to partys and instead of leaving, I'd do what I wouldn't ordinarily do. Crash on the couch. I went home with girls I may not have ordinarily gone home with. I also acted in a more gentlemanly manner that I ordinarily wouldn't have acted with.

            ...and there was a certain excitement to being 'on the go' constantly. Constantly. Though sleeping in commuter lots was a little scary--as was driving anywhere--given that my car wasn't insured or registered and my license was suspended...all things I was able to neglect while having a home and an SO with such amenities.

            All in all it was an exciting time that I wish to never revisit, a lot was learned, progress was made, and it was all dealt with in a very honest and pragmatic manner. I see no reason why GP or myself should seek treatment for merely 'living off the land' in an urban setting.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by BrokenHalo ( 565198 )
              There is nothing in that behavior that suggests that I need to get 'checked out'.

              Well said. I personally find it offensive and obnoxious when people insist on hectoring others into embarking on counselling, phychological or psychiatric treatment just because they don't happen to adhere to a nice, comfortable bourgeois social norm.

              There are countless ways to live one's life, and if someone doesn't want to fit the profile of a nice little suburban nine-to-fiver there's no reason why anyone should try to ma
      • Re:And yet (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:49PM (#28153835)

        For some reason he dose not want to work.

        Internet connection, doesn't want to work, according to TFA some of them can't read or write : how about a job as a Slashdot editor?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sillybilly ( 668960 )
        Or nobody gives him a job, or the jobs he gets are bullshit jobs, etc, etc.. the possibilities are many. Most people like a decent job with a steady income. It's often a question of what's decent. I used to be not willing to do very hazardous jobs, now it's like what do I have to live for anymore. As long as they pay well, I might actually get the chance to have a life, or die from the hazard, but it's still better than certainty and guarantee of never having really lived, because you were always financiall
      • Re:And yet (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Mistshadow2k4 ( 748958 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @11:22PM (#28155121) Journal
        Wow. Seriously, people, wow. I'm not a historian, but I wonder if there's ever been a period in history where the fortunate were so incredibly delusional about how lucky they are, and actually believe that anyone else fortunate than themselves is just lazy. You don't really believe this, do you? Do you really think that someone would PREFER to live under a bridge, enduring inclement weather, harassment from the police and the threat of violence from others on the street, rather than get a job, work, and rent a cheap apartment where, at the very least, they're inside out of the rain? My God. You don't really think it's that easy out there, where you can get a job just because you're able to organize stuff without much difficulty? if so, I hope that you and the others posting the like on this article never lose your jobs and become homeless, for your own sakes; you're so clueless that you wouldn't last a month, let alone long enough to get another job and a place to live.
        • Re:And yet (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @11:59PM (#28155373)

          You're the delusional one. Some people are homeless and hate it, but some people just choose this lifestyle because that's what they want. Yup, some people would rather spend all day outside, drinking booze, eating food from dumpsters (I'm sure the more experienced dumpster divers eat better food than I do) and sleep in a park bench or abandoned building with 3 other guys rather than get up early in the morning, do a retarded job in a cubicle all day to go back home to watch TV and worry about paying bills and mortgages.

          Some people would rather choose freedom than working a 9 to 5. Mind blowing, isn't it?

    • Re:And yet (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:32PM (#28153697) Homepage Journal

      I am not sure you realize how bad the "human resources" movement people are at finding talent that doesn't fit into a distinct mould. There are tons of good people out there who have true talent who can't get jobs because they don't strictly fit into some H.R. drone can't easily label them or because H.R. is playing games with H1-Bs or whatnot.

      People like Charlie Pitts deserve chances. Not every homeless guy is the "bum" stereotype we see so much in our media, and many have genuine talents and can contribute a lot. It's just that we don't manage our available talents well in the US at all right now.

      • Re:And yet (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:04PM (#28153959) Homepage Journal
        The subject of interviewing came up during a coffee break at work the other day. Most of us who have hired people agreed that it takes about 30 seconds of conversation with a person to decide whether they can do the job or not. Hiring for tech jobs I have never paid much attention to resumes except to get an idea of what interests them.

        The most useful person I have hired came to us as a part time student. When he graduated I took him on as a permanent because I could see that he learnt new stuff fast and had shown potential mentoring our new intern.

        HR just want to cover their arses and keep costs down.
    • they can't seem to find a job.

      That reminds of a TV news clip in the mid-1980's where a white landlord was evicting a black family of five in Silicon Valley for not paying the rent. He then pointed to the Apple II computer that he just tossed out on the front yard, and proclaimed to the cameras: "If they can afford to buy a computer, why can't they pay rent?" The landlord got his apartment back but came across on TV like a total jerk.
    • by Ektanoor ( 9949 )

      Yes, right now it is real hard to find a job. And not just because there are no jobs. Things are even more harsh than just "a job".

      When I went down through the tube, I had several proposals being offered. Yes, I don't have too much trouble to find a job, besides, I only once, in my whole life, was searching for a job only on myself.

      But what I found this time was... Dali's Universe? Things were so surrealistic that I even closed my communication with very closed friends. Because it was nearly impossible to m

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Took me a while to figure out your were impersonating schizophrenia.

        • by Ektanoor ( 9949 )

          Why? Because someone offers you a job with absolutely no sense?

          I am a infosec expert. So threat shall be something that you can measure. Objectively or subjectively, it doesn't matter. You either consider than under the threat of a breakin - "someone may steal information" or "we can loose a value of 100 million dollars". There is nothing weird on this, right?

          Tell me, if someone comes to you and speaks about "threats", just the word "threats". And he keeps on and on with "threats", adding "hackers" or "spie

          • Why? Because someone offers you a job with absolutely no sense?

            Just take the job, have a look around to see what sort of Twonky they make there, then start making more.

            • by Ektanoor ( 9949 )

              Impossible. How do you figure out the budget if people talk only abstractively?

              I had a few bad episodes during my lifetime with such abstractions. It doesn't work, what it doesn't work? Eeeeee it doesn't work. Ok, now what do you think or how do you think it should work. Well the computer shall "give me"/"think about"/"show me"...

              And you realize that they don't even know how to use a computer.

              Now think. Abstractions+"No real tasks"+"Calculate the Budget".

              Under this crisis, it will take an Eternity to calcul

    • We've got a homeless man downtown with a laptop and and he ran for mayor. Can't say he's not trying to get a job.
    • Smoking crack is a job to those who need to stay wired 24-7.

  • by Norsefire ( 1494323 ) * on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:15PM (#28153551) Journal
    in a brown paper-bag?
  • 2 years?? (Score:5, Funny)

    by goldaryn ( 834427 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:16PM (#28153557) Homepage
    Except Pitts has been homeless for two years and manages this digital lifestyle from his residence under a highway bridge.

    That's some sick battery life right there!
  • ... if they can't even find a job with access to the all-mighty power of the Internet.
  • by TinBromide ( 921574 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:29PM (#28153675)
    If you can reach friends and family, can't you ask for help? Maybe I grew up in an environment where homelessness was not an option because I'm sure that I could chill on someone's couch until I worked my way back into an apartment. If you can't reach anybody on the internet who is willing or able to help you out while you're living under a bridge, perhaps you should re-evaluate your ongoing communications with those people. I realize that not everybody will be able to work up a western-union order for bus fair in a week or a cross-country plane ticket in a month to help their friend, you'd have to be pretty low on my list of acquaintances for me to not help you out, and I make sure I hang out with people that would do the same for me. This is really sad, while yes, its good that they can stay in contact, this is a case of communication without value.
    • by Haxzaw ( 1502841 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:41PM (#28153757)
      I would say someone in his situation wants to be homeless. Not every homeless person is a mentally ill individual, or is someone who lost a job. Some people are homeless because they prefer to be off the grid. Some make pretty good money panhandling (begging, if you prefer). Some are criminals. If someone wants to stay connected to others, and is homeless, IMHO he wants to be homeless.
      • by TinBromide ( 921574 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:47PM (#28153811)
        I suppose, but I've known panhandlers that actually had really nice apartments, one guy would make a hundred or two a day. It was tough work, but the money was worth it. It is far too easy to be able to afford a place with central heating, or windows, and the like to live under a bridge.

        I've also known people who choose to be semi-homeless, I.E. they work at a job that would make 100+K per year, but only work 3-4 months, live in a tiny efficiency for those few months and squirrel away that cash. When they've had enough consulting, they drop their stuff in storage, notify the land-lord that they're moving out, and go back-packing across the world. However, I have yet to meet anybody that would willingly live under a bridge. Maybe I just don't know the "right" people...
      • by altek ( 119814 )

        I agree that this guy probably wants to be homeless at this point in time.

        But he's hardly off the grid if he's using Twitter, Facebook, et al!

    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:59PM (#28153903)

      You have to realize that in most cases of homelessness, there are other factors. What I mean is that the situation isn't one of "Person lost their job, exhausted their savings, and was thrown out on the street." That is extremely rare. Not losing one's job and running out of money is rare, but that the immediate follow up is "and thrown out on the street."

      In a lot of cases, the problem is substance abuse of some kind or another. Alcohol, illegal drugs, inhalants, whatever. The person has chosen their addiction over everything else, and thus their friends and family are sick of putting up with them. I mean someone can be a real good friend of yours, but if all they do is get drunk and damage your place, eventually you are probably going to throw them out. There are other causes too like mental illness, or simply being lazy to the point you find that not working and being homeless is easier.

      If you look in to it you'll find that it is rather rare to see someone who is homeless 100% by circumstance. For most people, if life takes a shit on them, they have others they can go to for help. There is another compounding factor involved. Something that has either caused those that care about them to give up on them (like drugs) or something that has caused them to decide not to try and deal with the situation.

      • Haven't you ever fantasized about being homeless? Like when you're visiting the bay area and it's a really nice day out? I have. But then I guess a little fantasy is a far cry from doing it for real.
        • i've always imagined it's like a camping trip that lasts forever. there's a few homeless guys getting around my home town but, they have bank accounts and money (lined up at the bank with one of them once)? i can only conclude they walk around the streets looking crazy because they want to.
      • by MrMista_B ( 891430 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @01:06AM (#28155715)

        Well that's just not true, and blaming 'drugs' is an easy way to scapegoat people so you don't have to feel bad about yourself.

        • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @05:16AM (#28156711)

          This has nothing to do with scapegoating, everything to do with reality. Most people who are homeless are that way for a reason. The most common reason is addiction. I'd actually say that alcohol addiction is more common than any other drug. Their addiction is to the point that it totally rules their life and it is all they care about.

          Either way, not sure why you think I should feel bad about myself. Even if the reality was different, I still don't feel bad. I don't feel sorry or evil or whatever for having happiness and success in my life. I would hope that everyone else does as well, but I don't feel bad about myself because many don't.

          So if you think I should feel guilty, well sorry I don't and I won't. If you choose to guilt yourself over what you have in your life, I can't stop you, but I don't feel it is productive and I don't do it. I enjoy my life.

      • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @02:41AM (#28156183) Homepage

        You have to realize that in most cases of homelessness, there are other factors. What I mean is that the situation isn't one of "Person lost their job, exhausted their savings, and was thrown out on the street." That is extremely rare.

        Not as rare as it used to be. As of a few years ago, about half of homeless people in SF were on drugs. Now, the shelter operators report people in suits showing up. People are running out their savings and their friends' patience.

        Simply having made a bad career choice can break you now. And it's going to get worse before it gets better.

    • by bipbop ( 1144919 )
      Some people don't have friends or family, or their family won't speak to them, or won't help, etc.
  • by qpawn ( 1507885 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:30PM (#28153683)

    I get like zero bars in my dumpster.

  • by panthroman ( 1415081 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:32PM (#28153695) Homepage

    ...from his residence under a highway bridge.

    Sometimes you just gotta hand it to a troll for sheer dedication. (+1, troll?)

    • I know, I too was reading through the article trying to find which bridge, sounds like a pretty sweet setup.

      Oh, that is what you meant, right?

  • Great New World (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ektanoor ( 9949 )

    I'm self-unemployed after a real hard season of playing Blade Runner for a year. I don't have too much money to spend but...

    I have a 24 hour permanent link to Internet
    I can load tens of Gigabytes per month.
    Have several different channels to reach Internet, from wherever I am, in several possible means.
    And have a miriad of places to go for info and communication.
    At home I have also three different ways to reach Internet from several systems around the house. I can freely move with a Internet link

    And all this

  • Luxury (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hope Thelps ( 322083 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:38PM (#28153735)

    That's nothing, I used to stay connected, downloading movies and Linux distros, following all the news, exchanging emails with a journalist friend, using a Commodore 64 that had been buried for years - in a war ravaged country with no communications infrastructure worth speaking of. Kids these days have it easy.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 30, 2009 @07:44PM (#28153791)

    I was homeless between Aug-2003 to July-2004. One day I had no money to buy two rice cakes which used to cost less than .25 cents. I just drank a water and I made a promise to myself to avoid such a bad condition. It was bad, cold and at one point I thought I'm just gonna die out. At the end of 2004, I brought old P5 with 64MB RAM and 10GB hard disk with mono monitor loaded with Window 95. I used the same computer to write students CS assignments and complete their projects in the night time for the money. I had a small job at the Internet cafe. I learned about SEO, forums, creating website and making money by selling ads and doing aff marketing. Today, I make my living by running over 80+ websites and forums. Even, in this bad economy, I doing good. So if you in a bad time, just hold on a while. May be think out of box and you may survive to see another beautiful day. I learnt a lot from my bad days and it made me a better person.

    Hope this helps and cheers someone out there seating in cold night and wondering about the life...

    PS: English is not my first language and I've only 10th grade school education.

  • Japanese Version (Score:4, Informative)

    by lobiusmoop ( 305328 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @08:23PM (#28154101) Homepage

    In Japan, they move into internet cafes [bbc.co.uk]

  • I just remembered an episode that occurred not so long ago.

    This comes from third persons but I know the guy who was trying to get the job. An average sysadmin but systematic and hardworking.

    When he was about to be layed off, people tried to find him a job on a business partner. The partner was having some pretty bad time with its networks. They are highly critical and shall run non-stop (something related to medicine btw). Now, lately, for several times the servers went down. There was even a hangup that la

    • by Rakishi ( 759894 )

      Frankly if losing your job means you're homeless then that's your fault. Shit happens in life and if you're so unprepared that one little bump sends you to the bottom then I have no sympathy for you. Sysadmins get paid well enough that there is no excuse for almost all of them to have considerable savings.

      • by Ektanoor ( 9949 )

        In your world of "opportunity for everyone" maybe. In the real world shit happens in such way that it may be practically impossible to get a solution. If the whole economy goes through the tubes, how can you guarantee yourself survival? If you didn't have had this chance, you are pretty lucky, I had to pass by the downfall of USSR. It was a TREMENDOUS experience. And not the first and last one. I just refer it because it was a situation where, chances to find work were pretty grim.

        Now, guys like the one I d

        • by Rakishi ( 759894 )

          In your world of "opportunity for everyone" maybe. In the real world shit happens in such way that it may be practically impossible to get a solution. If the whole economy goes through the tubes, how can you guarantee yourself survival?

          If you didn't have had this chance, you are pretty lucky, I had to pass by the downfall of USSR. It was a TREMENDOUS experience. And not the first and last one. I just refer it because it was a situation where, chances to find work were pretty grim.

          And you might get hit by a car and end up with half your brain as little more than slush. That's not the situation we were talking about so I don't see why you're bringing it up. Losing your job and recessions are on the other hand
          common occurrences that any reasonable person should protect themselves against. I can, for example, live comfortably for two years on my current savings alone (ie: no job, no income, etc.) and I only entered the job market three or so years ago (considerably more if I cut down my

  • by TechnoGrl ( 322690 ) on Saturday May 30, 2009 @11:13PM (#28155061)

    Until You've been homeless. I know. I've been there. With all my progressive thinking, I knew nothing about it.

    In 2000-01 I was making 6 figures working as a Senior Developer in Los Angeles. I lost my job after Bush and 911. I sent out over 300 resumes in a 3 month period - not one single response. I had 6 months income saved . By month 7 I was sleeping on friends couches. Previously I had been able to get a new contract within 2 weeks tops. I borrowed several thousand from friends to keep me in monthly hotels - I was good for it. I always had been working right?

    By month 12 I was sleeping in my car. I took temp jobs driving buses and I took temp IT jobs doing data entry at 10 bucks an hour. You know how well you can live on 10 bucks an hour in CA when you have no more money? Not very well. Get an apartment ? With what? 10 bucks an hour?

    By month 22 I was starting to live in shelters. And I saw things. Things I would rather not ever have seen. I saw people in bloody bandages, terrible dirty and out of their mind being laughed at and made fun of by city shelter workers. I saw it took over an hour to get in line to take a shower. I drug addiction, mental illness and hopelessness standing right next to me every single day. I saw my self confidence die along with my job prospects. Most importantly I saw that nobody really cared.

    You think there are State run programs to help people out there. I am here to tell you you are so so wrong. It;s all a sham. There are a very few. Very few. Most are fronts just to make it seem like something is being done. Nothing is. I've seen it. I've been there.

    You haven't seen it. You don't know.

    There are very few programs out there and by using the library internet I found one for Women Vets. I got small IT jobs and was able to keep them now that I had food shelter and safety. I worked my way back up the ladder again. Now I make about half of whay I used to - but we all are now - unless you're a banker.

    Friends, Family?? I left home at 19 and an Ivy League University - joined the military to continue college. My family were bad people. Rich, but very bad. How Bad? I begged to sleep on a couch with one of them. I told them I slept behind a church last night - in the open. My family refused. Good luck. Don't assume all families are like yours. I assure you they are not.

    There's a lot more I could say. More that needs to be said. But I've said enough. It's the rich greedy sons and daughters of bitches who think nothing of others and thing only how to get more to themselves that post about how homeless people bring it all on themselves. Well some do. And some are just broken down by the process. Those people need help. Where is their help?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by squiggly12 ( 1298191 )
      Just wanted to say thank you for this post. I hope it hits everyone like it hit me.
    • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Sunday May 31, 2009 @02:07AM (#28155995) Homepage
      My wife worked for the chief of the psychiatric department at the Brentwood VA in California during the early 80s. From the mid-70s to mid-80s there was a strong 'patients rights' movement generated by the mental health advocate community. Although there were many facets to this movement, one of the primary elements was a re-examination of the criteria for institutionalizing patients. The point of contention revolved around interpretations of what it meant for a patient to be able to 'take care of himself.' Prior to this the interpretation was rather strict; if a patient could not earn an income and provide shelter and food for himself (and if there were no family members able to care for him), then he would normally be institutionalized. Begining in the late 70s, the advocacy groups began to demand a lower standard. As long as a patient could merely wash and dress himself, and could perform the mechanical tasks of shovelling food into his mouth, then every effort was made to force the institutions to release them. My wife's boss spent many months both in court and testifying before the state assembly trying to stop this lowering of standards. Unsuccessfully. Predictably, most of the newly discharged patients were unable to take care of themselves in any meaningful sense of the word, and became the homeless people on the street. It's no coincidence that the decline in California's mental health insitution population closely matched the sharp increase of homeless (in California, at least) during the same period. In fact, for about two years, my wife literally was on a first name basis with every homeless person we ran across in the Westwood/Santa Monica area. They were all former patients who had been 'sprung' from the VA by well meaning advocate groups who then simply walked away and left these guys hanging. Reagan was not involved in this movement, nor was he a symptom or symbolic of it. Quite the contrary. The people who 'liberated' the inmates tended to be on the opposite end of the political spectum. In fact, it was the ACLU who provided legal representation to force the VA to release these patients.
  • How American Homeless Stay Wired

    The same way they get their manicures.

  • http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/07/31/BAPB1227KF.DTL [sfgate.com] Tom Sepa would rather not be called homeless. "That word is loaded," he said. "I prefer 'urban outdoorsman.' " It is true that Sepa has a lot of things that aren't generally associated with the stereotypical San Francisco homeless person - like a full-time job.

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap; it will be dear to you. -- Thomas Jefferson