About a week ago I woke up and got out of the RV, which I've had parked on the same street for the better part of the last five months. To my surprise there was ANOTHER RV in front of mine. It was a lot older, but about the same size.
I went to lunch, and as I returned I saw a man getting into the RV.
"Hi! Welcome to the neighborhood," I said jokingly.
"Hey there. How are you doing? Probably shitty like us since you live in an RV too."
His wife emerged from the RV. Her expression made it very clear that she hadn't smiled in years.
"No... I'm doing great. I love living in my RV."
He lightened up a bit after that. He was proud of his RV. It was a 1964 International that he'd personally done some work on. He popped the hood to show me the engine.
During our whole conversation his wife scowled. If the opportunity arose to be critical, she jumped all over it.
"It's 42 years old."
"NO it isn't. It's 43."
"It's a 1964. That's 43."
I couldn't help but think that he was doing "shitty" not because of the RV, but because of his companion in it.
Then again, I felt bad for her. I could tell that this wasn't what she wanted her life to look like, but that there wasn't much chance of it changing soon.
They haven't moved since then. Their RV is right in front of mine.
Last night I walked from the restaurant back to my RV and I noticed a brown van with a turtle top was parked directly behind me. As I worked in the RV I could smell their cigarette smoke wafting in through my roof vent. This morning I woke up and he's still there.
This isn't great. My one RV went unnoticed for months. Even two RVs seemed like it might be sustainable. I have the feeling, though, that three RVs parked on a tiny street in the middle of one of the best areas in Austin is going to be too much. I hope I don't have to move.
A bonus story...
Since I don't update much now I'll write another little story.
Todd and I went to Daily Juice the other day. If you're in Austin, you should be going here. They have absolutely anything you might want in your smoothie, from chocolate chips to oregano oil. True to their moniker, I go there pretty much every day.
Out in front there are two wooden chairs on the sidewalk. They're the types of chairs you'd expect to see on a big southern porch. We watch the people pass, say hello, and sometimes talk to them.
A man who was clearly homeless approached us.
"Do you have any money you could spare."
I've stopped trying to be overly polite to bums who ask me for money. Why say sorry when I'm not sorry? I don't want to give him money. I would say "yes, but I won't" if it wouldn't lead to confusion.
He decided that there was no way his "bum act" was going to work on us. He didn't tell us about how terrible his life was or that he was just looking for food. He was honest.
We chatted with him for the next half our or so, and it was absolutely fascinating.
He spoke frankly about his drug use. He was trying to kick heroin, but no hospitals would admit him. He'd been to them all before, took the methadone home, and abused it. His crying wolf of wanting to get clean had earned him a reputation.
He was sincere about wanting to quit, but just didn't have the motivation to do it.
Alcohol is the hardest, he told us. He felt like he could quit heroin, but not alcohol. He admitted that when people give him money, it always goes to beer. He told us a story of someone who walked with him to a restaurant to make sure he actually bought food with it.
He wasn't apologetic, just matter of fact.
I asked him where he slept at night.
"Oh, I don't have one particular spot. I sleep wherever I am. I have a few favorites, though."
This particular response was interesting. It actually sounded pleasant. Because he wasn't trying to get anything from us, he didn't try to play it up. He said that it was too hot for him, though. He likes it when it was in the middle of winter.
He had a job for a while, but got fired.
"I would have fired me too. I came in late every day and was usually drunk. They were good people. They gave me a lot of chances, but I blew it."
Surprisingly, he didn't even seem upset or depressed. He seemed content, or possibly even happy. It was interesting, because usually homeless people are trying to convince us that they're miserable to get our money.
The other thing that struck me about him was that life HAPPENED to him. He wasn't at all in control of his life.
When he left he told us, "I hope that some day god gives me the strength to quit drinking. I ask him to, but he hasn't yet."
"I think you just have to be strong and do it yourself," offered Todd.
"No. I need god's strength, and he's not ready for me to quit yet."
I hope he does get the strength to quit. He was definitely a nice friendly guy who could possibly shape up his life. At the same time, he probably won't.
Really I just hope people don't find some random sentence here and interpret it as me hating homeless people.
I hope they boot the RVs from the street so it's easier for me to park at Casa when I'm too lazy to walk there.
I currently live in southern California. I don't give money to bums because I just don't see the point.
On my way to work I pass the same bums every day on the street corners, they are there all day working their corners. All I can think of is if they put the same amount of dedication into getting a job as they do pan-handling, they'd have a job.
Your site has a lot of interesting information on it. I've gotten to know a handful of various homeless people. It is interesting some of the hustles they use to get money, especially the ones who have the more severe addictions. I don't really give money away, but I've given space, a good ear, and the best advice I can. I once helped a guy get a job and a place, he managed to keep it for a year, but now he is homeless. Not really in a depressing way, he really seems quite indifferent. He is getting another job now. He has been writing a book, so it isn't like he has no motivation... I've been reading a ton of your stuff since I looked up info on the Airman's cave story. Thanks a lot! :D
I always wanted to spend 30 min with a homeless man. I remember saying confidently that I'd be a pretty successful homeless guy if I tried it for 30 days.
That sucks on the RV thing. Hope nothing happens.
I used to always give homeless people money when they asked (if I had any), but a few years back a new kind of job popped up. I don't know if it's everywhere, but in Southern California businesses now hire people to stand on the corner holding a big sign advertising their business. They don't seem to care about appearances either. After that, I found I couldn't give someone money because they claimed they couldn't work, but in actuality were doing the exact same thing by standing on the corner holding a sign. I haven't bothered to explain this to any of them, I just stopped giving. I know the truth is that they make considerably more money playing the sympathy game rather than with honest work, I've even considered going "undercover" to see exactly how much they make in a day, then give it to charity, but I never got the nerve...
> One thing I've wanted to try when someone asks > for money is to start speaking to them in
> another language and pretend to not understand
> English. But I just never got up the nerve.
> Tynan, please try that one time and let me know
> what happens!
I live in Japan once when I was visiting Tokyo a guy came up to where I was sitting and asked for money in Japanese. I pretended like I couldn't understand and offered him a seat next to me. He asked again for money, and I said 'Go ahead dude, sit down! :)' and motioned next to me. He got flustered and left.
I once gave a guy $5 because he told an interesting tale. He explained how he was so poor that his family only had one light bulb in his house, so at night they'd have to unscrew it and take it from room to room if they wanted light.
A few months later he came up to me again, this time trying to sell me "his" umbrella because he ran out of "bus fare". I declined, he insulted my appearance, I insulted his and called him on not remembering that he had asked me for money a while ago and giving him a $5. He admitted his umbrella thing was just a hustle and that he was just doing whatever it took to survive.
One thing I've wanted to try when someone asks for money is to start speaking to them in another language and pretend to not understand English. But I just never got up the nerve. Tynan, please try that one time and let me know what happens!
I like the subtle transition from philosophical RV vagabond to drunken street walker. I live in Richmond, VA and go to VCU which is a small Fine Arts/ Medical School, which in itself is quite the clash of society. Add that to the fact the city itself was once the capital of south during the Civil War and is almost divided evenly between blacks and whites and the result is a city bursting with history, beauty, culture and of course many homeless people. Interestingly enough, the many homeless people (and there are MANY) are usually young white kids traveling via freight trains through the country. It has become part of my daily routine to be asked for spare change. One day in particular I was walking with my girlfriend when I was approached by a man who I overheard talking to his buddy about how he sold sandwiches to other homeless ppl in exchange for booze. He asked me for change and when I said no, he asked me to walk inside 7-11 to buy him a sandwich using my debit card. What?? On the other hand, one day i was waiting in line to purchase my daily dose of Arizona blueberry when the guy in front of me trying to buy a 40 put all his change on the counter only to be refused b/c he was 1o cents too short. He walked out of the store with his head down. After I payed I ran after him and gave him a cpl bucks. I don't know, it just felt like the right thing to do. The moral of the story?? hmmm...honesty pays? perhaps a bit too cliche.
I almost never give out money to the homeless. After having visited places like Malaysia and India, it really puts perspective on how much BETTER the homeless in our country have it than abroad.
That being said, I recently went to a candy store and bought some apple rings. The little bag was freaking seven dollars! SEVEN DOLLARS! I was so pissed at having spent seven dollars on a little bag of candy, that I went back to look for a homeless woman who had minutes ago asked me for money, and gave it to her.
He doesn't like to call it a compound, so I won't. It does have 10 inch thick concrete walls, though. When I heard that Ed Brown was allowing visitors to his "home" in New Hampshire, I had to visit.
Ed and Elaine Brown are a pair of famous tax protestors who are evading arrest in a standoff with the feds.
I exited the highway and passed a Wal Mart. Soon the road became only one lane each way. Soon it was winding through farmland. Shortly after it became a dirt road. The RV hopped over the potholes as veered left onto their street.
Last night, I took that romantic walk on the beach with Ziggy Marley singing into my ears. Once the perfect bench came into sight, I needed to relieve my sore feet. As mesmerized as I was, a selfie was in order. The lady on the next bench down laughs and kindly offers to take a picture. She was with a man who played guitar and chatted with the odd one out: Keith. Keith is one of the many homeless people in Honolulu, Hawaii. And you know what? I had a great time unfolding his story along with newly found friends.
As for Keith, he claims to not once having picked up anything from the trashcan. He receives government subsidies in order to buy medications for his Parkinson’s condition, schizophrenia and the spastic nerve in his thigh. I think he had a thing for photography. Every time someone walked by the scenic area we were in, as friendly as he is, Keith offered to take a picture. He had good intentions, but people nonetheless vaguely smiled, turned around and walked faster. What these sprinters don’t realize is that the homeless are the ones with the most unique of stories.
Why do we curb around homeless people when we see them? We do everything in our power to avoid possibly exchanging any words or physical contact. Are we afraid they’re going to bite us? They become especially apparent when there aren’t many people around. Here in Waikiki, they sleep right across the Mariott, Hyatt and Hilton next to shiny BMW’s. It’s impossible to ignore. But when in crowded places we barely notice them.
On Saint Patrick’s Day in Hartford, Connecticut this year, I noticed the flipside of the vast drinking event. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This day is cash day for the homeless who return the neglected empty beer bottles and cans on the ground. I spotted some that walked around with large trash bags collecting the goldmines as they were thrown on the ground. And don’t forget the trashcans that are filled t the top with valuable goods! Our days of holidays are their days of work.
I urge you to treat these people in the most human way possible. They will be forever grateful for a simple dialogue. Keith thanked me 10 times just for talking to him. Give them a chance, there are so many things you can learn from people who don’t have a permanent residence and money to splurge on.