I was talking to one of the neighborhood homeless guys the other day and it reminded me of my own stint at living on the street.
It was back in my early 20’s. I wasn’t making ends meet and rather than get evicted, I moved out of my place. I wanted to move from Galveston to Houston anyway so I figured it was the perfect time. I didn’t plan it well and ended up w/o a place to live for awhile.
Yeah, I did some things I’m not proud of but they were all towards my survival. I only had to steal food a few times; luckily, it was rare that I went hungry. I still had my car and was sleeping out of it so that helped me avoid some of the harsher parts of being on the street. Being in Houston, the biggest hassle was finding places to park where I wouldn’t get harassed by the police. At that time the downtown area was a ghost town at night and the gaborhoods weren’t overly safe. A lot of times I ended up parking in apartment complexes. It sounds odd but no one ever harassed me. I never stayed in the same one twice in a row so I think that helped.
On some levels it was pretty bad but overall I wasn’t as bad off as some. Not having rent to pay freed up my cash for other necessities. I kept my gym membership active so I always had a place to shower. I only shaved about once a week back then so I never looked ragged. To see me, you’d just think I was a normal kid. That definitely helped on the job search.
My jobs consisted of minimum wage low-skill type situations. I hadn’t developed much self confidence yet so I figured it was all I could get. Looking back, I probably could have landed better gigs had I tried harder. Anyway, I bounced around from waiting tables, working at hotels, etc. Actually, one of my better paying gigs was working at one of the local bath-houses hosting bbq’s on the weekends. Being funny and engaging with the clientele1 the manager ended up I giving me a full-time job working the front desk. As luck would have it, the manager at the time liked that I was a hard worker and befriended me.
One night he dropped by after my shift-ended and sort of figured out my situation. He took pity on me and let me stay in one of the bigger rooms for a few months. He also secretly gave me a little extra pay every month to help me out. I am not ashamed to admit it. It kept me off the streets and out of trouble, plus having a gym and wet-area I always had access to good hygiene. It also gave me a chance to put away some money and eventually get back on my feet.
Having absolutely no credit to my name back then, I had to pay cash for everything, which meant only buying what I could afford at that moment. After about a year and half I secured a small apartment in one of the complexes I used to park/sleep in. After that, I moved on to bigger and bigger jobs as time went by. I was beginning to discover my talents and realized I could aim higher. Each job I bounced to was a step-up.
Fast-forward a couple more years and I’d reached a point where I could support myself again. I’m grateful for my friend that helped me out. He died about 3 months after I moved to SF. The owner knew me thru him and paid for my ticket to come back to see him before he passed. He died from acute HIV symptoms after being treated for cancer. The chemo pushed his immune system too far and he got an opportunistic infection that he eventually succumbed to. Some people might turn their nose at him for being a bath-house manager but he was a good person and was there for me when I really needed it. It was an honest living. He came off as a bitchy queen a lot but that was a cover. He was a genuine soul that helped when he saw a need. I saw him help plenty of his other employees at different times as well. He had a big heart.
I still look back on that time of my life from time to time. I had virtually nothing but I was happy most of the time. I didn’t have anything to lose so things could only go up from my perspective. Being smart and quick study, I always tried to better myself. Up until I started referring to it on my blog, only a couple people even knew that I went thru all that.
Anyway, I told the local homeless guy in my hood my story and I encouraged him to work at it. He doesn’t booze or do drugs2 so I always try to help him with food when I can. I think he is what you’d call a career homeless guy but I hope that he decides at some point to get off the streets. If anything, I hope that my story gave him faith that he could if he really wanted to.