Friday, May 12, 2006

Memories of Being Homeless – The Predators

My very early years as a struggling bass guitarist were sometimes chaotic and, at one point, I became homeless. People actually become homeless for a variety of reasons. For myself, there were no drugs or alcohol involved but instead, pride and ignorance. I’m certainly not proud of the fact, but I learned about one particular condition of human existence that arises in this civilization. Naturally, I remember a lot of things about being homeless and so this is the first installment of that period of my life.

One of the first problems you encounter as a homeless person is that many other homeless people are predators. Yes, it is true – people who own nothing, do actually victimize other people with nothing. And make no mistake - for homeless women it gets even worse. I don’t mean this as a moral indictment of homeless people, but this is simply the reality of it. Not all, but many of these transients are felons, cons, junkies, alcoholics, sociopaths, and schizophrenics. Fortunately, I was a young, healthy male who no longer drank or got wired and, therefore, remained fairly alert most of the time.

I myself was not a predator and I certainly didn’t want any trouble with anybody. I just wanted to solve my predicament and overcome my own personal failures.

The homeless shelters were very problematic because if you did not have a friend to watch your back at night, you could be dragged into a stairwell, beaten, and have your shoes, few coins, or whatever you had, taken from you. For instance, there were these soda bottle caps that you could find in the trash and then trade in at a fast food place to get free French fries or a hamburger. This one guy kept trying to take my bottle caps until one day, I used a small army shovel to discourage him from any further attempts.

I preferred sleeping under bridges, located just outside of the city proper, so that people could only come at me from one direction. I also used to spread broken glass and metal rubbish around on the concrete to alert me to any approaching transients. Nonetheless, during the cold winter, I twice had to fight to keep my blankets. I still have a small scar on my forearm from a broken bottle that one guy tried to slash me with. It took a long time to pick out all the little splinters of glass. But, on the positive side, I learned that I could fight my way up off the ground from a dead sleep.

My own opinion on aiding a homeless person is this: do not feel guilty if you do not want to give money to a homeless person. You have to make a person by person decision. The bottom line is that you do not know this person or why he is homeless. You do not see what goes on at night in the dark corners of the city. There is always a good chance that this person has preyed on another homeless person or even a regular person. And if you women knew the kind of vile things that are mentioned about you, as you pass by these people, you would probably never pity them.

- Just a peasant
Of Food - Of Life - Of Despair - Of Hope

Photo of a homeless man in Germany by Hartmut Schwarzbach