Homeless in Central Texas : An FAQ

So this weekend I got a chance to be homeless for 48 hours and be guided around by my street shepard Alan Graham of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. I know I have a ton of nerds and geeks that read this blog so I thought I would throw up a Homeless/Street Retreat FAQ since so many of you have questions.

1) Where do you live? “Live” is a interesting word for the working poor and homeless. Mostly we walked. From downtown Austin to Threadgills to listen to music over the fence. From 5th street we caught a bus to Sunken Gardens and Barton Springs. The best part of that? You can’t tell the homeless from the hippies at Barton Springs! You live where you are. Whether that’s in an alley behind Fox7 or sleeping in a parking lot behind the old county courthouse. At night we slept under the stars on a parking lot.

2) Where do you eat? If you have your wits about you, you can always find a meal here in Austin. The problem is that all the meals are provided by churches and non profits. Where the heck is the city of Austin or the State of Texas in this? Big time Fail on that. These are people not animals. The trick is to know where to be and when. Such and such church at 8:30am breakfast and 5:30pm at Woolridge park for Mobile Loaves and Fishes trucks, etc. We picked this up by talking to other homeless people on the streets. Also if you go outside Veggie Heaven and hold one finger up they will bring you a meal. I love them even more now.

3) Where do you get water or use the bathroom? This was the “easy” part for us. Second floor of Whole Foods. Cold water and ice. Also the Public Library, HEB by the bathrooms, most buildings at UT. Same goes for Bathrooms. Want to take a shower? Find a river or use the sink in a bathroom.

4) What do you own? Homeless people and the working poor have some interesting stuff. Cell Phones. Ipods. Old broken laptops. Shoes. Shirts. Shopping Carts. Cardboard to sleep on (like I did). Watches. It all depends. That like asking what I own versus what the readers of this blog own. It all depends. The thing that brings them together is that they are poor and don’t have houses/apts of their own.

5) How do you get money? You panhandle, do odd jobs, hang with the day workers. Asking complete strangers for money was not hard for me. I am a trained actor. I simply put myself into a character and had at it. BUT the rejection was hard. The way people look at you, treat you, simply loathe you for asking was something I have never experienced. It made me sick to my stomach to be treated that way. DON’T EVER IGNORE ANOTHER HOMELESS BROTHER AND SISTER AGAIN. If you are in your car give them a pair of socks. Or that crappy old high tech/startup.com AMD/DELL shirt you got for free. Don’t have money? Don’t want to give them money? Tell them that. Just don’t ignore another human being.

6) Were they nice to you? The simple answer is yes. They were very inclusive and friendly. We talked to a ton of people who had been their from a year to a week. People who weren’t all there to people who choose to live life like this. It was an amazing eye opening experience.

7) How can I help? STAY TUNED. In the meantime check out this sustainable plan for getting the Homeless lifted off the streets and into a better life. It’s worth your time. Habitat on Wheels.

3 comments

  1. What an amazing thing you have been apart of! Even people that would never do it have tons of questions. Just like people say everyone should wait tables…maybe you can say everyone should try being homeless…very eye opening!

  2. Experienced a similar situation many years ago. Flew out to LA to try and be on Young & the Restless. Knew absolutely no one. Left all my stuff in a bus stop locker, and headed over to Santa Monica. I had a motel room for 2 days. $38 for both days. I had zero money. Maybe $1000 for the whole trip (including flights), and I still needed head shots, food, travel expenses across town, and clothes to wear to the audition. The 2nd day of hanging out at the same corner on the Promenade, some kids asked me if I had a smoke. I told them I didn’t smoke. Guy says, “No problem. Saw you here yesterday wearing the same clothes. You gotta a place to stay?” Ended up hanging out with a bunch of skaters, junkies, and teenage prostitutes, and living with them in the Beverly City Parking garage. Every morning at 5am the security guard would come by and tell us all to get lost.

    We’d all jump the bus to Santa Monica for another day of hanging out and asking for spare change. Couple of the kids would head over to a janky motel in Hollywood to get high and “earn” some money. I actually went with a few of them one day just to have the opportunity to see how they lived their lives. VERY eye-opening. Far cry from the “glitz and glamour”.

    I gained a new respect for the trials and tribulations of living a homeless life. But I did learn one very important thing . . . each one of those kids had at least one phenomenal talent. Issue is, they just didn’t know how to use that talent in a business world. i.e. – turn that talent into a revenue stream. I’ve yet to meet anyone living on the streets that didn’t have at least one talent.

    We do the homeless no justice by “giving” them the means to stay on the street. What we NEED to be giving them is an opportunity. The easier people made it for those kids, the more they stayed the same. There was no need to change if they could just survive taking the easy way out. Am I saying that living on the street is the “easy” way? Not a chance in hell. Nothing about it is easy. But try waking up at 6am every morning, fighting traffic for an hour, sitting in the same cubicle everyday of your life, only to return to the traffic in the afternoon, and repeat the whole process day-after-day. Nothing easy about that, either.

    I do agree with you that we shouldn’t just ignore them. But we also, as a collective society, need to challenge them. Not just give them money, t-shirts, food, etc… Each one of those kids, at some point in their life, was presented with an opportunity to better their situation. Each one of them turned it down. Why? Because we make it too easy for them not to change. Proof of that was the near $20/hour some of these kids could make doing absolutely nothing but politely engaging passerby’s, smoking cigarettes in the sun, skateboarding around town, and cooling off with a swim in the ocean and a cold beer. Sounds like a fine life to me.

  3. man !! what a great thing you were up to.. very inspiring. I hope people take up such an opportunity in all the major cities of the world. Great work Dave… thanks for being the way you are champ !!

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