What is a homeless person?

Are they a returning vet who can’t get along, a drug addict looking for a score, a mentally challenged individual without help, a down-on-my-luck person making do ….

All the above and more.

We (as a home-centered society) don’t like homelessness. “certainly if they could they wouldn’t”, “it’s a problem that needs to be solved”, “people don’t choose to be homeless” …. We either have compassion or disdain. It seems like a polarizing “issue”. I would assume from the few homeless types I’ve encountered that it’s a complex reality. The inability to rent or buy or stay in a dwelling full time is largely financial. The reason why they can’t afford it, is exhausting. We have seen the panhandler but now we are coming across the  entrepreneur. The entrepreneur doesn’t want to panhandle, prefers to elevate themselves. But not all intend to leave the street. They in a sense, earn their spot.

First there is Shaun.

He is traveling. He is from Portland. He sells bubble gum to tourist to use in bubble gum alley. “People appreciate the hand sanitizer”. He is quiet, doesn’t tell his story and is what I would consider to be more a vagabond than your typical homeless person. I know as much about him now, as I did after interviewing him. He was very nice. He saw an obvious opportunity and capitalized on it.


Bubble gum entrepreneur
Bubble gum entrepreneur

Then there’s Darth.

Darth is the product (so he says) of our school system and it’s inability to meet the needs of kids like him. I can identify with that for sure. He makes paracord bracelets. Not wanting to be like others he knew that panhandled, he chose to follow the lead of a guy he met who was doing it successfully. After watching a YouTube video to learn, he now sits with his dog, making them on the street. I recognized his dog. His story is as unique as the reason for homelessness but his situation is common. He has no roof and no means to get one.”I hope to get a drivers license and a job”. Today he made a bracelet for me, and made a sale. It’s a start.