Why Are We On The Street? And What Would It Take to Change Us from Homeless to Housed
What you always wanted to ask about the Homeless, but were afraid to ask them
October 28, 2019
Are all of the homeless drug addicts, unwilling to work, and psychotic? This is some people's view of them. And who can blame local residents with losing patience--the homeless dominate public parks like Reed Park, by sheer numbers.
I sat down with Rattan, 28 and Guy, 50, and asked them how they ended up on the street. Both men flatly denied they suffered from mental illness or a drug problem, then told me about drugs they were using and psychological problems they experienced.
Guy said he had been a printer, working in an offset printing plant in Dallas for over 20 years. Then, in June 2010, he was in a car accident that put him in a coma for 3 months. After his release from the hospital, he never worked again and never again had stable housing.
He spent last night sleeping near a City of Santa Monica beach parking lot. There he met Rattan. They had known each other less than one full day.
Does he use drugs? No, except the LSD that he used to take. And the methamphetamine he shared in homeless encampments from time to time. And the weed, which helps lessen his pain. And opioids from time to time, for the same reason. And alcohol, but only socially. But he was born to an addicted mother, addicted to heroin. So he should be excused for drug use, he says, having been born into it.
While we were speaking a local mom walked up to them, with what looked like a couple of plates of food. They were grateful and gracious with her. I had already bought them sandwiches.
Rattan grew up in Fresno and Reno in an immigrant family. 2 months before high school graduation, he was busted for weed possession, and never finished high school.
He sleeps on the street, too, or in parks. "But I would never dare sleep in downtown LA again," he said. One morning another homeless man kicked his face and broke his nose. Rattan's assailant was never caught.
Rattan considers himself to be on a spiritual quest. Like the Buddha, he has chosen to be homeless, in a way. He believes that one day he will help his homeless fellows, as a result of his deprivations and experiences.
In 2014, Rattan lost his job as a cook at a taco stand. Rattan admits to using 85 different drugs over the 5 years he has been homeless. Some of these, he says, are part of his spiritual quest. Psilocybin (magic mushrooms), for example, has been claimed by the Hindus as a spiritual drug, Rattan says.
Rattan has been "5150'd," held involuntarily for 48 hours for psychological reasons, between five and ten times. The most recent time, another homeless man pepper sprayed him in the face as he slept in a Long Beach park. "I took off my shirt, all my clothes, and went running around the park screaming, with my hands in the air. They (the Long Beach PD) arrested me, they thought I was crazy. The held me for 2 days," and then he left Long Beach for Venice Beach.
He slept last night under the awnings of one of one of the Perry's Pizza restaurants on Santa Monica Beach. At the moment, he has lost his ID and his "Obama phone" to a thief. "The clothes you see me with, and the backpack, I found today or yesterday in the trash," he says, to replace other items recently lost or stolen.
What would it take to get Rattan off the streets? He's an intelligent man, and well travelled (he's been to India with his parents). Rattan believes 2 or 3 months of free housing in a stable location, where his possessions would not be disturbed or stolen. "And a place to take a shower before a job interview," he says, his eyes very earnest and self aware.