“Well, you know what? Action is better than inaction.”

Well, I grew up in Mobile, and I was a victim of child abuse. I didn't really have a good upbringing, so I never had a good self-image because of that. I was never successful in any of my jobs or careers because I didn't have the self confidence. 

I don't know, they (parents) hated me from the beginning. I think they wanted a girl and they got me. So my mother said she had to stop my father from beating me when I was crying in my crib. So it went on and on. I can remember from the time that I had memory, I can remember them treating me like an unwanted child. And because of all that, I've never had a good self-image, like I said before.

You just get so depressed some days, you don't want to do anything. You don't want to talk to anybody, and you just think that people are mean and they're not, and then I get up and I walk around, and the blood start flowing and it kind of goes away. But you never get rid of those memories in childhood.

I've just been through so many jobs and all, and I don't know what I would want to be successful at. I guess I can say I was never foolish enough to have any dreams. I've never had anything, so I don't miss having anything. But I've never had any dreams or anything. I just try to live a peaceful life. I want to live a peaceful life and die a peaceful death when the time comes. That's all I really want out of life. I'm 58, so I'm just living my life day-to-day. I just, I'm nice to everybody. Most people are nice to me, but I just live my life. I don't really dream or anything.

I don't have any friends, really. I do like talking to people, but as far as friends go, I don't have any friends. Every friend I've ever had is just kind of went away, or I moved away. But that's okay. As you get older, it doesn't bother you that much. A lot of things don't bother you as you get older, you worry less and less what people think of you as you get older, believe it or not.

I just try to be a good person and I like to talk to people. I would like to play chess with you, but I don't have a board. Believe it or not, I had a chess board when I came here, but it was so heavy I couldn't carry it around. I gave it to somebody. 

I actually, would kind of scoff at them before I was homeless.

My home life wasn't always that good. I lived with my mom and dad of course, and my dad was alcoholic. But I did have a good enough home life — My mother paid for skating lessons and stuff like that for me and I enjoyed that.

What caused homelessness? Hospitalization. I was in the hospital for a month and a half and I had diabetes. I had to have my toes on the right side, amputated from diabetes. It's been really hard walking around downtown Portland because I don't have a place to go and no one to push my wheelchair for me. I have to walk, but it's been hard to be on the street.

I came out of the hospital with an addiction to pain pills. So now I'm on methadone, taking it to help my addiction to pain pills because I was there a month and a half and they were giving me pills every four hours.

I want to teach figure skating. I want to have my own home, my own place and live a life and have a job. That would be good. Faith and belief that things will get better and that I can let the past go and move on.

There is no place of sanctuary or privacy for an individual to go to, and you’re exposed.

I was unruly as a teenager, so I was always getting into trouble. I traveled here to Oregon with my last I-HOP paycheck, hopped on a greyhound, and plopped my butt here. I've always been an adventurer. Now I am in a position where even my mother is out here on the streets. That's really hard to have a family member out here with you, and to not have the means or the resources to get yourself out of the situation.

But I feel that I was very naive, when I first came down here. There's so much that I've seen that I view as unjust, and I've seen so much discrimination. I've seen a lot of bias, and I've seen a lot of predatory behavior from individuals like even the police, who you're trained to believe to trust them. They're supposed to be there to protect you. And those very individuals are the ones who harm you. So my understanding of the way my local government works, the way that these groups, these forces that are put in place, I've seen the ugly side of it as well, firsthand. And it's appalling to see that that's still happening, especially with racial bias. It's crazy. It's crazy.

I'd want to see, not just equality, but I want there to be more compassion, and community. I mean community's the biggest one. I really would like to see there be more sustainable living. And I think that that's achievable through community. And I think that we could grow and change together, and I would love to see people working together, because right now we can come together, we could make some serious changes and be an example for other communities to follow.

Like I'm seeing a lot of youth volunteering and to me that's really awesome, because I feel like it develops this skill set, communication skills and awareness. I think seeing the youth being involved is the coolest part to me. That really is inspiring, it's that they honestly want to be involved. They are concerned.

It's not that they're being told by their ma and pa and their grandma to go volunteer at the shelter. They actually want to be there, and they develop relationships with some of the individuals that they see come in on a daily basis. And I think that's really rad.

I’ve lost everything, lived on the streets, lived on cardboard. I sold drugs to support my habit, but not today.

One day in 1995, I was facing another prison term, my 15th prison term. And got on my knees. I found God. I wanted to change my life. I was tired. I didn't want to live like that no more. I didn't have another run in me. I just couldn't make another two or three more years, no more. I was tired of that lifestyle. I got out of prison in 2000, and I've been out since. And I changed my lifestyle. I do not do the same criminal lifestyle and criminal thinking I used to do before.

That's all changed. I rely on God now rather than rely on myself and drug dealers and prostitutes and camps and all that other stuff. It's all out the window, and I don't miss it at all. I trust God in everything I do. And I work for everything I do. I do not sell drugs no more. I don't buy drugs. I don't commit crimes.

I have been homeless and on the streets more than 10 times in my life because of alcohol and drugs. Starting back in my early twenties, all the way through my twenties and thirties and forties. I Lost everything from the back of my shirt. It's all I had. I had no clothes. I have thousands of dollars in the bank and lost it all.

I think that when I was there, I felt that the world owed me something. And if I did something, I was getting even at society, at the judge, at the prosecutor, at my parents, or whomever I thought owed me something, or the person that never had gotten into trouble was living high off the hog. I thought I was getting over on them by committing crimes and doing whatever I thought I could get away with that was illegal. Or even if it wasn't illegal, if it was immoral. It was just something that was not accepted by society standards. Didn't matter what it was. I thought that when I was homeless if I continued, then I was getting over people when I wasn't getting over anybody.

I've had it all, and I've lost it all. But it's been since 1996, since I went to prison, got out in 2000, I have not been homeless. But I come here to remember where I have been before. I have been homeless 10 times in my life. I've lost everything, lived on the streets, lived on cardboard. I sold drugs to support my habit, but not today.

We’re human beings. We have a life. Even though we live outdoors, we’re not bad people.

Honestly, I had a place. I was living with my ex at the time, and he burnt down the room with me in it. It caused me to not have a place to go back to, and I've just been homeless ever since then

I had a lot of stuff. I had clothes. All that stuff was gone in the fire. Honestly, it's just kind of hard being homeless because you have to be aware of your surroundings, be aware of who's around you. I've seen people getting beat up. Seen people getting killed. I've seen a lot of that s****.

Honestly, I'm addicted to drugs. I'm not going to tell you what drug it is. But yeah, I do have that problem. I have no reason to lie about that. But I still try and make it out here everyday. Just try to be me, you know? It is hard. It is hard being homeless.

I think a lot of people, they don't understand the homelessness because as much as they think they do, they're not out here everyday like we are. They've got a place to go to. They've got a place to take showers. They got to have a good sleep at night. They don't have to be worried about these people, but we do.

Honestly, I had a couple of friends that were on the streets and they got indoors, but they act like they don't know me. Because I'm still out here and they're indoors.

My dreams is to be indoors. I want to start a family— I'm a family person. I want kids. I want all of that. My passion is to keep me and my husband happy. Keep my friends happy. And honestly it scares me because it's like I don't know what's going to happen to my husband. He has all of these medicals. Medicals, something wrong with him and stuff like that. And I worry about him constantly, every day. That's my life right there. That's my passion. He's my everything. If I lose him, I don't know what to do.

It almost feels like you’re in kindergarten. You’ve got all these people telling you what to do, but nobody’s listening to what you’re saying.

I'm from Portland, Oregon. I am 40 years old. I used to be a bricklayer in the union. I broke my back in 2007. And basically from that point on, I had to get on disability. Just not a livable wage through disability. So I've lost my apartment, and am just waiting to get some type of housing where I can live at a 30% rate, where I can live comfortably on the amount of disability I receive each month.  

We've been homeless for about four and a half years. We got into our own place for about a year. We had an organization called Join that helped us. They paid like a $4,000 deposit to ensure that we got into the place. And the landlord basically just took the money and then kicked us out within three months. It's just the hardship of the amount of income that I make each month. It's keeping us in the position that we're in. So we're striving forward, doing Rent Well classes to do anything that we can to be proactive at to sustain our situation and secure it for our future.

At first I was very embarrassed, and I didn't really wanted to admit that I was homeless. I had a real hard time dealing with other people in the same situation. My hope is that just to get in our own place here real soon. Another hope is maybe doing some volunteer work somewhere to learn the system a little more from the inside out. Maybe open a nonprofit homeless shelter where I can get people that are wanting to be clean and sober in an environment where they can be clean and sober and not have to be around other drug addicts, which could possibly trigger them to do something that they don't want to do. I want to be a positive role model that can actually follow through or help people. 

I try to take at least 20% of my day, and I try to do positive things, whether it be opening a door for an elderly person or just trying to give somebody directions. I just try to be proactive at whatever I do so that I stay in that positive mindset so I can continue to move forward myself.

Just positive things on my door, around my windows, when I wake up next to my bed. They keep me going.

I grew up in a pretty middle class family. There was a lot of yelling and there was a lot of throwing of things and breaking of their own personal property, which made me very hand shy, like a dog. You turn really mean and nasty. All the morals that people I believe are born with, they just start to disappear. I just got uglier and uglier as a person. I ended up going to a private Christian school for a while. They thought maybe if I found Jesus it'd help. Well, Jesus is my homie, but I found Him a different way. I found Him on my knees one time after I had my children. I'd gone through a lot of abuse. 

I became a very violent person and I spent a lot of time in jail and in prison. I'd say probably a third of my life was spent incarcerated. So I have a very incarcerated personality. I came here because I was following a girl. I got here, I got stuck. To me this town stinks, It really does. It has a bad smell. There is a lot of domestic violence. I see it in all these people's eyes. You see it when they're angry, you see it when they're sad, you see it when they're laughing. You create your own little environments, your own little families because we really don't have one. Me being gay and homeless, my parents just turned their back on me. It wasn't really because I was gay, it's more because I was homeless.

Everybody has to congregate to eat if you want to eat something, unless you've got money, which of course, that's a different family. But everybody's categorized in different families. My family came because all of us somehow are alive. You have something in common that bonds. Something in your heart that keeps you together even through thick and thin. Our family, we all came together over the years and I've had many families and disowned lots of families. I was raped almost a couple times, and I was raped one time. My family was around and they did nothing except ask me for a cigarette.

There's just a lot of things missing for these people to take care of themselves. And they do come from a lot of different places, which makes it interesting for us. But there's a lot of bad stuff going on in between. The methamphetamines is taking over, so I'd say half of these people are on it or selling it or have been through it. So, it's changed a lot in that way because people have to survive and that brings them money to pay for their personal things.

Everyone else when they get home, they can relax... There’s never downtime for me.

Well, growing up, it was a typical my dad wasn't around a whole lot and we moved a lot. One time we went to four schools in one year because an issue I had with one of my uncles. Things got really interesting early on.

I graduated high school on time, but then when I graduated I went to DeVry Tech Institute out in Phoenix, Arizona, a computer tech school for webpage design. That fell through because of funding.  My family at the time wasn't really there so I came back to the people I had been hanging out with and came out and started living on the streets. That was where the few that I was still talking to were, and I had nowhere else to go. I started making some friends in the drug business and all that so I could support myself really. It wasn't until a couple years into being on the streets that I actually got into any of the heavier drugs because I just hit a low spot at that point and gave up on things.

My brother was there for me for a long time, but he could only do it for so long, you know. And it's mostly his wife's paycheck actually. They have their own partnership worked out and so at a certain point he had to go like, "Look, you gotta go." At that point it looked like I was going to be moving into something positive, but that fell through.

I had a disagreement with my mom so she decided to tell me off again. She does that when I don't obey. My dad and I, we never developed a connection, and now he's had two strokes and a severe accident that almost killed him and his brain's just not all there. So there's not much to connect with now. there's just not much on that side. With the rumors my mom spread about me. My mom's own best friends apologized for not stepping in on her abuse when I was younger, but she still tries to say it was my fault and she's really good at spinning a story.

It's hard to dream for anything too big right now, honestly. I've been trying to so hard just to survive for so long that it's hard to think that anything else is possible. What I would like to do though, what I got a taste of when I had a place is video game broadcasting on Twitch. I was developing a following on that. I was doing tournaments and stuff on that and I would like just a small place. Like heck, even if I could just rent a room or something. Like a shack or something for a while that had internet and I could try and pursue that dream. 

It’s hard to find faith in anything, even yourself, when you’re out in a world that criticizes you for something that primarily is not your fault.

I didn't do drugs before I was homeless. I'm 36 years old, I'm a single white female on the street. I use meth at night so that I don't have to be asleep because if something's going to happen to me I'd rather it happen to me awake then wake up to that, which I have. I've been strangled, almost to death, for four minutes. I've been poisoned, I've been raped. I don't mean to brush these things off, they're not casual, but statistically, they're not things that haven't happened to other people being homeless.

Homelessness is not a trend. It's not okay to choose to be homeless because you would rather hide the fact that you do drugs. I have no problem admitting what I do, I'm homeless, I'm in the streets, I'm not a psycho, I don't sell myself, I'm not a prostitute. When you don't have somebody with you, a partner of some kind, it's really dangerous out here, you're vulnerable.

I don't like shelters because they make you feel like jail. They have the funding and not the training, and they have to have both. It does people no good to go to a shelter that doesn't offer them the opportunity to become a better product of society without making them feel like it's their fault. Because they already feel sh**y enough. If they're a parent, they already feel badly enough that they can't provide for their children. And they already feel badly enough about themselves, that they can't event take care of themselves.

then you have to deal with the idea of ridicule from society and getting kicked out of where you are for digging in garbage for money. And they ridicule you for it instead of helping. Constructive criticism is one thing but strangers can't walk by homeless people and tell them to get a job. Like okay, did you have one to offer me? And then they walk by, "Take a shower." Oh okay, did you have one to offer me? Like thank you for the judgment call, I didn't know that my personal hygiene was in question because I don't know I'm homeless. Wait, yes I do. We know what's going on with us, and we don't need to the criticism of the general public, and if they don't like it then maybe as a society they should raise awareness.

I love to help people. I just do. I love to help people, and it's really hard to do that when you can't help yourself and when you're still trying to help people with the little that you have. It makes you wonder if you're ever going to ever have something

I’ve been on the streets more than half my life.

I was born in San Antonio, Texas on an Air Force base because my father was in the Air Force. When he got out we moved up here to Portland, Oregon six months later. I've lived here in almost every part of it, I mean the whole area. This area is great. It has everything from big city to small hick towns and everything in between. The fact is, because everybody is so familiar with this diversity, they never question about where you're from or who you like.

Right now I'm staying at the Bud Clark Center. It's a really cool place. It's a place that lets you in as long as you got a good attitude and you have a good spirit. Most importantly you're honest. They accept you and help you whenever you need it. It's a place where there's no contest. If you can pay, you pay, because you can, and if you can't and you're honest, they let it slide. It makes most people want to pay in the first place because they like feeling good. The positive side to most things always gives you a positive result. Anyway, that's what's important.

I love drums, computers and people. I love drums because of the varying beats all the time with a bunch of tones. Computers I love because of the logic and because you can make them play drums. People, the opposite of logic. Emotions running wild, yet they're computers at the same time, and that's where life comes in. That's the reason why I like people. They have an infinite variety of ways of using the logic and the faith we believe in to create heavenly wonders.

I find that if I connect with them, people to people I don't have to worry about fear. They just accept me anyway and don't even think about the fact that I'm homeless. Love. It's not whether I see it, it's whether I exude it. If they believe it, that's what counts.

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Without being clean and sober I really have nothing.

I'm born and raised right here in Portland, Oregon. My family has dwindled down to pretty much nothing; I lost my father last year. And I lost our provisions and our home, and I became homeless. I took care of him at a hospital bed in our living room, it was very traumatic. I got recovery behind that, and I am experiencing a really nice relationship with God right now.

I think we're born into this stuff and our goal is to keep climbing up the ladder to get closer to God. And to go home to Him, and that's what I think this is all about. So I'm just coming to terms with that right now. And it's a really beautiful thing. 

Valentine's Day of last year I got to the Portland Rescue Mission, and I just got my Social Security like five months ago. I'm on some waiting lists right now to get into my own place, and I wouldn't trade being homeless for anything. The people I've met, the things I've been through... Not all bad, but the ones that are good way overpower the bad. People are amazing, absolutely amazing. And we just got to keep climbing up the ladder, and we just got to get home to God, man.

Yes, I was a heroin addict for 19 years. I've pretty much been high on something pretty much my whole life. Meth is really bad down here right now. It's all bad. I used my heroin, I injected it, so all over the place there are orange end caps from the syringes. So every time I see one of those I get a little bit triggered; it bothers me just a little bit. But I got to pick myself up and say, "Thank you!" I keep walking, you know? It gets hard; I get triggered a lot, but it'll be okay. I got to keep overcoming those because every time I do it gets a little stronger and a little stronger. So now I can look at them and step over them, and not turn around and look behind me, and go, oh my gosh! I don't do that; I'm getting stronger with it. I'm just clean and sober, and I have like 17 months now. I just feel wonderful! It's nice.

I get labeled, she's an ex-junkie, she's an ex-heroin addict so you wouldn't be able to trust her around anything. She might steal something to go buy heroin. You know what? That's not who I am now. Gosh, people just keep your heart full of good stuff. If it's black or it's empty, clear it up, give it color, and fill it back up. And do it with God and you don't have to get high, you don't have to stay homeless. It's a good thing.

Here I am, day by day. It makes you stronger and it humbles you, like a lot.

Well, I kind of grew up in a shelter with my mom. AA meetings with my parents. Homeless shelters. Pretty much everything I'm going through now alone, I went through as a child with my parents.  I never even knew it as a situation. It was just my life, you know? It was all I knew. I was tagging along with my mom or whatever and now here I am by myself, and well I guess, if you're homeless, you're never by yourself. There's always somebody around, whether you want them to be or not. It is what it is.

I don't think people really realize how hard life can be on the streets. Everybody pretty much thinks that we all chose to be here. That ain't the case for all of us.

I get judged everyday. I hear the comments. I see the eye rolling. I've got people looking down on not just me, but on the homeless community, period. And that's a stigma that I wish would change because what people think of us ain't always true. Like I said, being homeless, it's like a family you can choose.

I have had people out here look out for me, didn't even know me but looked out for me. That's something that a lot of these people in nice homes couldn't do. Wouldn't do, because of fear. But when you're homeless, I mean eventually you have no choice the fear goes away. You get stronger and you start ignoring those little comments and ignoring the judgment. It ain't my job to change anybody. Everybody is going to think what they think of us and just know that's just not it, that's not always the case.

Like if you're standing around and somebody walked past you and you kind of feel uncomfortable, that's kind of a feeling that you get used to out here on the streets. Things that you shouldn't get used to, you have no choice but to get used to. Just imagine laying where you lay and all of a sudden just rain hitting you in the face, or there's somebody walking past you as you're sleeping and you have to wake up and there's a group full of people just standing around you that you don't know. Complete strangers. That's exactly what it's like for me, just like sleeping on the streets.

That just crushed me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so strongly, just complete and utter bafflement. Who could do this kind of thing?

I had some family issues early on, kind of made me make some bad choices in life when I was younger. Got put into a boot camp for kids, for, I guess, messed up kids because I was heading down a wrong path. They shape you up real quick, it's just like a boot camp. You have people yelling at you like drill sergeants and you're very motivated. You have nothing, they basically take everything from you and you have to earn every single little privilege. It's pretty cool, and it builds confidence and stuff.

I did pretty well, and then got recruited into the Army. I did that for about six years. Came back, things were a little bit different and a little bit harder. People were not the same, I wasn't really the same, you know what I mean? Things were different. I had a little bit of a rough spot, especially with my family, they were really rough with me, and when I came back, as much as I needed them I just stuck to it by myself.

So after that things kind of tumbled, and I picked myself up again, I had a wonderful little daughter. She's awesome. She's going to turn 10 in two months. I ended up losing custody. I have no rights whatsoever. I don't get to see my daughter, I don't get to talk to her, nothing. And after that happened I've just been kind of floating around not really caring about anything these days. She was like my life. I would wake up in the morning and I would make her breakfast. The first thing I would do. I would get up before her. It's just habit, I wake up at six. That was the start of my day, and now that's gone forever. Nothing I can do about it.

A friend of mine said, "You can stay here for a little bit while you get on your feet real quick and find a job." Because he knew if I had a place to stay, I'd get a job. Within a week I got the job as a receptionist. I was starting to put a little money back. But he forgot to tell me that he can't have guests stay there, and management found out and told him. I got home, it was 11, almost 12 o'clock at night, and my housemate was sitting out front, and he's like, "We got to talk." I'm like, "Oh, Lordy." Like I had just started getting really good at this job and getting everything down. They gave me the hours I needed to get positive, ahead of the bills. He's like "Yeah, management came by, said you can't be here. You've got like five days to leave."

For me personally, the only thing I really need is just like a springboard. A place to stay for a month solid, just that chunk of time to where I can get a job, get situated, and not be in a situation where I could be kicked out for no reason. Like that's pretty much what I would need.

I never really had a huge support system.

I was born and raised in Portland. I was born down in Tuality hospital in downtown Hillsboro. My life's been all right. It was pretty good all the way to the age of 8. My mom got into an abusive relationship, and I got put in foster care. It was just me and my little brother at the time. Stayed in the foster system until I was about 15. Got adopted by my grandpa. In that time I had two more brothers and one more sister and I haven't seen them in about 11 years. They got adopted out. Since about 16 I've been on the streets. Me and my grandpa weren't really getting along, I was just being a dumb teenager. Got kicked out, been doing my own thing.

I don't really have a lot of family or anything like that. I just kind of do my own thing. Work really hard, I've always worked. Tried to do good in school and then got in with the wrong crowd. Went to jail for about two years. Just got out last October. And ever since then my girlfriend has been keeping me on track, she's been with me since I was 18, I just turned 20 now. I still really don't have that much family, but she's kind of my main support system right now. And she's just keeping my head up always, all the time. She's such a lovable person. She's kind of made me who I am today. Right now I just got an apartment. I'm moving in on the 8th, which is really nice. Kind of getting closer with my grandpa again, it's been a long time.

it's hard, it's super hard. It gives me goosebumps even thinking about it. It's more of a mental battle than it is a physical battle. Because a lot of the times you're by yourself, it's cold. It's just finding that one thing that's going to get you through that. If you're going to sit there knowing you're on the streets and you're going to put yourself down, put yourself in these emotional states. You choose how you want to feel and what you do with it. If you want to wake up in the morning and your first thought is, this is a bad day, then it's going to be a bad day. If you wake up in the morning and think, well this is going to be a great day, no matter how bad it's going to be or what I'm going to face, you can try and do that and you can do something good with it.

I don't know, life's pretty crazy and everybody's so focused on themselves, so they forget everybody has the same issues, the same problems. We all face the same things, just different categories. It's just how we go through it and how we categorize ourselves… I want to grow up, I want to get old, I want to retire, do something good. Eventually help people out that were in my position, and that no one really offered to help. So I want to be able to just inspire people who don't really have an inspiration.

The thing that helped me get off the streets was just encouragement from other people telling me, “Hey man. You can do this. Just keep working at it. Just keep at it.”

I was here about three years ago. I got into a situation where I was running into some problems in my life that I couldn't overcome. So I decided, let me make a new start somewhere else. I came out here, and I had a friend of mine named Todd, and he passed away with cancer while I was out here. And when he passed away, it left me homeless. I was out here on the streets again.

So I said, "I got to make the best of what I got." So I did. I ended up getting a job down at Providence Park, and when I got a job at Providence Park I worked delivering the kegs around to all the beer stands. And I stayed at Estate Motel right there on 2nd. I was there about six months, and then my dad ended up having cancer. I had to move back home to Mississippi. I lived there eighteen months and then he passed away. And then when he passed away I decided to come back out here because I got so many friends out here.

I'm not at the bottom of the barrel, but I was getting there. Now it's getting a lot better for me since I've come out and I met me a girlfriend. We got a life together now. We talk to each other about everything, and we got us a place to stay. We're in good shape now.

I used to look at homeless people as, "Why can't you just get a job? Why don't you just do this laundry? Just do that?” But you don't look at the whole picture. There's little details that you got to go around. You got to have an ID. You got to be able to present yourself. You got to be able to go out there with clean clothes, clean shaven. You can't go out there looking like crap because they're not going to give you a job.

my passion is buying a big enough house that I can help some of my homeless friends. I can bring them into my home and say, "Hey, here's a chance. I'm going to give you this chance to help you out." That's what I want to do. I buy monthly bus passes for guys I don't even know. I did it for three people last month, and it's only $28 a pass, but that might benefit them into getting housing. That might benefit them into getting a job. There's a lot of benefits that come with a bus pass around here because a lot of people can't get bus passes.

I definitely judged people when I walked past them on the streets...but I didn’t realize how easy it is to get stuck in it.

It was a downward spiral. I'd relapsed, lost my wallet with my ID in it, and then lost my job. I had other health issues going on, too. Then, I had lost the apartment and ended up out here. It was just a downward spiral that I think people can get trapped in with sin, and I got trapped in it, and I'm trying to work my way up from it now.

The first couple weeks, I didn't feel comfortable anywhere I went. I felt terrified everywhere, and I still have problems with my dreams at night, but I'm much more comfortable and feel that I'm protected by God as long as I focus and do what I'm supposed to do.

I have an 18 year old daughter. I think she has a hard time seeing me out here in the streets. I think she's still a little upset from that relapse, too, and hesitant. I still talk to her now. I went from having her every Friday through Sunday, and then she got a job and went to college, but I see her for coffee about once a month now still. It’s a hard adjustment.

I didn't realize that homeless people have to be at places during a certain time, if you want to take care of your hygiene and get the things that you need. It's easy to get trapped in a cycle to where if you miss your shower and you don't look well, people might not get a good impression of you, and you might not do so well selling your paper, getting a job, or whatever your goals are. it just took sitting down and making a list of priorities. When am I going to have time to sit at the DMV and get my ID? If it goes too long, am I going to miss my shower or dinner? Now I have a next step bed, so it makes things a little easier 'cause I can take a shower at night when I go in, so it gives me more time to do what I need to do, or sell the paper.

A dream that I have for my life is to use this experience to one day button down my testimonies so I can figure out what is the best message to actually pass along to people. I don't share it with a whole lot people yet, so hopefully you'll use it wisely, too. And to also use this experience to pass along my empathy and compassion to others. I know since I've experienced this, I can use it someday to help out people in the same situation.

Trusting people out here is pretty hard. You can’t really tell who’s who.

I left Texas on a Greyhound. I had to leave my kids, my family, everything to come up here away from domestic violence. I'm over 2,000 miles away from my family. I can't bring them up here because I don't want my kids to go through homelessness on the street. I came up here hoping I'd be able to get into somewhere, but it just hasn't happened that way.

I've been in and out of the shelter system here trying to follow all the rules, but it's kinda hard to. You're allowed to have two bags of stuff, and that's all in the shelters. Just trying to find a job so I can pay for housing, which is kinda like a lottery system. You put your name in and then if your name gets drawn you get housing if your name doesn't get drawn you don't get housing. Then the regular apartments are too expensive to afford by yourself.

I've pretty much always had a place to stay or a house. I've been able to come up off my feet pretty quickly anywhere I've went. I've done construction, I can weld and all that. But people don't wanna hire somebody that's homeless and stinks and can't keep clean clothes.

Most of the people that walk by you they're like, "Oh, you're lazy. Go get a job." Or, "Get off the drugs." Not all homeless people don't have a job, and not all homeless people are lazy and not all of them are on drugs. Some of them are just like everybody else. They're just trying to figure out how to come up with enough money to have what everybody else has. People think that every single homeless person is just some nasty, lazy person that's on drugs or drunk. We're not all that way. 

I like to fish and hunt. I liked camping until I became homeless and now I'm like, "Well, camping is just spending a ton of money to live like a homeless person." But I like to travel and go to new places and meet new people. But even being able to afford that anymore is not really reachable.

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Out here, it’s just about surviving at this point, existing.

I have been out here 13, going on 14 years now. We used to have a lot of fun out here, and things are definitely not what they used to be. When I was 15, I got locked up, went into prison for a couple of years, and when I got out, everything was just way different. Probably went from going downhill to just completely freefalling in those two and a half, three years. 

My dad had been out here for over 30 years, telling me he has never seen that drastic of a change in that short period of time. Everybody's stealing from everybody; the word 'family' doesn't exist out here anymore. It sucks. I try to keep my spirits up, and I mainly stick to myself nowadays. I have been trying to somewhat get myself together. I'm working on housing right now, and so I'm just waiting for that to come through. 

My home life was really sh***y. My mom was a functional alcoholic, and so at face value, she had a pristine job, a decently nice house, and a pretty nice neighborhood. But behind closed doors, it was just completely different. It was very abusive mentally, emotionally and physically. One day she snapped and told me to get out, and so I did. I came downtown to look for my brother. I didn't find him, so then I just said “f” that, I'm not going back, and so I didn't. I just stayed out here and made my own family. Real family. 

A smile, a "How are you?" or "Have a good day," goes a long way with a lot of people, just in general. Not even for just people out here. Any time I see somebody walking, I always say, "Hey, good morning," and if they're leaving, I tell them to have a great day. just respond, even a, "You, too," or a nod or a smile, anything. A human being is talking to you.

There’s so much temptation out there. That’s why people have a hard time staying out of trouble.

When I was 17 years old, I became a single parent, and I raised two daughters. I was doing fine. I was a welder and really independent. I had another son from a different relationship, and while I was raising my daughters, a lot of money was accumulated for child support, to the point where I couldn't make ends meet to have my own place. Then I suffered a stroke, and now I'm living off of my disability.

I always had employment, and I had never been a day without work. I've always been a hardworking person. I always tell people that you don't know what's in front of you. You don't know what fate has for you. Sometimes I even did that myself, where I took certain things for granted. I always thought I was still going to be healthy. I was very strong when I was in my prime. I was a long-distance runner. I was a marathon runner. I played a lot of basketball. I was very healthy, very strong, but at the same time, you can take things for granted thinking that you'll always be in tiptop shape.

Well, the only one that I can say has been there since day one has been Jesus, my Lord, and Savior. He's the one that's guided me through all of that. Had it not been for Him, I would have been dead a long time ago. The programs are out there. You just have to seek them. Every major city has to have programs and things that can help you to get off the streets. You're going to want to get off. 

The reason some people don't want to get off is because there are all kinds of freedoms in the street, and some people are caught up in their vices. If you're not willing to leave those vices, then you're not going to be able to get off the streets. Some people don't like to go into shelters because they got rules and so forth. They're not going to tolerate anybody being drunk or high on drugs. You're going to have to want to get off the streets. If you don't want to, it's not going to happen. You're just going to be stuck and eventually die in the streets. That's your choice. 

I don’t want this future for anybody. This isn’t a future, quite honestly.

I grew up in Portland, in the Southeast area.  I was once in the military. You gotta do things that you don't wanna do, you know, and you're trained to do them. And then when you come back here to civilization, people aren't the same, things aren't the same anymore to you. As much as you want them to be and you try to make them be, they never will be again. I don't even know how to say it. It's just that things don't look the same like they used to, and when I came home there wasn't a lot of work then. You start getting into a rut… 

It is difficult to get off the streets. Not only does society look at you different, you look at yourself different, so it all helps in holding you back, holding you down. But on top of all that, I'm fighting my own illnesses because some of the things I've been exposed to out here, my body's been torn apart because of what I deal with on the streets… All in all? About 19 years. 

When it all boils down, I don't got very many years left, because of the fact of what I'm dealing with every day. I'm not really a candidate for a lot of medical treatments, I mean I can't get those major operations I need. I've already had heart surgery once and I've got a couple other major illnesses that I've got to deal with, and you know, there's no way to really stop those illnesses from getting to me. 

A lot of us do try to clean up after ourselves or are trying to fix our situation, we're gonna try one way or another to fix this for ourselves. Nobody wants to be out here, you know? There's a lot of people with mental health problems that when they're talking crazy and doing stupid things, really it's just their mental illness. There's a million different reasons that people can be out on the streets, and I've met every kind of variety of person out here, and I mean, just some amazing people.