Skip

The Homeless Guy Weblog
September 14, 2002 5:13 PM   Subscribe

The Homeless Guy Weblog A weblog written by Kevin Barbieux, who lives in a homeless shelter in Nashville and has been homeless since 1982. The guy can write and has put together an amazing blog through some of the Bill Gates computers in the public libraries.
posted by Coop (70 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I first became homeless in the Winter of 1982.

Hmmm, lets see. If the old computer brain serves me right that was... uh, twenty years ago!

Seems to me that at this point it becomes a choice and he may as well be writing the, "Guy from Duluth" blog.

On the hand, not wanting to sound callous or insensitive to the plight of the chronically unemployed, I suggest a fund to upgrade him to Blogger Pro (no offense Ev, but that banner is a blight on the web).
posted by cedar at 5:33 PM on September 14, 2002


blogspot does that, you can remove the ads by paying blogspot $15, but that's not blogger pro. i thought you used to be able to pay for other people's ads to go away too though? maybe i'm just missing it.
posted by rhyax at 5:39 PM on September 14, 2002


In the big world we stress fairness and equality to all people, but in the case of beggars and panhandlers, as we desire to have them end this type of behavior, we must draw the line somewhere. Just like anyother efforts at behavior modification, it's works best to reward the good behavior and punish the bad.

The guy seems to know what's really going on in the mind of a lot of homeless people, seeing as he himself is one (??). In some regards, he's correct: many homeless are drug addicts/alcoholics, but there are others who are just plain crazy. Either way, when a homeless person comes up to me asking for money I try to give. Sometimes I know they're going to buy another fix, other times I have no idea. I don't really care.

Fairness and equality are human inventions. The real world doesn't work that way and there will always be those who have and those who don't. I happen to be lucky and have some extra money. I will give it to the alcoholic who has nothing - no family, self-respect, love - but a desire to escape for a little while. I'm heartened to see that this particular person has such compassion for his fellow man.
posted by poopy at 5:40 PM on September 14, 2002


20 year gap on your resume makes it a little hard to get out... no phone #, no references... plus some things that we don't know about. I can't see living on the streets to be a lifestyle choice...
posted by Coop at 5:50 PM on September 14, 2002


The guy seems to know what's really going on in the mind of a lot of homeless people, seeing as he himself is one (??).

Ya think?

I'm not buying it. I may be cynical but this thing has Kaycee written all over it.

This guy is either full of shit (I notice being homeless hasn't prevented him from setting up a PayPal account, last I checked this required a credit card or verified bank account) and scamming. Or, alternatively, he has turned being down and out into a career choice.

Either way, I fail to see how it reflects well on his character.
posted by cedar at 5:54 PM on September 14, 2002


Kevin's very well spoken; If what he says is true, I do believe that he's one of those souls who chooses to be homeless by choice rather than by circumstance. I find that he writes extremely well and lucidly, and if he learned how to make a blog just by using a crappy library computer, then more power to him. I think that the motivation behind Kevin and others like him is that he does not wish to be controlled and manipulated by societal convention. He need not work, he probably doesn't have to pay taxes, he does what he wants with his time, and doesn't have to answer to anyone. He would rather keep his freedom than give in to societal convention, and thus he remains homeless. I'd really like more information about him though, as I don't know his background and motivations and he is VERY intriguing to me.
posted by Veritron at 5:59 PM on September 14, 2002


He thinks cash handouts are a bad idea but has another suggestion for how to help, which seems fairly brilliant:

Get some paper lunch bags and fill them with little goodies. This is just a list of things I can think of, that everyone on the streets would need and appreciate. You might have your own good ideas too. -- "travel size" tooth paste and tooth brush and deodorant. A pair of new or clean socks (it's hard to keep feet healthy on the street) nail clippers, a comb, a bar of soap, gloves when it's cold out, a disposable razor, etc. Then add something special, like little Halloween size candies, a personal note that says "I care". You could even decorate the bags with drawings of happy faces and hearts - yeah, even mean ol' grumpy homeless guys like that kind of stuff - even if they don't admit it.
posted by onlyconnect at 6:00 PM on September 14, 2002


Ya think?

I'm not buying it. I may be cynical but this thing has Kaycee written all over it.


Yeah, that's what I was trying to get across. Damn sarcasm meter.
posted by poopy at 6:05 PM on September 14, 2002


He could have some sort of mental disorder that gets in the way of his fitting into society. I have met folks like him.

I have even seen one homeless guy blow a gasket when someone tried to buy him a meal. What the patron didn't know but I did was that the street guy had a check come in every month-probably to a post office box. I think he was a 'nam veteran. Heaven help you if you touched his duffel bag!
posted by konolia at 6:09 PM on September 14, 2002


"travel size" tooth paste and tooth brush and deodorant. A pair of new or clean socks (it's hard to keep feet healthy on the street) nail clippers, a comb, a bar of soap, gloves when it's cold out, a disposable razor, etc...

No. That's what WE want. We want our homeless to be respectable, cleanly 'ole chaps, not the smelly, dirt-ridden bums that they are.
posted by poopy at 6:10 PM on September 14, 2002


He thinks cash handouts are a bad idea but has another suggestion for how to help, which seems fairly brilliant.

However, Kevin himself is happy to accept PayPal 'donations'. Maybe he's just buying socks and toothpaste for his literate, blogging homeless brethren.
posted by cedar at 6:15 PM on September 14, 2002


I vote hoax, which is what I said about Kaycee ... (checks blog) on September 27th, 2000.
posted by jragon at 6:17 PM on September 14, 2002


I don't know about the scam angle but it appears he ran a homeless newspaper for a while (http://gort.ucsd.edu/newjour/h/msg02384.html). Real world people have had some connection with him...
posted by Coop at 6:18 PM on September 14, 2002


Welfare also needs a verified bank account which you could also use for PayPal
posted by Coop at 6:19 PM on September 14, 2002


Great post, Coop. For another angle on homelessness, check out this recent Washington City Paper article.
posted by contessa at 6:25 PM on September 14, 2002


Years ago, I worked as a counselor in a homeless shelter and I am thinking he could be real. Homeless people come in many flavors. As several people here have said, the main culprit is alcohol and drug abuse. That, and mental health issues. But as the economy worsens, many who are barely hanging on lose their grip. After a period of time in shelters, jails, hospitals, treatment centers and the like, people often become institutionalized and disfunctional, and the cycle can be nearly impossible to break without help.

I agree with him - nix nix on cash handouts. It would be better to put the change in a jar and make a periodic contribution to a local shelter or food bank. There are some very creative organizations out there for those whp'd like to help - Dress for Success, for example, provides interview suits and career development for low income and homeless women.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:41 PM on September 14, 2002


A paper in Nashville lists Kevin Barbieux as being previously homeless in 1999, at which point he got a job. A google search pulled up some messageboard posts that suggest he's been down on his luck for a while. I haven't read these carefully, or read all of them, and maybe it's a big Kaycee. I'm pretty gullible. I still like the toothpaste/socks/candy idea, though I see that it's condescending. Also, if he's an addict, I don't think it's totally weird for him to know that getting money to support his habit is bad, but still finding ways for people to get him money. Just because he knows drugs and alcohol can destroy his life doesn't mean he's going to stop. If he's too rational and smart it doesn't make sense that he's homeless, but if he's irrational and contradictory he can't be homeless, either?
posted by onlyconnect at 6:42 PM on September 14, 2002


Ummm so let me get this straight....
This guy has grasp enough of the English language and computer skills to write a blog, but he can't get a get a job? The parts of the blog I read, were well witting. This is either a scam, or it is some bum, no pun intended, trying to make lifestyle out of this... This stinks of a "poor starving artist" act to me. Most people who are homeless are either drug addicts or have mental illness... both of which would prevent you from entering the blogosphere.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 7:01 PM on September 14, 2002


If it he is a fake he captures the society well. It should be eye-opening reading for those who are blind to the homeless.

He mentions using Gates PCs to update his blog. For whatever reason Gates donated those machines I can attest to the good they are doing for a lot of libraries.
posted by ?! at 7:09 PM on September 14, 2002


Most people who are homeless are either drug addicts or have mental illness... both of which would prevent you from entering the blogosphere.

Beg pardon, Steve? Are you suggesting that no one who blogs is mentally ill or addicted?
posted by ChrisTN at 7:14 PM on September 14, 2002


Steve: I missed your comment before I posted. I meet many homeless in my job. I can tell you for a fact that there are a good number of them who have addictions or mental illnesses who could (and do) have the skills to use the Internet -- including writing blogs. Let's face it...it really isn't that difficult a skill. Plus, Blogger, etc have made it pretty easy and free.
posted by ?! at 7:14 PM on September 14, 2002


Writing a blog doesn't take much in the way of computer skills (isn't that the whole point of Blogger?) or general life skills. If you're lucid for an hour a day (during the times when the library happens to be open) you can probably manage it.

Holding a job is much harder: you have to show up at more or less regimented times, and do what the boss tells you to for at least a few hours of every day. Lots of minimum wage type jobs are pretty physically demanding, too.
posted by kewms at 7:14 PM on September 14, 2002


Welfare also needs a verified bank account which you could also use for PayPal.

Not sure about where Kevin lives or the regional laws... however in NY, the Dept. of Social Sevices does not require a bank account or even a mailing address to recieve benefits. They are issued via an ATM/debit card kind of system.

?!: There is a huge difference between being blind to what is a very real problem in American society and being skeptical of the literate, well spoken 'homeless' guy with weblog, an affinity for 'Gates computers' and a PayPal account.

The people who are homeless due to addiction and/or mental health issues do not have the luxury of web sites and PayPal accounts. They do not have the luxury of defining their plight as a lifestyle choice.

They are homeless because they *cannot* function in society, not because they *choose* not to.

This is a lazy man who has found a new way to panhandle.

I'll give him his props, he got some attention on a widely read site and I have no doubt that his payPal account is looking better than it did 24 hours ago. I'll credit his intelligence but that's about it.

Anyone who views this guy as an accurate portrayal of life on the street needs to take a better look around.
posted by cedar at 7:25 PM on September 14, 2002


"both of which would prevent you from entering the blogosphere"
Hello? Do you really think I couldn't handle a blog? I'm really insulted by this, Steve_at_Linnwood. I don't think your posts shine out as being clearly more cogent or sensible or artful than mine, yet I'm an insane homeless transvestite junkie. How does that have anything to do with how well I express myself online? Your POV seems very parochial. Know this: there is more variety of human experience than you can understand, and being very different from you does not make me or anyone less human.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 7:29 PM on September 14, 2002


Cedar: Perhaps because you and I live in different segments of society and interact with different types of people but there are people out there that can read and have some computer skills that cannot function in society. Whether it be from mental illness or something horrible in their journey of life, they have enormous difficulty doing the things that you and I take for granted. Maybe I was duped and I just helped continue a scam (probably wasn't the first or the last) but no all people fit the traditional mold of the homeless guy living in a box under a overpass. Is he typical? Probably not. Does that make him a lazy fraud? Not so either.
posted by Coop at 7:47 PM on September 14, 2002


Whoa... Nicolae....

Do not make assumptions. I never said this guy was less human that any one else, as cedar just said more eloquently than me, I belive this guy to be a lazy scam artist.

I could careless if you claim to be a "insane homeless transvestite junkie" you are making light of the fact that homelessness is a real issue, and this man is using it for personal gain. People who are "homeless" are people who have problems. Real problems. Not just, Well I don't feel like getting a job. They have drug dependances and metal illness. It isn't that the lack the motivation to goto work, like this Joker, they lack the ability to get up in the morning.

How does that have anything to do with how well I express myself online?

Well it is pretty good odds that if you are talking to imaginary friend or strung out on heroin, your first priority is not to get to the library to post on Blogger. Your mind is in a different place.

I'm really insulted by this
Well if you are a "insane", homeless, or a junkie, you should be. Being homeless or a junkie is nothing to be proud of. It is not a type of human experience, like a badge honor to be worn on your shoulder. If you are able to make cognitive arguments with me, you should be able you to get your self to some treatment.

Know this: there is more variety of human experience than you can understand
Where do you come off that you think you can understand? You don't know me, so don't judge me. You have no idea of my life's experiences, the people I have met and worked with.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 7:51 PM on September 14, 2002


Let me ad this: There is a difference between a homeless person and a bum.... and that is the fine line we are walking tonight.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 7:53 PM on September 14, 2002


Coop, for what it is worth I don't think your link was a scam.
posted by konolia at 7:56 PM on September 14, 2002


ever see the movie 'dark days'? it's a documentary on homeless folk. it shows both the drug/alcohol addicts and the folks who manage to splice lines to get cable t.v. while living underneath penn station. so i think it's most defiantly probable that a homeless person can bog.
posted by oliver_crunk at 8:18 PM on September 14, 2002


...are either drug addicts or have mental illness... both of which would prevent you from entering the blogosphere.

that's pretty funny.
posted by rhyax at 8:21 PM on September 14, 2002


Ah, shit. Now that I stuck the stick into the hornets nest that is MeFi... I'm gonna get to backpedaling.

After looking at the site a little more and looking at some of the links (this one in particular) I'm beginning to think I may have been unduly harsh.

My biggest problem with Kevin is the 20 year thing. Due to an unfortunate series of bad decisions that I'd rather not dwell on, I once found myself in the same position. Believe me, I busted my ass to get out of it and determined that never again would I put my self at the mercy of strangers and the elements. I haven't.

I find it inconceivable that somebody would live like that for twenty years. Sure, if you have a kick ass addiction or mental health problems you may not have a choice but that doesn't seem to apply to Kevin. He's clearly not incapacitated... hell, the guy started a newspaper. I can barely write a coherent sentence.

So at that point, I say to myself, "Self, this guy is homeless because he wants to be homeless." It doesn't take that much money to rent a crappy room or studio apartment. The guy can set up a blog, open a bank account and communicate with thousands of strangers, that tells me he can communicate with the bureaucrats who hold sway over social service funding, potential employers and landlords.

He's not homeless at all; he's made the streets, the shelters and the system his home.

That doesn't mean that I have a great deal of sympathy or am willing to fund his chosen lifestyle, but I was probably a little quick on the trigger accusing him of fraud. I wish him the best and admire his ingenuity in tapping into the blogosphere in such a unique manner... this boy may be on the cutting edge of a new trend in homeless blogging.

BTW, before anyone else says it. Yes, I have asked him these questions directly.
posted by cedar at 8:22 PM on September 14, 2002


I have had several friends who have voluntarily lived homeless(ly?) at points in their lives. They are intelligent, capable human beings and did (and now do) hold jobs, apartments and relationships. Never doubt for a minute that the large majority of homeless have dependency or mental problems that keep them from living the life that most of us do but that there are those who choose to live life outside societal norms.

Scam or not, there are certainly people like Kevin out there.
posted by m@ at 8:23 PM on September 14, 2002


Kevin Barbieux is doing the human race less harm than your average US politician. There is no dishonor in the mere fact of homelessness. There is no dishonor in the mere fact of addiction.

Know this: there is more variety of human experience than you, I or anyone can understand. Please don't jump on me for stuff I didn't say.

I thank Coop and Kevin Barbieux for expanding the range of viewpoints available online. More is better, at least in this case.

Steve - you are my imaginary friend.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 8:31 PM on September 14, 2002


I feel so special!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:37 PM on September 14, 2002


My favorite homeless guy weblog is this one. He's in Tennessee as well.
posted by bunnytricks at 8:41 PM on September 14, 2002


Steve - Although I'm pretty unhappy that you bumped me off the top 25 by hogging three spots.
posted by Nicolae Carpathia at 8:45 PM on September 14, 2002


homelessguy@livejournal
My parents kicked me out when I was 10 and the army kicked me out too. Honorable discharge and all that. Some dumbass dropped his gun and it went off and shot my leg so they kicked me out. Fuckers. But they pay me so I can eat.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:49 PM on September 14, 2002


I found this entry from his archives to be very insightful re the questions of how someone becomes homeless and how someone stays homeless. It gives specifics, and then concludes:

Everyone has some community available to him/her which will delay actually homelessness for sometime, perhaps indefinately. And for most people a job can be found again, even though their credit ratings, friendships, and self-esteem will be frazzled. The point to all this being, homelessness can be delayed long after the paychecks have stopped coming. And there is plenty of time to recover from a job loss before homelessness is realized.

Still, it is the bullet, not the trigger, that kills. In the case of job-loss, it is the lack of community that is the bullet - losing the job is the trigger. But we shouldn't stop our investigation there. We need to know how the bullet got into the gun in the first place. We need to ask why some people have no community. It is on this path we may get closer to the causes of homelessness.


I think this observation re lack of community is spot on. Also, cedar, I respect you alot for changing your mind re fraud, and for getting yourself out of a tough situation. I think you're still judging this guy harshly about "wanting to be homeless," but we can agree to disagree. (For the record, his website says he "currently liv[es] at Stadium Inn, one of the very few places in Nashville a financially challenged person can afford."
posted by onlyconnect at 8:50 PM on September 14, 2002


My favorite homeless guy weblog is this one. He's in Tennessee as well.

I checked that site out, and saw his picture, and I have one question...
Josh Hartnett is HOMELESS? Jesus, Pearl Harbor was bad, but..... well, I guess being in a movie like that COULD get you down....
posted by bradth27 at 8:50 PM on September 14, 2002


Trifecta!

Can we still be imaginary friends?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:51 PM on September 14, 2002


Thanks for that pointer, onlyconnect.

Speaking from personal experience? It is highly possible to be intelligent, well-educated, and to end up in this situation. I wouldn't be surprised if this guy has ADD or some other mental illness with similar symptoms. I call them the "insidious" mental illnesses; if a person isn't obviously insane or physically handicapped, their failure to function as your average, productive member of society must be a conscious choice, or due to laziness. There are people who actually believe that illnesses like ADD aren't "real" illnesses. Ugh.

I've never been homeless. I have, however, been in situations like his theoretical James. More times than I care to think about. I actually bought into the "you're just lazy, unmotivated, try harder" speeches, and became suicidally depressed when trying my hardest still ended up in failure. If not for family and friends (and medication and therapy), I am pretty certain I'd be either dead or homeless. Community is so very, very important.

He may not have a mental illness of any kind (I doubt that very much). That doesn't negate the fact that some very intelligent people actually are very ill-equipped to live, and he seems like one of them. If the guy is real, I sympathize.
posted by precocious at 9:23 PM on September 14, 2002


The number of homeless people in the city of Halifax keeps increasing all the time. One cannot live here and *not* notice this. One of the more popular downtown streets has several front stoops that have become familiar places to sleep, even though we do have shelters and the like. What I've noticed most about the people gracing these doorways in their sleeping bags and dirty blankets is the fact that most of them are under the age of 25. When you try to just go about your way getting to work and fall into the "I'm not going to look at them" mode, (which so many of us do) they become bullies and get all in your face. They demand handouts, to the point of harrassing people. It is not a pleasant situation to be in. I've never minded handing my spare change to the friendly fella who hangs around the liquor store and graces you with a huge smile for giving him eight cents, but this new breed of avant garde homeless youth riddled with angst is just too much for me
posted by debralee at 9:43 PM on September 14, 2002


Does anybody have data / theory on why homelessness seems to be a developed countries' issue? I don't understand why there are people sleeping on the street in Washington (GDP per head=US$33,900), whereas there aren't any in say, La Paz (GDP per head=U$3000). Why can't the richest nations in the world seem to take care of their sick?
posted by signal at 9:59 PM on September 14, 2002


signal: Many countries do not have homelessness per se because they have a squatter culture that encourages shantytowns (I just read of one in Cartagena, Colombia that was curiously dubbed "Bill Clinton"). It is true that the US has no national health insurance, but some countries, to be sure, have the opposite problem (e.g. Sweden's electoral debate this month over whether government subsidizes absenteeism with generous disability benefits and lax standards).
posted by dhartung at 10:26 PM on September 14, 2002


I used to live in Nashville. The funny this is that as a 20-something who didn't attend the regional universities, I had a hard time getting into the local libraries to do legitimate research. Some required me to pay for a day's pass. Some just thought I was up to no good. It might have been the information I was trying to dig up, though.

Anyways, I find it endlessly amusing that some homeless guy has an easy enough time getting ahold of computers at various Nashville libraries.
posted by jennak at 10:42 PM on September 14, 2002


This homeless person created a website dedicated to his dog, who he claims can say I love Jay Leno. He's not a great writer or website designer, but his dedication to the dog is amazing. He doesn't ask for money or anything besides asking people to write Leno to get Nesta on the Tonight Show. (And he's really homeless. I found out about the site when I stopped to give them a buck.)
posted by chris24 at 11:13 PM on September 14, 2002


If it means anything, I live in Nashville, and though we have excellent public computers in our libraries (even flat screen monitors), they are quite clearly Dell systems and were donated by Dell, I guess, as part of their sweetheart deal with the city (perhaps as a way of saying thank you to the city of Nashville for all the corporate welfare and tax breaks they got from the taxpayers to convince them to move their operations here).
posted by tpoh.org at 11:23 PM on September 14, 2002


And the new downtown library has tons of Internet-friendly PCs, on all floors, free of charge for anyone to use. They only charge you for laser printing.
posted by tpoh.org at 11:25 PM on September 14, 2002


If you're interested in articulate, interesting accounts of homelessness written by homeless people, check out Travels with Lizbeth, by Lars Eighner.
posted by Badmichelle at 11:37 PM on September 14, 2002


Interesting. I've been reading an online journal by a guy for about a year now (archives here, and currently writes here) who is supposedly homeless in Florida.
posted by keli at 11:50 PM on September 14, 2002


There are very few homeless people here in Korea primarily because family is of overriding importance, and people tend to take care of their own, no matter the cost.

That and the abbatoirs, of course.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:12 AM on September 15, 2002


Jannak: He writes in his blog that he uses Gates machines. One of the requirements of the donation is that anyone can use the machines for free. A library can limit time and charge for printing, but they can not require the user to have a home, an address or a library card. (By the way, all donations are Gateway PCs. They were the only company to bid to create the thousands of machines to certain specifications.)

If you work in a library today you become quite familiar with the problems of the homeless. Everyday at opening 4 or 5 homeless persons are lined up to use computers, read magazines, or stake out their favorite table.

Something I have noticed at my library is that the homeless who go there never have panhandled any patron. (The staff watches and encourages patrons to tell them if it happens. It would be an excuse to ban someone.)
posted by ?! at 5:05 AM on September 15, 2002


I was orbiting planet homeless myself for years, living down and out and ragged as a monk. I knew it wasn't permanent and was a lifestyle choice. I would teach people the subtle art of dumpster diving and how to live cheap, real cheap. some of these people, like me, didn't like the world as it was - cold and profit driven. some of them, the ones I could tell were going to be really desperately homeless, were basically the same as me except they weren't smart enough or creative enough to use the outsider panache and couldn't adapt to living a job-life. I feel sorry for them because they should be doing better. They shouldn't have to have a job to survive. They shouldn't have to join the big circle jerk and get all gooey for new slacks and pottery barn.

A lot of homeless people hate their lives and simply can't cope with the job-life. I'm not entirely concerned about these people. I'm concerned with the people who have good reasons not to have a job, pay taxes and serve the corporate machine. The saddest thing to me is that there isn't room for them. They are an affront to what some people see as the better life, the right life.

Everyone wants to find homes for the homeless or somehow stop homelessness, but why not make it easier to be homeless? Will people start abandoning there jobs, throwing away society for cans of beans and life on the road? I don't remember who said, or really what they said exactly but I believe it was something along the lines of - man didn't create society to be worse off then he was with out it. I should make that more clear. Where's the danger in making it better for the homeless, making it a viable option?

I don't have much to say about the blog per say, but it inspired some thought. the result is above.
posted by ex.pr.ni at 5:47 AM on September 15, 2002


Most "homeless by choice" are anything but blithe vagabonds with no fixed address, stopping by the public library to blog their latest adventure. The "choice" business is a transparent ploy for personal dignity and respect where little is forthcoming.

In a perfect world, neither substance abuse, mental health problems, depression, discouragement, minor health problems, bad backs, dental pain, major health problems, quarrels with partners, housemates or relatives nor abusive living situations would deter homeless people from dogged pursuit of that optimistic hard work for peanuts which leads to an apartment and success. In the actual world, however, lots of people fetch up lame in the race to get Nickeled and Dimed.

At least public libraries still respect life's losers enough to give them a chance to have their say as they slide down the tubes toward that final checkmate where we all meet ...
posted by sheauga at 9:08 AM on September 15, 2002


The parts of the blog I read, were well witting. This is either a scam, or it is some bum, no pun intended, trying to make lifestyle out of this... This stinks of a "poor starving artist" act to me. Most people who are homeless are either drug addicts or have mental illness...

There is a homeless man of my acquaintance (he's the cousin of one of the people my mother goes to church with .... long story) who could certainly have written this blog ... he's well-educated (he's taught himself to read Latin and Greek), despite little "formal" education, and is very well-spoken on paper, but there is no way he'll ever be able to hold down a job of any type.

You see, he has an exceptionally severe case of Tourette's Disorder.

My point being, of course, that you don't know everyone's whole story just by reading what they write on the Internet.

I find myself feeling sort of bad for those of you among us who feel compelled to jump up and shout "Fraud!" "Hoax!" at every turn in the road where generosity is involved. I don't deny that sometimes you're right, but it would be a hard way to live, I think, having your first impulse always be suspicion rather than some softer emotion. Its got to color your every worldly transaction ...

Once you're on the streets (as others here have attested) its very, very difficult to escape. Those who do escape often do so not only by pulling up their own bootstraps but also by holding fast to the hands of friends and neighbors and generous strangers - a support system, that, sadly, not everyone has or feels they can use.

What the deinstitutionalization movement has failed to realize or acknowledge was that many of the residents were in institutions in the first place because they had no outside support system - no family or friends willing to take them in or deal with their illness. Thousands of people - some with only mild, treatable disorders - are released from institutions directly onto the streets (and thus, into shelters), because no provision has been made to help them transition into the community. And then these people are stuck on the streets, unable to escape.

(I'm not, BTW, saying that the author of this blog was institutionalized at any time. I'm simply trying to point out that the whole issue is far more complex than "I want to work" vs "I want to be lazy".)
posted by anastasiav at 9:23 AM on September 15, 2002


jennak: Why would it matter to a public library that you hadn't attended a regional university? I'm in the Deep South, have attended regional universities and have even worked in a public library, and I cannot fathom what you're talking about. You know how you get to a computer at most public libraries? You walk up to one, sit down and get to work. Or you sign some little waiver, then get going. It's not that freakin' hard. I've done this three or four times in large metro areas (and at least one small town) where I barely knew anyone, and certainly not anyone on the library staff.

(The curious thing here is, at most libraries you have to know how to work the machines already. Staff do not usually have time to help you? How'd this guy learn to, say, type? In high school? Did he learn the Internet by trial and error? The thing seems to have hoax written all over it for such reasons. Speaking of which, the "people from the real world" bit isn't convincing. People said the same of kacey. Turns out "real world" people had only had contact with her over the Internet. )
posted by raysmj at 10:00 AM on September 15, 2002


he's taught himself to read Latin and Greek...but there is no way he'll ever be able to hold down a job of any type.


Some how I find this difficult to belive.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:07 AM on September 15, 2002


dhartung: I agree with your comments on squatting and shantytowns, but if you factor in the general poverty of most latinamerican countries plus their huge housing shortages, terrible public health systems, etc. you'd still expect more homeless people.

What I don't get is why rich countries like the US and UK can't get their sick people off the streets. I've had this conversation with French and Israeli friends who work in public health, and they're indignant every time they see an obviously ill person dying on the streets of San Francisco.
posted by signal at 10:58 AM on September 15, 2002


Everyone wants to find homes for the homeless or somehow stop homelessness, but why not make it easier to be homeless? Will people start abandoning their jobs, throwing away society for cans of beans and life on the road? I don't remember who said, or really what they said exactly but I believe it was something along the lines of - man didn't create society to be worse off then he was with out it. I should make that more clear. Where's the danger in making it better for the homeless, making it a viable option?

I'm not willing to go that far. I feel bad for people who wake up and find their lives mucked up because they fell down and it's hard to get back up, and because their friends and family are gone or tired of helping them. Maybe they've been a little irresponsible, but ouch, maybe the world shouldn't be so cruel and unforgiving. I'm willing to pay for food and shelter and health care and training programs to make their lives better, and to help them, if they can, get back up. But as you say, you're talking about someone else, and I'm not crazy about subsidizing their wish to be pure and stay out of the corporate machine while in the meantime the corporate machine does its best to grind me into a shiny happy Ikea me. There are other things to do with a life: teach; join the peace corps; be an artisan; have a crappy 9 to 5 job but live for your life away from your desk, and help others. If this hypothetical person hates The Man so much, what's up with asking The Man to pay for making his life better?

Maybe this is overly harsh. I just think what you're proposing isn't fair. Lots of people hate their jobs, but they deal and focus on other parts of their lives. Or maybe you're really right, and I'm too far gone into the machine to understand.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:21 AM on September 15, 2002


Oh, I didn't know a soul, not a sole. I didn't know anyone's shoes either, though. Also Kaycee, but she was an artificial construct, so it doesn't matter. Anyway, Homeless Guy lists Adbusters as a favorite publication? (OK. He could spend a lot of time at newsstands. Maybe the library gets the publication. Still . . . ) How can he check so many books out, by the way, if he has no address? Must be a pretty progressive library system, or one with so high a budget that it's not worried about stock losses. That's definitely not typical for the South, even if states there have, in recent years, ranked higher as regards the percentage of state budgets going to libraries. Anyone know about Nashville policies here?
posted by raysmj at 11:32 AM on September 15, 2002


The Nashville Public Library has received money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Those flat screen deals are indeed courtsey of Dell. More on the Nashville system's computers here. (Minimal assistance with software is provided, as I expected.) To receive a library card, you must have a current Nashville address. And you must have a library card to reserve a computer, or to even use a reservable machine. Otherwise, your computer time is limited to 15 minutes.
posted by raysmj at 11:59 AM on September 15, 2002


For the record, his website says he "currently liv[es] at Stadium Inn, one of the very few places in Nashville a financially challenged person can afford." So he'd have an address.
posted by onlyconnect at 1:11 PM on September 15, 2002


onlyconnect: Then he's not Homeless Guy, in fact. He's Financially Challenged Guy Living in a Hotel Whose Address He Calls His Own. Anyway, methinks the library means "permanent address." Why? If you fail to return a book, library staff (or those contracted by them to search for deadbeats - who come from all social strata, by the way) will know where to go (say, to the homeless shelter, whose director will swear to know where to find you). I can see rules being waived a bit, or being more complicated than the site shows. But how far will staff go? In any case, being skeptical doesn't make one cynical. The facts are worth checking out.
posted by raysmj at 1:25 PM on September 15, 2002


Is Financially Challenged Guy Living in a Hotel Whose Address He Calls His Own less authentically downtrodden than Homeless Guy? I don't mind him using the "Homeless Guy" tag if he's been homeless in the past and rents a room when he's got cash.

I think you're right about checking things out, though. He sounds for real to me, but everyone has their own threshold. Reading some of the earlier comments, though, where there's so much skepticism over whether a guy with a brain might be homeless, makes me think that maybe part of it is that sometimes people with brains don't want to believe this could happen to them. These people must be The Other, and they must not have tried hard enough, and they can't be too bright. (Not you raysmj, just explaining why I'm getting so defensive here.) I still think Kevin is right, and that the main difference between someone that loses a job and keeps things together and someone that loses a job and loses it all is community.

I'm shutting up now, though.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:50 PM on September 15, 2002


he's taught himself to read Latin and Greek...but there is no way he'll ever be able to hold down a job of any type.

Some how I find this difficult to believe.

Which part, Steve? The part where he taught himself to read both Latin and Greek from textbooks he studied at the local public library (he has a deep interest in Military history and wanted to be able to read Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars and Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War in their original text), or the part where no employer feels comfortable putting a big man who shouts "c*nts" and slaps himself in the side of the head at unexpected moments in contact with their other employees?

People with Tourette's sometimes have attention and concentration problems, or develop obsessions and compulsions over time, all of which combine to make those people who's Tourette's does not respond to medication less than employable. Add to that the fact that this man I'm speaking of is in his mid-50's, and was forced to leave school when his Tourette's manifested itself around the age of 8 or 9. The combination of his tics and his obsessional behaviors make it almost impossible for him to learn anything in a classroom situation (so job training is pretty much out of the question).

When his mother was alive he lived with her, in a rented trailer. After his mother passed away, he lived on in the apartment for a few years on a combination of his small inheritance and social security disability payments. Now that the inheritance has run out he can no longer live the the disability payments alone.

Would you hire him, Steve? If so, to do what?
posted by anastasiav at 3:20 PM on September 15, 2002


dhartung: Sweden's electoral debate this month over whether government subsidizes absenteeism with generous disability benefits and lax standards

...and look how that one turned out.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:45 AM on September 16, 2002


Some how I find this difficult to belive.

Lack of empathy, is a serious condition.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:27 AM on September 16, 2002


inpHilltr8r: Yeah! Isn't it lovely? Four more years! I feel great today!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 9:21 AM on September 16, 2002


Kevin has updated his blog since this link was initially posted. His site is being inundated:

For the past couple weeks, since I started this blog, I've been averaging about 60 visits a day.

This past Saturday - 650
Yesterday, Sunday - 900
As of 9:30am Today -1100

I am actually trembling as I sit here, entering this blog. It's all overwhelming.


He answers some questions re bank accounts, the PayPal link, employment, the Gates computers, whether he's actually homeless, etc. Blog on, Kevin!
posted by onlyconnect at 10:04 AM on September 16, 2002


As per Kevin's new blog entry here, anyone with doubts as to his authenticity as an actual homeless person can e-mail Father Charles Strobel, the Executive Director at the Campus for Human Development. Also, more archives than were previously available are up on Kevin's site.

Pretty cool that this man is turning out to be pretty honest, smart, and an excellent communicator.
posted by onlyconnect at 3:39 PM on September 16, 2002


« Older   |   Homeland Security Cultural Bureau. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post