April 13, 2024
What number of instances have you ever heard profitable folks speaking concerning the obstacles they overcame, the discouraging chapters they endured, the “all-time low” from which they rose up? Possibly you see your personal life in related phrases. It’s a selected narrative that ends with success, and anybody who has lived it could are likely to assume different folks’s lives can, with work, conform to this arc. We have to get away from that assumption. Some folks’s lives aren’t on an upward trajectory and will by no means be, and people folks additionally deserve respect and dignity.

Early this month I met with three of my unhoused neighbors in Venice, one who has been on and off the road for 20 years, one who has autism, and one whose life was upended by a poisonous relationship. They agreed to share their tales with The Occasions provided that their final names not be used.

Governments and nonprofits pour untold sums into caring for the unhoused by means of myriad packages, however in talking with unhoused folks, I typically hear that their wants will not be very advanced. Even a modest month-to-month examine can be transformative to the lives of many. What if an enormous piece of the answer to homelessness had been merely a common primary revenue? — Robert Karron


My title is Brandon, and I’m 37 years outdated. I grew up in Lancaster, within the Antelope Valley. I used to be 9½ weeks untimely — solely a bit over 3 kilos. I’ve made up for it since then. However my first 12 months of life I had a number of seizures.

“I didn’t perceive why I had this unfulfilled feeling,” Brandon stated of an early job he had. “My father had a face of achievement after a day’s work. Why didn’t I? I needed to attain that however didn’t know the way.”

(Courtesy of Robert Karron)

I graduated from highschool early, after I was 15. I did unbiased examine, as a result of college was changing into more and more unusual. There was violence and gang exercise. Youngsters would get kicked out of L.A. County, then switch to ours, in Kern County. I bear in mind one child shot and killed one other within the eighth grade. They knew one another from L.A., and so they had a beef from then. It occurred in entrance of my math instructor’s home. For years, you would see the bullet holes within the wall. That child was tried as an grownup and obtained two life sentences. It’s like the college was a coaching camp for jail.

It was additionally a racial political zone. I have a good time Hanukkah, and there was a bunch of children that selected to name me names. I put myself on the market, telling folks I celebrated — I didn’t have to do this. However I didn’t understand it was going to be one thing that will be detrimental to my social well-being.

So I took lessons at dwelling. It was good as a result of I may go at my very own tempo, but it surely was unhealthy as a result of I obtained too aware of my dad and mom; we may have used extra distance. I didn’t get together with my mother, and we clashed.

After highschool, I believed I’d go to the Marines — my grandfather was a adorned conflict hero — and so they accepted me into the deferred entry program, however they discovered marijuana in my drug check, in order that didn’t work out. I used to be uncovered to medication early; it was rampant at my highschool. You had been pressured to take them as a result of the youngsters who had been promoting had been relying on it for his or her livelihood; of their households, they had been the earners. It appeared glamorous then, however I don’t see any glamour in it now.

I simply use these blankets. It’s not sufficient, however folks steal so steadily, it’s exhausting to maintain stuff.

— Brandon

I began working for an insurance coverage firm, and I stayed for seven years. I used to be additionally taking school lessons at Antelope Valley School, music lessons, my ardour. I didn’t consider music follow as “follow,” as a result of whenever you’re getting a lot pleasure out of one thing, “follow” isn’t in your mind-set. However when the cash began coming in, I let all that slide.

I had a number of jobs inside the firm, however primarily I used to be a affected person service affiliate. By the point I used to be 17, I had my very own residence; my dad and mom helped me furnish it, tremendous candy of them, however I wasn’t prepared for that sort of accountability. Despite the fact that I used to be earning profits, it was a depressing existence. It was a darkish interval for me. I stored feeling empty on the finish of every day. I didn’t perceive why I had this unfulfilled feeling. My father had a face of achievement after a day’s work. Why didn’t I? I needed to attain that however didn’t know the way.

At 18, I fell in love with a lady who was 22 years older than me. I used to be along with her for seven years. She was an incredible artist. Ultimately I stop my job and labored as a butler for her associates. After I left her, I sought remedy, as a result of I’d misplaced my grip on society. I attempted to get into music then, however there weren’t many alternatives.

I’ve been on and off the streets for 20 years. I simply use these blankets. It’s not sufficient, however folks steal so steadily, it’s exhausting to maintain stuff. I’d prefer to get my very own area, however I’m undecided how. I’m placing one foot in entrance of the opposite. It’s exhausting as a result of I’ve a abdomen bug and all these wounds on my leg and hand that by no means heal. They’re in a relentless state of an infection.


My title is Garrick, and I’m 56 years outdated. I’ve been in L.A. for 9 months. Earlier than that I used to be in New York Metropolis for 11 years (128 months). I’m scheduled to maneuver once more 39 days from now, on Tuesday, Feb. 20, and I have to discover a place the place I can spend the day earlier than — from 8 within the morning until 8 at night time — getting cleaned up. I don’t know the place that can occur. Do you might have any concepts? Is there a gymnasium in L.A. that has military cots and an enormous toilet with showers and sinks and commodes the place you possibly can go and depart anytime you need so long as you signal your title? I’m asking as a result of I’ve by no means heard of such a factor.

“What I’d like for after my bus journey is a CD participant,” Garrick stated of his plan to maneuver to Boston. “Then I would like a CD with each tune Led Zeppelin ever sang.”

(Courtesy of Robert Karron)

I’m shifting to Boston, however I would like somebody’s good machine to examine Greyhound for the bus that makes stops in Phoenix, El Paso, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and three stops in South Carolina: Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg. Then I have to see what time the bus arrives in Boston. If I do know the time, I can plan out my first day.

I’m shifting as a result of Boston has the whole lot I would like. In L.A. I’m laying on the sidewalk with chiggers. It’s higher than New York by an extended margin, however in Boston I’ll have higher prospects as a result of I do know the neighborhoods and sources and trains and procuring facilities. I lived there for 4 months, earlier than shifting to New York. In between, I used to be in Windfall, for 2 days and two nights.

There are loads of variables whenever you come from a damaged dwelling, and you’ve got high-functioning autism, and your stepfather was drafted within the Vietnam Struggle and was an authoritarian determine who moved you and your mom to Ohio.

My mom and I establish with one another and idolize one another. We may at all times work issues out, if it was simply the 2 of us. However that went down the bathroom when my mom let folks deter issues between us, once they talked a line to her. When she was manipulated, issues went in several instructions.

Jobs? You probably have high-functioning autism, you possibly can’t maintain a job.

— Garrick

I like heavy music, particularly the songs from the summer time and fall of 1972 and the winter, spring, summer time and fall of 1973. The utmost prime instance of that’s music by Led Zeppelin — by an extended margin, my favourite singing group. What I’d like for after my bus journey is a CD participant with out earphones (these at all times make the participant disintegrate) that operates on batteries. I pays for the batteries. Then I would like a CD with each tune Led Zeppelin ever sang.

Jobs? You probably have high-functioning autism, you possibly can’t maintain a job.

I’ve three predominant sleeping spots. Considered one of them is right here. Final night time it dipped all the way down to 46 and 47 levels. To maintain heat I exploit linens I stash behind these bushes.


My title is Cynthia, and I’m 59 years outdated. I used to be born in Ohio however raised in Wisconsin. I accomplished junior excessive, however at 15 I stop college as a result of I obtained pregnant. The daddy was a household buddy in his 20s who my mom had requested to look at us when she took lessons to develop into a licensed nursing assistant. He ended issues when he came upon I used to be pregnant.

A woman in a purple jacket with a tent in the background

“I took the bus to Union Station in Pasadena, the place they provide help to discover a place,” Cynthia stated. “However quickly I used to be on the streets.”

(Courtesy of Robert Karron)

By 17 I used to be having issues with despair, and the state took my daughter away. It’d be unlawful now: They threatened to chop off my mom’s welfare checks if I didn’t signal the papers. I obtained pregnant once more at 21 and have a son who loves me to dying; he’s in Kentucky now along with his dad, my ex-fiance. We had been going to get married, however he needed me to stay in his mom’s home for a 12 months; I stated no and moved again in with my mother. He got here to get the engagement rings. That made me mad, so I threw them into the entrance yard. He searched for 2 hours however finally discovered them.

I went again to high school and obtained my GED. I used to be taking school enterprise programs, however the man I used to be married to then couldn’t maintain a job, so I stop and began working at an organization that despatched out cheese and sweet packages.

Later I used to be engaged to somebody who moved me to Minneapolis, the place I labored at a Greek restaurant. When I discovered him in mattress with one other man, I needed to discover one other place to remain. The proprietor of the restaurant, who appreciated me, was going to place me up, however his spouse obtained jealous. So I needed to transfer again dwelling once more.

I met my boyfriend Greg. We obtained to speaking, and by nighttime he was cuddled up subsequent to me.

— Cynthia

After I was dwelling at dwelling, I started a 10-year relationship with somebody I noticed a couple of instances a 12 months. He stated he was within the armed providers and was at all times touring. After 10 years I used to be 53, and he requested me to maneuver in with him in Los Angeles. I’m two hours on the bus after I name him. He says he’s in hassle and wishes $500. I say I don’t have it. He says, get it any means you possibly can. After I couldn’t get it, he stopped taking my calls. I took the bus to Union Station in Pasadena, the place they provide help to discover a place — however quickly I used to be on the streets.

I used to be protected by this nice man known as Tennessee (he was from Tennessee), and two weeks later, I met my boyfriend, Greg. We obtained to speaking, and by nighttime he was cuddled up subsequent to me. Tennessee gave him a blanket, however at midnight I instructed him to depart — it was going too quick. Nevertheless it all labored out. We’ve been collectively 5½ years, and we’re going to get married after we transfer in collectively.

Robert Karron teaches English at Santa Monica School.