June 16, 2024
What number of occasions have you ever heard profitable individuals 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 specific narrative that ends with success, and anybody who has lived it could are inclined to assume different individuals’s lives can, with work, conform to this arc. We have to get away from that assumption. Some individuals’s lives aren’t on an upward trajectory and will by no means be, and people individuals 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 Instances given that their final names not be used.

Governments and nonprofits pour untold sums into caring for the unhoused by myriad packages, however in talking with unhoused individuals, I usually hear that their wants usually are not very complicated. Even a modest month-to-month examine can be transformative to the lives of many. What if a giant piece of the answer to homelessness had been merely a common fundamental earnings? — Robert Karron


My identify is Brandon, and I’m 37 years outdated.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 yr of life I had a lot of seizures.

“I didn’t perceive why I had this unfulfilled feeling,” Brandon mentioned 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 understand how.”

(Courtesy of Robert Karron)

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

It was additionally a racial political zone. I have fun Hanukkah, and there was a bunch of youngsters that selected to name me names. I put myself on the market, telling individuals I celebrated — I didn’t have to try this. However I didn’t notice it was going to be one thing that might be detrimental to my social well-being.

So I took courses at house. 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 bought too acquainted with my dad and mom; we may have used extra distance. I didn’t get together with my mother, and we clashed.

After highschool, I assumed I’d go to the Marines — my grandfather was a embellished struggle hero — they usually accepted me into the deferred entry program, however they discovered marijuana in my drug take a look at, in order that didn’t work out. I used to be uncovered to medicine early; it was rampant at my highschool. You had been pressured to take them as a result of the children 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 individuals steal so often, it’s onerous to maintain stuff.

— Brandon

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

I had a lot 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 duty. Regardless that I used to be earning money, 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 understand how.

At 18, I fell in love with a girl who was 22 years older than me. I used to be together with her for seven years. She was an incredible artist. Finally I stop my job and labored as a butler for her pals. Once 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 individuals steal so often, it’s onerous 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 onerous 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 continuing state of an infection.


My identify 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 must discover a place the place I can spend the day earlier than — from 8 within the morning until 8 at evening — getting cleaned up. I don’t know the place that can occur. Do you may have any concepts? Is there a gymnasium in L.A. that has military cots and a giant rest room with showers and sinks and commodes the place you’ll be able to go and depart anytime you need so long as you signal your identify? I’m asking as a result of I’ve by no means heard of such a factor.

A bearded man in a sweater standing outside

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

(Courtesy of Robert Karron)

I’m shifting to Boston, however I want somebody’s good gadget 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 must 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 every part I want. 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 assets and trains and buying 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 if you come from a damaged house, and you’ve got high-functioning autism, and your stepfather was drafted within the Vietnam Conflict and was an authoritarian determine who moved you and your mom to Ohio.

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

Jobs? You probably have high-functioning autism, you’ll be able to’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 all the time make the participant disintegrate) that operates on batteries. I will pay for the batteries. Then I want a CD with each music Led Zeppelin ever sang.

Jobs? You probably have high-functioning autism, you’ll be able to’t maintain a job.

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


My identify 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 bought pregnant. The daddy was a household pal in his 20s who my mom had requested to look at us when she took courses to grow to be a licensed nursing assistant. He ended issues when he discovered 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 assist you discover a place,” Cynthia mentioned. “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 bought 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 reside in his mom’s home for a yr; I mentioned 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 highschool and bought my GED. I used to be taking faculty 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 bought jealous. So I needed to transfer again house once more.

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

— Cynthia

Once I was residing at house, I started a 10-year relationship with somebody I noticed a number of occasions a yr. He mentioned he was within the armed providers and was all the time 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 once I name him. He says he’s in bother and wishes $500. I say I don’t have it. He says, get it any method you’ll be able to. Once I couldn’t get it, he stopped taking my calls. I took the bus to Union Station in Pasadena, the place they assist you 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 bought to speaking, and by nighttime he was cuddled up subsequent to me. Tennessee gave him a blanket, however at midnight I advised him to depart — it was going too quick. But it surely 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 Faculty.