But because this guy keeps a blog, because he is articulate and just sounds like another guy, easily could be me, because he still has his voice, I'm almost tempted to send him a couple hundred dollars over paypal. I haven't yet, but the temptation is there. Just because I can hear his story instead of just see him sitting on a sidewalk. It makes it so much harder to walk by.
I do wish I knew more about how it happened. I always wonder that. I usually think there must have been some bad choices made along the way. Not that anyone's free of bad choices. But, why did he instantly become homeless after his mother sold the house? Why didn't he have any savings at that age? Why didn't he have any old friends who would take him in to help him out? I know not everyone is so fortunate as to have those things, of course, but still I wonder how it happens.
I'm pretty sure there's more to the back story that led up to this, and I've encouraged him to write more about this at some point when he's more stable. If I were to guess, based on the few points he's made in writing, there's some family rift going on, and I might also presume that he may have been paying for things for his mother that might have otherwise gone in to savings.
He's been through a divorce, which can certainly have a financial toll on anyone, and I think it was a bit later in life, which may be harder to recover from.
A late divorce, some health problems, trying to support a family member - all of that may quickly deplete someone's funds.
As to the homeless part, I think there's a certain pride involved, and asking for help may be embarrassing, especially to have to involve friends. It may be that many of his local friends would be tied to his mother/family, and may not be as supportive as one might hope.
I sent money to paypal, but it's frozen, and I'm wondering if I can reverse it and senf via GFM and he'll get access faster. Hrmmm....
I apologize if I'm missing something or if I seem really ignorant. Actually, I realize I am totally ignorant in this respect. I've never worked a job outside of programming, so I don't know—is it very difficult for some people to get 'normal' jobs? Is it mostly people with some kind of issue or disability that affects their ability to get a job who wind up like this? Are there not as many minimum-wage, or non-professional (or something) jobs out there as I think there are?
I realize once you get to a certain level it becomes really tough to recover, but when you're on your way, and savings are going, shouldn't you be looking around for any way to earn some cash?
And even if you could request them, where would the gov't send the documentation? Where would you do your taxes or anything?
Where are you going to get enough time on the internet to submit hundreds of applications? Or where are you going to print resumes to hand them out?
Being homeless makes the basics of getting a minimum wage job a near insurmountable task for many.
It bothers me that a handful of these problems seem possible to be easily solved with very little tax money. A place to send checks/ids (free PO boxes with an address for the homeless) a place to help get documentation and stuff...
Do shelters provide basic makings for a shower and shave?
Even internet access with available hardware, since it's more and more possible to do everything on the internet, would be reasonable.
As an American, I always found it so ironic that public transportation is often the worst in areas where only those who truly need it use it.
People make a big deal about how better quality public transportation can be good for the environment (by getting more cars off the street), but what I think is more important is that getting more higher-income people on the bus vastly improves fare revenue and local political will for having good public transportation.
I would definitely take public transportation to work if I could, but Silicon Valley public transportation is awful. The lightrail doesn't go through too many useful stops; it's only good if you live somewhere along the line and are trying to get to downtown San Jose. My car commute to Cupertino takes half an hour or less, but if I wanted to take the bus it'd be an hour.
A lot of welfare programs do a lot for the majority of people in need (mentally sane) but nothing for a small minority (mentally ill). Because going through all those hoops of regulation favors those with a stable mind and actually scares off those without it (the most needy). Remember the shame to make your neediness public, to strangers or your neighbors and family, the anxiety to be turned down by some bureaucrat, to feel powerless, hopeless and useless. And while having all these emotions, you're supposed to manage your appointments and paperwork for receiving help.
Being mentally stable enough to make and keep social connections surely helps in this scenario, as you could casually ask around what government programs to skim or how to fill out forms - without disclosing your uselessness. Again, schizophrenia isn't helping here.
In contrast, many in our "intelligentia" are doing rather well within the welfare system. They know which funds to access, have a network of other people doing the same, people that know what paragraphs to blast back at the unfriendly bureaucrat. People less educated, less socially connected, less mentally stable loose out in those situations.
(Can't remember if this conclusion came from the authors themselves or from some media outlets trying to use this headline for some other agenda or biased readership.)
There's always the option to leave education and employment off of your resume, but during the interview how do you explain even a four-year gap without mentioning "I was doing a Ph.D in particle physics" or "I designed marketing materials for Goodyear"?
 For example, a "Emmy-award-winning, New York Times bestselling author and Harvard grad cannot land a job as a greeter at The Container Store."
If they have kids and are a single parent, it makes it much tougher to just get a job.
Others have access to the resources, but they don't feel they could do the jobs they know about.
I think the majority of truly homeless need someone to really talk with about things, and many will never on their own be able to overcome their homelessness. If those with billions wanted to help, they would provide these people with analysts, medical attention, and perhaps nursing. I doubt they would want to live in a mental institution, but some really should have that level of attention to help avoid problems with alcoholism, drugs, etc. that are a way of escaping.
Still others are privileged. They could easily go back to their family or friends to get help, but they don't. I have very little sympathy for these people when they suck resources away from the homeless that really need it and make it seem like others that really are in need are there by choice. I wish these people would go live in their parents' basements where they belong.
Others aren't really homeless. Some that hold the cardboard signs may have apartments, homes, etc. I know one person where I used to work that I was told would leave her job, go to the corner and beg, then go home. It was an extra source of income.
Even with all of the people that aren't truly homeless or may not even be poor begging, it is still the right thing to help them if you can. You can put together a care bag with snacks, bathing supplies, etc. and give it to them instead of money. You can buy them food. You might not be able to afford to help them all, but even if you just help one every once in a while, if enough people do that, things would be much better. You can't stop homelessness by ignoring it, and there is such a disparity between most of us on HN and those living on the street, that as long as you know you're not funding a drug or alcohol habit, you're helping.
Of course I understand how tough it is, lack of privilege, lack of reliable family and friends and resources. I don't ignore homelessness. Like the OP of this thread, I live in Chicago, downtown. My short daily walk to work (4 blocks) generally has 4 homeless people on it, one in a wheelchair missing a leg. This is why I've been thinking about their situation more these days, what we can do, and how they ended up this way.
There are very few employers that will hire homeless people. Of the ones that do some want to help, often they have been or know someone how has been homeless personally. These employers are VERY VERY VERY VERY rare... the other want to take advantage of their situation to get them to work for cash for next to nothing... the "Come work 8 hours for lunch and $20" jobs...
Further most of the legitimate min wage jobs are for entry level position and employers while never saying out out right do practice ageism... They want young workers that are less likely to understand employment law, and are easier to manipulate that older workers. This is true for older homeless and non-homeless alike so this would play a factor in your "when you're on your way shouldn't you be looking around for any way to earn some cash?"
While people may think the economy has improved and in some regions it has, for the most part is it a buyers market for labor, meaning employers can be very selective as they still have 100's or 1000's of applicant's for entry level positions... Young Adult unemployment is still very very very high.
I know a whole bunch of people who've been homeless, sometimes for up to a year sleeping on the streets. But they'd eventually find their way and move on. In the developed world, there's so many programmes. They're not fun, don't get me wrong. For example you can get a bed, a meal and a shower, but you have curfew at 8pm to reserve a spot and you have to spend the night with a bunch of strangers, not all of whom you'd want to hang out with, and then you get thrown out at 8 in the morning. None of that is enjoyable, but you can do it. Then you can apply for a home, you can apply for a free public transport pass, and you can pretty easily get minimum wage jobs. None of those are great, but e.g. in the Netherlands minimum wage is about $1700, and you get 1 month of mandatory, by law, of holidays per year working full-time, in which you get your salary. This is liveable for a person without children, and combined with all the different programs it's impossible to not live a decent life.
But that's for an ordinary person. If you have a gambling addiction, a substance addiction or a mental issue, none of that matters. You could squander a $10k salary, or have days when you're too scared to go shopping for groceries.
Short-term homelessness is very solvable, I've got friends who've gone through it. Long-term usually is much tricker because you're not dealing with a 'normal' rational human being. These people simply need help, lots of it. It's not a matter of giving a person a job, clothing, a home, because they can't function, none of that helps. They need professional help, and the resources for that aren't being spent. Instead resources are largely spent on keeping people alive.
Of course there are tons of exceptions. I've got a family member for example who was homeless and was really stuck due to a lack of programs available to get him back on his feet. In the end he was 'saved' by the grace of a total stranger, given a place to sleep, food, shower etc and support in becoming self-sufficient. He was mentally fine, educated etc, but ran into one of those 1 in a million odds that destroy your life. And the stranger helped him out. But he's very much the exception. Most are like another family member I had who simply had substance abuse issues. We took him in over and over, got him totally setup after 1-2 years of homelessness. And he'd be right there with us looking handsome and sharp and jolly, nicely clothed and cleaned up, and he'd be sharp as a knife talking about politics. Everyday we'd give him a few bucks for some cigs and a newspaper and stuff, and have him eat all his meals with us and sleep with us. And then 3 weeks later he'd be gone, and we'd spent months on the streets just walking around asking people if they'd seen him. Finally 1-2 years later we'd find him and take him in again and it was the same story, every 1-2 years it'd repeat. But he just couldn't live that life and always fled. In the end he'd be gone again and we went looking once more, but this time he died on the streets, we don't know how. There's nothing you can do for him but get him professional help to deal with substance/mental health issues. I suspect most long-term homelessness is like that.
It's always so hard for me to decide which it is... I've experienced both, people who you simply can't help, but only professionals can, and people who you can totally lift up and get back on their feet with a little bit of trust and resources.
Having lived in many cities around the world, I can say if you're poor in the US, there aren't many options to get out of it. It could be said for many countries but US is the worlds largest economy. It's a solvable problem.
It's heart breaking to hear stories of people choosing to die than go to the hospital because the bills will kill them.
They would always insist on searching the car for drugs and I basically had to give in. Not that I ever had any but they would make a mess since all my possessions were in the car and they could care less about tossing everything.
And yes, as many people say, getting out of the rut of being homeless is the hardest thing, it starts to completely change the way you think and everything becomes day-to-day survival.
Actually makes me feel a bit good for paying my taxes :)
Congratulations on your income!
I currently am, but to Watsi.org. It gives me a bigger bang per dollar compared to the amount of middlemen in the US healthcare model.
I've thought about several ways to drive down the healthcare in the US, and it seems the only sure fire method is for politicians to get into office who believe in single payer. To that end, I use my wealth to max out my contributions to campaigns and PACs (if applicable) of candidates who support that goal.
> Congratulations on your income!
No need for that at all. I only mention it because, so often, I hear people say, "I'm tired of taxes! Less taxes! You already tax me enough!". To which I say, "Its complicated". I mention it because there are people out there (like myself) who do not mind paying taxes.
With my tax dollars, I buy civilization. I would like to buy more civilization for my fellow humans, but I need their help as well, otherwise my efforts are wasted into the ether by themselves.
We are all in this together.
United States needs major reforms:
1. implement what I term socio-capitalism (private property and enterpreneurship is protected, but there is a social safety net in the form of universal health care and unemployment benefits) -- U.S. already made the first step with "Obamacare", but there is a lot more to do;
2. reform the government to reflect the Swiss model 1:1, and institute direct democracy, as well as make lobbying highly illegal.
Admittedly reforming the government will be a very difficult task, for those in power will fight by every means available to preserve it. The good news is, it could be done through the current political process.
It's the same reason why it's not hypocritical for the super rich to desire higher taxes on the rich, yet still pay the minimum legal requirement.
That seems to be extremely idiotic given the record the American Government has when dealing with Health Care, pick either Medicaid, Medicare or the VA system.... You want that on a National "Universal" Scale... are you a sadist or something?
Most of the current problems with Health care costs in this nation are directly attributable to government policies dating back to the 40's
Price Controls have never worked in the history of man kind, we have a over all provider shortage now, if you remove the incentives and make being a Doctor a low paying job no one will spend the money to become a doctor. Price control always result in any less supply or lower quality or both...
That is what Medicare will get you, EXTREME wait times, it will take you weeks or months to be able to see a doctor, but hey it will be free, who cares if you die while on a wait list.....
You get what you pay for
A theory that fails to match the data in any case doesn't seem to be much of a theory, is there something I don't know about that's happening in other counties?
US doctors also can make money through self-referrals such as ordering a test be done through a clinic in which they are an owner.
This article from 2009 talks about the latter case in detail: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/06/01/the-cost-conund...
I supposed we could try to outlaw that practice, but a whole lot of doctors would lobby like hell to prevent that bill from making it through Congress.
There are base prices for operations, doctor visits and the like. But doctors can choose to charge above this price (and mostly do so in places like Paris, where rent is too high to charge just base price).
Doctors have to declare whether or not they do this. So if you're a price-sensitive person you can lookup doctors "inside" or outside the system.
In my experience, there are longer waits for things like optomotrists, but that's more due to government-mandated limits on how many can graduate in a year than the price controls (that you can opt out of anyways).
General practitioners are fine though. Like "call for an appointment, show up the next day" sort of fine. And even in big cities I would always end up at a doctor charging "base" price. The visits would end up only costing something like 7 euros.
Which works fine until you realize you don't operate in a vacuum, and your destiny is influenced by forces outside of your control.
Let me just say we should be spending a lot less money on war and a lot more money on welfare. Yet let me also say that the genesis of many ghettos was in a "war on poverty" that pushed for low-income housing. You're not being immoral by trying to evaluate each side and it certainly does not make me a rugged individualist.
And here is where the entire concept of if you work hard, you will always succeed shatters: there are roughly 300 million Americans. The industry in which they could have (and many have) worked hard has systematically been outsourced, destroyed, under the idea that "we're going to design it, and they are going to build it, somewhere else, cheaper". Capitalism, except that most of those ~300 million people do not really have the means (intellectual, financial, you name it) to be scientists and engineers.
To make matters worse, the American culture has a strong bias towards low-brow making fun of engineering and science (a prominent case in point: "The Big Bang Theory", or shoving sports, in particular "football", down everyone's throats at the expense of more intellectual programs). For instance, "geek" and "nerd" are very American terms which I'm not aware of existing in Europe, where being an engineer or a scientist is celebrated and prestigious.
It's the perfect storm, and one which has been systematically brewed for the last 60 years of American history. Anthropologists and sociologists rejoice, for you now have a lifetime opportunity to observe what happens when you have a laissez-faire, hardcore capitalism system without checks and balances.
Do you have any source on this?
Because ghettos have been around a lot longer (and many formed around the 1910s): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghetto#History
Whereas the "war on poverty" started around 1964:
The classic counter example to that would be health care
Which if you are a non-disabled, employable (whether or not employed) adult without dependents, in most parts of the US, are extremely limited, quantitatively and, often, temporally, as well.
I was laid off a while back. Because I got a severance package comparable to 1.5 months salary, I couldn't get unemployment assistance for 1.5 months plus 4 weeks - even then I had to document that I had applied to a minimum of 3 jobs a week from the day I was laid off.
As much as people outside the US like to think it's some sort of heartless society, the US has a substantial safety net setup.
If you have children, you may qualify for whatever your states implementation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF) is -- which has a work requirement.
If not, your jurisdiction may have a "General Assistance" program, but these tend to be very small benefits, and often restricted in how long someone deemed "employable", whether or not they actually can find employment, can be on them (either in total, or within a given period; e.g., some jurisdictions have something like a 3-months in any 12-month period limit.)
> As much as people outside the US like to think it's some sort of heartless society, the US has a substantial safety net setup.
The US has an extraordinarily weak social safety net compared to most other developed countries.
Not deeply familiar with either, but on review of a brief overview of the Japanese system it seems substantially more robust than the US system (though it also seems to have many similar structural difficulties.)
"I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer."
-- Benjamin Franklin
I do not believe the government should provide Food, Home, or Healthcare assistance to any. I do however believe every person should enjoy basic income level to buy those things for themselves
They were men that agreed and disagreed with each other on lots of matters, not Gods.
Non-assistance CalFresh recipient over age 17 and under age 50 must satisfy the ABAWD work requirement as a condition of eligibility unless they meet specified exemption criteria or live in an area where the ABAWD work requirement is waived. ABAWDs cannot receive CalFresh (food stamps) for more than three months in a 36-month period unless they meet this requirement or are excused from it. The ABAWD work requirement is met by performing one of the following:
Working at least 20 hours per week in paid or volunteer employment;
Participating at least 20 hours per week in an allowable work activity such as vocational training or basic education programs; or
Participating in workfare (i.e., community service). The number of hours of participation in workfare is determined by dividing the CalFresh allotment by the higher of the state or federal minimum wage.
Max benefit: $174 a month(!)
If a worker is not eligible for the full unemployment benefits or after receiving the full unemployment benefit for the maximum of 12 months, he is able to apply for benefits from the so-called Arbeitslosengeld II (Hartz IV) programme, an open-ended welfare programme which, unlike the US system, ensures people do not fall into penury. A person receiving Hartz IV benefits is paid 404 EUR (2016) a month for living expenses plus the cost of adequate housing (including heating) and health care. Couples can receive benefits for each partner. Germany does not have an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card system in place and, instead, disburses welfare in cash or via direct deposit onto the recipient's bank account.
Read my original post. Medicaid is available to low income individuals. In fact, it was expanded (in most states) up to ~175% of the federal poverty level. You can get it even when you have a job!
Medical works better, at least in part because Californians want it to work better.
Wait are you not for Universal Healthcare... WTF do you think Universal Healthcare will be.... Medicaid for everyone that is what...
It is likely that single paying would be provide lower cost then what we pay today, I think it is highly unlikely it would result in better care. For example in many places in the EU semiprivate rooms are only for those Rich people that pay for their care, the "free" sick people are put in "efficient" open-plan hospital ward with many more people
Also there would be a huge drop in medical research, in addition to government regulation driving up costs, the US Health System more or less carries the rest of the world for R&D, companies charge the US exorbitantly because in the rest of the world there are price controls, once they stop being able to exploit the US Health Consumer because we also have price controls they will simply stop or slow their R&D to safer avenues and take less risks..
There are also 1000's of other reason why a US Universal Healthcare system will be vastly different than any thing any other nation has tried.
One big one is our obesity problem, once we have Universal Healthcare, are you then going to support Universal Diets, and Universal/Mandatory Exercise??
I would add a tax onto activities that increase healthcare costs, yes. I'm not stopping your from doing it, I'm just bringing the externality into the equation.
If you speed, we ticket you. If you speed too much, we raise the price of your insurance. And so on. This is no different. Risks have costs, and you pay for the risk you create (when a choice is provided).
you basically want to live in a world like this
This is not true whatsoever.
Anyone not elderly is SOL.
On top of those half of the food available is thrown away, so those who are very motivated go and take it.
And then there are lots of organizations that help people with food, religious organizations mainly but not exclusively.
Basically if someone really needs food and is not picky about it, it's available.
There is often help for families but not individuals without children.
When I was homeless and living out of my car I actually had a hard time getting food stamps back then (this was a long time ago). First I had the problem I was in a southern state which are mostly Republican controlled and don't want to help people. Secondly I had an impossible time proving I didn't have income (how do you prove a negative?) Then the problem I didn't have an address. Oh there was also a problem someone had the same name as me elsewhere in the state and was already getting benefits.
I showed the case worker my car I was living out of and eventually she put in some kind of emergency request so a few days later I got something.
If it had gotten any worse I would have had to turn to a church charity for help, fortunately did not come to that. It is no accident the states set it up that way so you have to turn to religion, it is disgusting.
People need work and healthcare. These are rights not a privileges.
To achieve a goal of 100% home-d, we'd need some REALLY draconian measures, e.g. forcing people into homes they don't want and forcing people to take medication against their will. I, personally, am not for measures like that, for reasons this blog post lays out well: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/04/27/book-review-albions-see...
However, the goal to reduce homelessness to 0% for the vast majority in the set of people who WANT a home is one I can support - even better if that desire extends beyond white countries.
Startup folks - looking for a real problem to solve? How about a system to help pool people like this out of misery?
Edit: He's also on Twitter.
I wasn't completely broke but I couldn't keep affording rent as expensive as it was. I was able to shower at a gym, and worked out of Tech Shop on what I was trying to build. But it's hard -- like super hard to just be homeless. The social stigma associated with the word alone is hard for people to get beyond. I would often hear, "But you don't seem like the type to be homeless" and then they would slowly just distance themselves from talking to me. Super weird.
I have been harassed by cops, you feel extremely transient and embarrassed just to be alive at times. Sleeping in a van sucks too. Street noises keep you up, cramped for space, etc. On the up side there is a contingent of tech people that are doing the same thing, so I had the pleasure of meeting some others like myself.
I've never taken up the opportunity of food, shelter, or clothing offered by the city, because frankly I'm doing this on my own accord, so I can't speak to how that part of the system helps people get back on their feet.
After this entire experience my heart breaks every time I see a fellow human having to resort to sleeping in the cold, wet, outdoors with no shelter and nothing but some cardboard and discarded newspapers to cover up with. I often wonder how close I could have come to being completely broken by this decision, and what coincidences led someone down this path. In the end it has helped me understand that we must all care more for one another, no matter what.
I'm guessing you're in tech as you're on HN - why not keep your day job and work on your business from 7pm-3am every night. Save some money while you do this and then leave your job when you can afford to?
It seems like a lot of tech folks have adopted the whole starving artist approach to starting a business when it is entirely unnecessary. I mean, even if you don't want to be an employee and want to focus on your product, move somewhere inexpensive, work freelance a few hours a day to support yourself. It just seems insane to me that anyone in this industry would choose to be homeless when they really don't have to.
If a lot of people are making this choice voluntarily I'd say there's a major problem in the industry and how people view the path to a successful business.
The reality, of course, is the opposite. The most successful people I have known have all started their businesses while their lives were relatively stable. That doesn't mean they started off rich, but it does mean they weren't spending all of their time trying to figure out where they were going to sleep or where their next meal was coming from. These days, it is wholly unnecessary to quit your job or move to SV to make a startup happen, and doing so is counterproductive in almost all cases.
This is also a crucial concept in understanding why the poor stay poor: they simply can't afford to spend time and resources on the long term if they need to worry about meeting basic needs on a daily basis.
If you're interested in learning more about this, I would recommend to read Scarcity, a wonderful book that explores this in more detail: http://www.amazon.com/Scarcity-Science-Having-Defines-Lives/...
There is a major problem in the industry. There is no one path to a successful business.
I find my time is more valuable than my comfort. To each their own.
Even with the cost of a flight, that pays for itself in no time.
A Van just seems like so much hassle!
are you sure you've thought this through?
No other bills is freeing. While the Facebook slaves think their $100k salary is a lot but go into debt with $7000/month condos.
It's motivating to get that first paying clients quickly to pay for server. (ramen profitable)
I love how when people come up with these numbers they cite salary-only/pre-negotiation/entry-level income and then they compare this to a small-family sized rent expense to justify your "typical" SV absurdity.
The fact is, many people make well over that with stock options, raises, etc. And even while making that money, lots of my friends in their mid-20s opt to live with multiple roommates and flex their living rooms to reduce their rent cost further.
Not always, only if you have positive equity. Its quite possible to have a mortgage without that.
Negative equity is usually something that happens after you take a mortgage. And whenever you take a mortgage, there is a risk of getting into a negative equity situation (though the degree of risk varies.)
Our plans are to also turn this into equity crowdfunding, and eventually have a fund to contribute to and support popular/promising projects.
I'm building this to build some other projects down the line like Playa (http://getplaya.com)
Most people don't function on 3 hours of sleep, for one thing. And if 5-7 PM is your between-jobs time, that's all you have to do errands and chores.
Personally, I have a little capacity (2 hours, maybe?) left over before burn-out starts to set in, and I am using it to fix up my house. I could cut that out and live in what I have, but there's no way I have 8 hours available.
I'm not saying that schedule would work for everyone but I seriously doubt someone has more capacity and is less likely to burn out by voluntarily deciding to be homeless. That's going to introduce a lot of complexity into your life that will end up being very time consuming. If you don't have the physical capacity to work late at night and sleep less then move somewhere with a lower cost of living and do some freelance work part time while you work on your business. The problem here seems to be that the OP finds it necessary to be in SF. Considering great businesses are created all over the world it seems like he's buying into a myth.
It's hard for me to understand how someone can get productive work done when they don't have a comfortable, safe place to rest their mind for a few hours.
It's called a library.
I sleep in a tent. I blog about that.
in fact... it's probably one of the best ways to launch a bootstrapped company. it's both the motivation and the sustenance to do something meaningful with your career.
most people just surreptitiously look for a new job while on the clock, or dick around until the gravy train stops, but you can also just do your easy-ass dayjob and work on your startup at night until it's time to switch.
It sounds extremely distracting from your career.
It wasn't the only reason I was fired, of course; there were some other reasons, ultimately coming down to political-cultural clashes. But it was by far the lowest-hanging pretext. I seldom made it in before 10:30 - 11 AM.
> The social stigma associated with the word alone is hard for people to get beyond [..] I have been harassed by cops, you feel extremely transient and embarrassed just to be alive at times. [..] After this entire experience my heart breaks every time I see a fellow human having to resort to sleeping in the cold, wet, outdoors with no shelter and nothing but some cardboard and discarded newspapers to cover up with. [.. ] In the end it has helped me understand that we must all care more for one another, no matter what.
which you might also call an attempt to give a small voice to the voiceless.
How many comments are essentially glossing over that, the ratio between posts responding to the gist of this comment to those that don't, is incredible, and to describe the main point you're all mostly ignoring as
> especially when the person then goes on to talk about how difficult life is.
is beyond tone deaf. The comment is not at all about life being oh so hard for OP, ultimately. It's not about "the industry" either, nor is the original article.
The things described in this comment, the article, and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11646078 ought to be enough to give a person PTSD after a while. Part of that is simply caused by social stigma, which is something everybody is complicit in and nobody can directly be blamed for. And when cops have power trips and abuse the defenseless -- not saying they do that all the time, but when they do -- any remotely decent society would come down on them like furies. Not just some of them, every last person. None such societies exist as of now, instead we numb ourselves to being numb to it, and that is the major problem I see. "The industry" is but a speck of dust in that river, and the hellish ocean it leads to.
Lenny's been crossposting to Daily Kos as well as on his site, and "What's it All Cost?"  has a list of links to all the relevant articles there. This is a better place to go if you're just wanting the meat of it.
I also know of at least one other person who's more legitimately "homeless" rather than "camping," she's been posting about her experiences with PADS (homeless assistance group, runs shelters particularly during the colder months) and some job search related items, also on Daily Kos .
TL;DR Lenny bought a used windowless extended cargo van with a security grid across the front of the back compartment (which can be covered to block light from inside at night). He mounted a decent-sized solar panel on the roof, has a battery setup inside that he can use for lighting, a fan, and recharging his laptop and other devices. He added a small sink, etc. and sleeps in the van overnight while taking public transit to various sights in each area he stops in. He works via laptop from various public libraries, coffee shops, and restaurant wifi.
Homeless in San Francisco hanging by coffee shops, getting change is like a mansion. In Russia, homeless people disappear. This is why my mvp will be superb.
If you're serious...it's not worth it. Life is long. Find other ways of motivating yourself. Commit publicly to shipping something awesome. Find a community of badasses to support you. Don't do this.
My brother's startup wasn't bring in much money and there was always the near promise it would. He went through all his savings and retirement funds and went close to $100k into CC debt. This was a swing of +$1m to -$70k. Yes, he had a problem (unacknowledged, btw) that was more dire than yours. Just be aware that this stuff can get out of control, if you let it.
After getting to the -$70k state, he asked me and my parents for money to continue. We all refused because we knew that our money would be like the $1m+ he had already gone through. We told him to get a job. He refused. He couch surfed for a while. After 6+ months doing that he realized, because his family had abandoned him, he would have to get a job. He did ($155k/yr). He started a month ago. He's angry at the family and won't talk with us now. Ironically, he admitted that he wouldn't have the job now, which he needs, if we had given him money last year. However, that doesn't matter. He still maintains he did the right thing and we didn't support him.
It's been a sad year for my parents and me. Actually, sad few years, since we all saw this coming (and tried to prevent it, but he only got angry at us for being "negative").
It was personally hard for me to let him go right to the brink of being on the street. I did it because giving him money would have drained my resources, and for no reason. His reality distortion field was so strong, he would not listen to anyone.
The crazy thing is that at a 3% withdrawal rate $1m would have been $30k a year for personal expenses for the rest of your brother's life.
Hang in there, I'm sorry you all had to go through this.
"Joe and I both had ~$30K in credit card debt and this is what we were using to fund the company."
There is no comprehensive stats on this, but the big question is, of the people who went in to serious CC debt, how many of them became massive unicorn companies, or at least mildly successful?
CC debt is probably a poor indicator of the quality of an idea.
I hope things will get better.
I wonder why more people don't choose to move to places like Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo where housing is dirt cheap. There aren't many jobs there, but if you are working for yourself it shouldn't really matter.
The Bay is very kind to Homo sapiens, in terms of climate.
This is not "I've lost everything and am homeless with no way out" it's "I wanna build a startup so I'm going to go live in a van".
Landlords very often just won't take you on at all if you don't show evidence of preëxisting stability. No proof of stable income? No housing—you can even offer to pay up-front or whatever, and they just won't bother dealing with you as a special case, because why would they deal with the special case when there's a dozen other safe, predictable, normal people in line behind you?
Got an income, but can't prove it to be consistently enough? Congratulations, no housing for you. And thus begins the downward spiral.
I doubt most of the folk we dealt with would have taken us on even if I had offered to pay a full year's rent up front. It's just not worth the bother when there's a dual-income, no-kids couple with good credit next in line.
I had to get my parents to co-sign on a lease... at 27, with a PhD, proof of employment, and "excellent" credit. It's pretty insane.
I so want to do it again, but now I have kids.
I would definitely move back there instead of living in a van in SF. It would probably even be cheaper.
Other initiatives like urban farming could be done as well. I think detroit is super fertile.
Imagine what just a billion dollar fund could do for tech in that region.
That said, I'm in on the concept. For a few months a year (at most), I just need a small, private, quiet room with net, electric, and heat. Other amenities can be shared.
With a good plan and some solid leadership, I'd put money into it. But, there'd have to be some sort of contractual way to slow gentrification, if it took off.
Alameda naval station chose to just try to build a big metal wall in the ground to capture the leakage as opposed to spending the money to clean up the toxicity...
Lots of good for tech.
Should we send buses or just have some people go through and chase the current residents away on foot?
I think you don't qualify as a homeless. You 're living in a van. There's a reason people prefer homes to a van. I can't fathom what is so pressing that makes you sleep in a van instead of moving to a much cheaper area.
I have never once slept on a sidewalk. I hike out to a patch of wilderness every single night. Where I currently sleep, there are deer and coyotes (a few minutes walk from a paved road).
I blog about my experiences in part because I feel strongly that homelessness does not need to be as rough as it obviously is for so many people. Humans are food and got sleep well before modern housing was invented. I feel strongly that putting out information can go a long way towards lowering artificial barriers for homeless Americans and helping them maintain ties to society in a way that can make it easier for them to get back off the street.
What would such a system look like?
EDIT: Totally serious question. To build something, you must first architect it.
As Utah found, just giving homeless people a home, without demanding any substantial money or qualification or whatever from them for it, reduced the number of long-time homeless by a huge percentage and in the process saved net money for the state because of reduced medical and policing costs.
This is one step, but it's not a silver bullet. New York City has had a similar program for a long time, and it's actually come under fire from homeless advocacy groups for being ineffective (while simultaneously expensive).
New York City also poses a greater challenge than Salt Lake City for a number of reasons, but so does San Francisco, so solving SF's homelessness problem will require more than just building more housing and giving it to homeless people, even if that's ultimately one step of the solution.
From the perspective of wanting to do the most good with our limited resources, paying for housing in SF or NYC, let alone SLC, is probably pretty stupid.
There's a guy I know who runs a business employing homeless. His rule is he never fires anyone. He understands that without a home/transportation, it can be impossible to make it to work. That gives them one stable leg to try and build the rest of their life from.
Just out of curiosity: what about reasons unrelated to absenteeism, like some sort of gross misconduct, drug or alcohol abuse on the job, untenable behavioural or psychiatric issues stemming from that, etc?
For example, one guy had HUGE anger management issues. When it came to blows for the xth time, the manager pulled him aside, and said "I'm not going to fire you. I don't fire people. But you can only come back here when I've gotten a call from a counseling professional (he gave a number of one) and they tell me you've been through a successful treatment." It took six months, but he got the call and the guy came back to working. Apparently been one of the best employees ever since.
I have no idea where to start if one accepts the current political, legal, and cultural environment as-is. Assuming you did just accept the status quo as a given, I can better appreciate why the idea of 'just giving homeless people housing' is so enticing. [And there is evidence that it works well. I'm skeptical about the long-run costs and skewed incentives, especially in places in which lots of people want to live.]
This. Outlawing "flophouses" throughout the United States exacerbated homelessness, made it much harder for people on the margins to improve their material circumstances, and grossly distorted the housing and rental market by removing the lower end: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flophouse#Cage_hotels_in_the_U...
Here's a great post about this by a blogger I really like on this topic:
- [Spring In The Silicon Favela – Granola Shotgun](https://granolashotgun.com/2016/02/08/spring-in-the-silicon-...)
But on the plus side, there's a lot of cool stuff you can do once you stop playing by the rules!
We need to allow homeless to sleep in their vechicles, if said parking allows overnight parking.
We need to build Kibbutz's. (Or just give them a field to pitch a tent? A outhouse? Anything?
We need to stop making homelessness a crime. Every homeless person I know is camping illegially. They get tickets. They can't pay tickets. Tickets turn into felonies. It's just wrong.
If Jesus appeared, he would be ticketed for a multitude of municipal/criminal violations in a matter of days?
I don't think it's necessary tho to allow free camping in government run (and government owned) parks necessarily. Maybe it would be sufficient to just allow, or not prohibit, someone from renting spots on their property for otherwise homeless people to pitch tents.
It'd also be amazing if someone could figure out how to do an end run around all the laws and regulations that make housing so expensive and time-consuming to build. Where's the 'Uber for housing'? Very likely there is none; housing is too easy to 'attack' as it's most useful when its stationary.
Or maybe that's it – maybe someone could offer 'Japanese coffin-style hotel rooms' in a bus that just slowly drives around a city.
I think a lot of barriers just come from the social stigma of actually being homeless. So thinking reasonably, showers, laundry, snacks or meals? A place where one could feel human and a part of the naturally accepted society again.
books, movies, wifi that you can use while you're there
soup on tap
vending machines with healthy options
Sounds like a brilliant idea that would benefit homeless people, those in marginal situations where it's not always safe to go home, and so-called "normals" all at once, thus serving everyone so as to prevent a stigma caused by their use.
I do blog a bit in hopes of helping other homeless people find viable solutions and bootstrap themselves.
I have a second blog with very little content where I try to talk about What Helps The Homeless:
A far, far better approach is to work on a) providing more
senior and student housing -- aka affordable housing, but aimed at single people and childless couples and not marketed as "affordable" because that means "Built for poor people!" and that is always a terrible idea b) promoting walkable communities and c) helping people who can't fit a "regular" job to find a means to support themselves with some kind of paid work (freelance, part time, whatever).
Homeless people are just people. Once they get off the street, they are again simply referred to as people. You wind up homeless when your problems outrun your ability to cope. The difference between a homeless person and person in housing can be as little as one more problem or one less resource. Some particular thread snaps, it all comes unraveled. Trying to reverse that after the fact is a lot harder than trying to prevent it from happening to begin with (aka "A stitch in time saves nine").
But most people don't really want to hear that. Building more affordable housing (or otherwise trying to make society work better for ordinary people) doesn't feel heroic enough. It doesn't have the same rush of adrenaline of talking about getting people off the street after their lives have gone to hell.
People do realize I am homeless if they see me often enough, but they don't realize it upon meeting me the first time. I am less open about it than I used to be, because fuck prejudice and what judgey, uncampassionate, unhelpful assholes the vast majority of people are.
Best of luck.
I grew up in a nice part of la so I didn't really have any exposure to homeless people until I moved to the bay almost a decade ago. One thing that shocked me then and still really bothers me is how many of my friends (even the ones that I know to be decent, considerate people) completely ignore the existence of anyone who looks or smells or seems "weird". This is presumably under the assumption that anyone who looks like that is probably just asking you for money.
I remember sitting at a SJ light rail station and having a guy in a parka (it was 90+ deg out) come up to us and mumble something while we were sitting at the platform. My friend pointedly refused to make eye contact and pretended he didn't exist. When I asked the guy to repeat what he said, it turns out he was asking for directions....
I'm not saying that everyone needs to empty out their wallet to every person on the sidewalk, and maybe 90% of the time this heuristic is successful (ie they are asking for money), but it seems so shitty to me to just size someone up like that and decide that whatever they're saying to you, you can ignore it. I can guarantee you that none of those friends would ignore a well dressed stranger addressing them on the street.
It's been pretty maddening. And I occasionally hope there is a special place in hell set aside for such people.
I am now well enough that getting back into housing would make sense. But it needs to be real estate I own and have control over, so I can rip out carpeting, or whatever, if necessary. It cannot be rental housing and it cannot be a trailer. So, it will be challenging to arrange.
How do you get by these days? How can we help?
If you want to help, there is a tip jar on the site. (You can click on $1 and then enter any number you like.) Money is always useful. Promoting my work in some way so I get more traffic would also be appreciated.
There is absolutely no comparison between having to sleep on the street and having a vehicle to sleep in, especially during the fall/winter in seasonal areas. I would absolutely live in a converted van if it meant saving money. Sadly, I don't have a van to convert ;-)
I've been in such a position following an abusive employment/housing situation. What you say completely rings true. I think there's a partially neurologically wired category of "other" in our brains that is meant to make us super cautious of rootless individuals. Even in our nomadic hunter-gatherer days, we had good reason to be suspect of individuals who didn't have group membership. (Effectively a "home.")
One of the great tragedies of our society is that we've allowed our mentally ill to slip through the cracks. Untreated schizophrenics and PTSD-suffering Vietnam veterans may or may not make up a significant percentage of the homeless we see -- but they're certainly the most memorable. They stand out. They ingrain, in passersby, a mental map of homeless people as "crazy," or "violent," or "dangerous." And so we start to believe that homeless people are broken somehow. Many people go a step further; they start to regard the homeless as less than human.
These pattern matches are powerful blocks on empathy for many, many people.
Someone homeless hasn't!
edit: typo corrected!
That's why you call yourself a digital nomad. Instead of people distancing themselves, you get people asking "Wooow how do you do that? I would love to do that? What's it like?".
As a homeless person with a van, you probably have a more permanent base than most digital nomads. Or at least more than what I did when I was nomading more properly. (and yes, I do miss it)
I think it's reasonable to assume that anyone who has enough skills to "build things" has enough skills to get an average software job. So, just curious, did you choose to build things and be homeless instead of getting a mundane software job and not be homeless?
Show me an alley, show me a train
Show me a hobo who sleeps out in the rain
And I'll show you a young man with many reasons why
And there but for fortune, may go you or I
Seriously, once I rented someone's large closet in Phoenix for $100 a month when I needed to save money. I showered in the gym and stayed in my office all day. Even in the most expensive cities someone will take a "ghost roommate" for $500 a month; pennies compared to cost of a physical/mental health related disorder.
I don't even mean across the country. I mean just 4 hours north or south or east. There are cheaper places to be in California than SF, aren't there? It seems you could spend the year driving up and down the coast as cost/weather permits. And I don't mean daily. The fuel costs would get prohibitive at some point...
It might ultimately be more sustainable, especially if you're open to having a "roommate" or two (who probably wouldn't mind you being gone a lot!). I spent a year paying $233/month for an attic room in Atlanta (and I lived there), so the opportunities exist.
Would moving into the woods and "living off the land" have been an option? Is this even legally possible anymore in the United States?
* Assuming you had solar-generated electricity and internet access.
I believe national forests have a technical time limit on how long you can stay there. Maybe BLM land?
The only BLM land I personally know of is in Nevada/Arizona/New Mexico, and you can't really grow anything on it (it's desert). Looks like there's also land in eastern Oregon, Idaho, Utah, etc. so if you can tolerate cold winters...
Even on BLM land, someone is eventually going to stop by and pay a visit to see what you're up to.