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A stranger secretly lived in my home (theguardian.com)
167 points by Gupie 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 185 comments

I had a tacit agreement with a homeless guy I discovered one day sleeping in my car. I'll keep the doors unlocked and you don't mess it up and by 7 am you're gone. He was by far the best tenant I ever had, we did this for close to two years and then I moved. The area where I lived was an older industrial zone in the East of Amsterdam, there wasn't a whole lot around there other than a salvation army post and I figured he liked the backseat of my Citroen DS better than the cots and 4-to-a-room arrangement that they had there.

I did a similar thing in San Francisco when working at the ballpark.

Someone smashed my window, and someone stole my radio. (I knew the cops wouldn't do anything besides laugh.)

Didn't care about the radio, but that window bothered me.

I decided to keep the doors unlocked, and carried a portable radio to work. (Too cheap to pay for parking.)

I put a sign on the rear window, "Please go ahead and sit in the truck, or sleep in the bed, but Don't Break Anything. Everything is unlocked."

It was an old Toyota, and it had a kill switch hidden.

Never had a problem again.

There were days when I would find cash in the glove box. I don't think it was tip. I think my truck was being used as a drug drop, but didn't care.

> I think my truck was being used as a drug drop,

That could actually end up getting you in legal trouble, and at the least get your car seized.

That's so compassionate of you. I don't know that I would think of doing that.

Well, if you take into consideration how crappy the locks are on those old cars then maybe I had a very cheap security guard ;) He really was a nice old man and super embarrassed about the whole thing.

The funniest bit about this is how I discovered he did this, one day I got up too early thinking I was late, rushed out and drove off without my usual morning routine and when I heard a voice behind me asking if he could please get out of the car, my heart nearly stopped :)

Maybe it's the pandemic heightening my senses, but it's strange to me that you wouldn't notice the smell. I can immediately tell if someone new has been in an unventilated room for, oh say a few hours afterward. There's no way I wouldn't notice someone sleeping in my car overnight, unless they went out of their way to air it out.

You clearly have never set foot in an elderly Citroen. They are so full of holes that when it rains outside it is only marginally better inside. Ok, you have a nice fiberglass roof over you. But the bottoms of the doors are rusted out, the front vents end up directly in the engine bay (because: paper tubing, which is eaten up by insects), the wind sills don't line up with the windows and the doors close poorly.

On the plus side: plenty of ventilation ;)

You are correct, I have not :) Thank you for the contextual flavor.

That's hilarious. How did the rest of the conversation go?

I just dropped him off at the nearest light. He would leave a small bag in the car from then on so he didn't have to lug all his stuff around.

This was around 1989, the location is Veemarkt in Amsterdam ('Veemarkt' is dutch for cattle market).

Back then homeless people in Amsterdam were fairly rare, now there are 100's of them.

I'm surprised that he chose to continue using your car then, because I would have thought being found out once would permanently turn him off and have him find another place. I guess you might have communicated to him that it was okay for him to use your car is a stronger way than you recall; or maybe the 80s just had a different vibe.

I don't think he had a whole lot of options in his life. Primarily I think he did it because he felt safe there, that area was at the time very much out of the way of traffic and apart from the occasional burglary there wasn't much crime.

One funny angle is that I was living there illegally myself, I didn't have a kitchen or a place to shower there and it being so quiet is why I got away with that. The people from other companies in that building knew that I was staying there overnight, but they in turn also didn't mind because they saw me as their 'free nightwatch', so there is some recurring element in there.

Anyway, it's ages ago, and if it happened today I'm not sure how I would respond, and I always wondered what happened to him but I did not see him after I moved (I went all the way to Poland).


My unit was the one one from the corner on top (the entrance was at the back), about 60 square meters, an early version of a hackerspace I guess, and the bike path on the left wasn't there at the time, that's where there was parking space.

Now there are a few thousand people living on the other side of the street so you would never get away with it today anyway, someone would spot you there before the first day was out.

A couple years ago one of the devs I work with came in to the office very early for some reason and discovered a man sleeping in one of the conference rooms. After the fact we discovered that an emergency exit door wasn’t locking properly.

He didn’t take anything even though he could have easily made off with tens of thousands of dollars of electronics. He just needed somewhere to sleep.

We had an AC tech ask us if we knew someone was living on our roof. Turns out an coworker's GF kicked him out of his house* and he was living up there.

Tent, free wifi, showers next to the bike room, full kitchen and big 80 inch TVs down in the conference rooms. He was livin' the life. He said he usually took down the tent and hid everything every morning but just got complacent.

*Yes. His house. She told the cops she felt in danger. Cops told him he had to stay somewhere else and go through the eviction process. Mad world.

> Yes. His house. She told the cops she felt in danger. Cops told him he had to stay somewhere else and go through the eviction process. Mad world.

The pendulum needed to swing toward protecting women by default. As these things happen, it may have swung to a point where nuance needs to be applied.

Your example seems fairly complex. I couldn't opine on it w/o knowing the details of the complaint.

I can offer a different example. My ex's mental illness sometimes required me to take a stronger hand in her life, than would be benign otherwise. One time, she was in a delusional state. She stole my van and left the area. I wasn't able to report it stolen because she was my wife. The police were protecting her from the possibility that I was lying and using the police to harass her.

A stranger found her in the middle of the night, hundreds of miles away, in a remote area wrapped only in a towel - obviously not herself. I directed the guy to call the police because he could do that. Local cops delivered her to a facility where she was stabilized.

What I would change is that I would have had tightly limited status as her caregiver. I'd want my wife and I to be regularly evaluated by a female mental health professional, who had training to detect manipulative spouses. In cases where my wife might be in distress, police would defer to me. Meanwhile the details would be immediately forwarded to the MH pro overseeing my spouse, who'd have authority to intervene, if she saw an issue.

> The pendulum needed to swing toward protecting women by default

He owned the house. If she felt in danger, the cops should come and escort her out of the house that doesn't belong to her. I don't see how your story is related to this.

If you legally live in someone’s home, in most jurisdictions (in the US) then you have at least some rights even if you don’t pay rent.

The alternative is that one partner can abuse the other, then throw them out on the street if they wish or if the victim complains.

I think it would be better if there was a real third option, but I’m not aware of it.

> The alternative is that one partner can abuse the other, then throw them out on the street if they wish

Thats literally what happened here. You have a blindspot to men being the victim like the person here was.

How do you know she abused him? Seems like you’re jumping to conclusions; (almost) none of us know anything about the situation so perhaps it is better to avoid speculating?

neither do the cops but they chose to put him out of his home at her word. Last I checked, women can buy their own damn houses.

Reclaim any of the 51+% of our federal budget on weapons we either don't ever shoot or leave in the desert,

use the reclaimed former tax revenue to maintain separate apartments longer, even if just a bedroom one rents.

The US spends under 10% of its federal budget on the military. In 2020 it spent more just on healthcare for the elderly than the entire military budget. Here, please take a look at the numbers straight from the CBO! https://www.cbo.gov/publication/57170

As for your second sentence- the total value of the US real estate market is about $56 trillion, so I kind of doubt that the government is going to make much of a dent here. There's not a lot of places where you can say even the US government doesn't have enough money, but....

military spending is 51% of discretionary spending. https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQ6wwEz... Not 51% of government spending, which is much much larger

How many trillions per decade is that?

cool but it’s not the half of the federal budget you suggested

That's splitting hairs though isn't it?

No, 10% and 51% is a pretty substantial and material difference. Lying for the right cause is still lying.

But they lived together there? Even when it's under the status of a romantic relationship, that's still at least partially a tenant-landlord relationship and as such the tenant has rights. Setting aside all the gender politics - you don't get to evict a tenant at a moment's notice. And yeah, he got evicted sorta. But he still owns the house. I'm not saying it's an ideal situation... but given the tenant landlord power imbalance, I don't think it's actually obvious that he gets to keep living there and she doesn't just because they've separated.

I'm trying to get this straight. If he owns the house and lives there, then why do his tenant's rights supersede his own? The tenant might live there and thus has certain rights, but so does he.

I don't think it's absurd that the tenant gets extra protection to counterbalance the ownership issue that lets the owner-tenant have the last word in the long run. But I suspect the man would draw the short straw regardless of the ownership situation.

Which I'm fine with, it still seems to be a reasonable heuristic given how imbalanced I believe domestic abuse is. But obviously it's unjust in some cases, and not useful for same sex relationships. Let's strive for a world where as many women as men own shared housing and act abusive towards their spouse.

So you think if the woman owned the house and the man told the police he "felt unsafe" they would throw the woman out of her house?

Domestic abuse has been ignored for too long and I'm glad women are being listened to. Men are still rarely listened to. Look at Johnny Depp for one.

The police / legal system is biased against men, from "always believe her" to "she gets to live with the kids and his expenses" to "you were married so you have to keep paying to maintain her life quality after marriage".

The problem with bias is that it creates economic incentives for women to lie their way to the life they want. You married a rich guy and you're bored because he's always working and he's never home? A small lie and you'll get him out of the house, pronto!

I think we should revert to property ownership in this case. If she feels unsafe, she can leave. If she is a 50% owner I can understand removing the suspected abuser from the premise. Unless she can't prove abuse I think she should pays the lodging fees though, for example by losing a small portion of the shares in the house. If she owns the house 100% he should just leave.

So you think if the woman owned the house and the man told the police he "felt unsafe" they would throw the woman out of her house?

No, I don't. Which is why I said "I suspect the man would draw the short straw regardless of the ownership situation." But I think domestic violence initiated by men is a bigger societal issue than women lying their way to the life they want.

>But I think domestic violence initiated by men is a bigger societal issue than women lying their way to the life they want.

I'm trying to understand the reasoning behind this statement. Are you saying that men should receive unequal treatment from police in these matters?

Not if he's determined to be an aggressor in the eyes of law enforcement in the (at least, US) jurisdiction.

In this case noone is claiming abuse, there is no aggression. She merely stated she was feeling unsafe.

We don't live in minority report, so he's not an aggressor.

We don't live in minority report, so he's not an aggressor.

Surely what you've got here is evidence that we do live in minority report.

(We don't, but I guess what I'm suggesting is that you're stating something in flat contradiction of the facts presented above; if this event happening means "we are living in minority report", well then, here we are living in minority report)

I’m not a lawyer, but in my state there is a legal concept of your place of residence which entitles you to certain eviction protections, regardless of ownership or lack thereof of that place.

And yet, a resident was summarily evicted and forced to live in a tent.

> The pendulum needed to swing

There's no pendulum, there's just doing the right thing and the wrong thing. Doing something wrong in the other direction is just as bad.

The world operates on heuristics, not perfect information, and we can’t make the right decision in every case.

Something can be the best available policy and also cause to poor outcomes in some situations.

I wish that was an option. I've been there with mine.

Sadly that person could be charged with a crime instead of being recognized as a person in need.

We should be viewing these situations as a cry for help instead of a criminal activity. This is what I hoped the "Defund the Police" movement was targeting. Sadly that phrase had good intentions but pretty bad optics.

Even more sad is the fact that, although it's probably rare, there are some people who will commit crimes in order to get arrested, because it gets them off the street.


It’a not too rare.

A relative who is a policeman knows 2-3 guys too old to migrate south for the winter who commit some misdemeanor in front of a cop to spend the winter at the county lockup.

Beat officers often feed these guys and help them out in small ways.

> We should be viewing these situations as a cry for help instead of a criminal activity.

You're right. When we uphold a law for the law's sake, we've lost our way.

Agreed - the "three strikes" and mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines have had judges forced to issue sentences which they, and their communities, felt were absurdly high.

Right, but laws enforced selectively based on feelings is its own form of tyranny.

It can be but usually isn't.

The value of a local, penalty-backed law is in it's ability to guide bulk behavior. These laws imply a bargain we make with our governments, that enforcement will be limited to the stated objective.

Reducing traffic speeds by citing a few speeders - this upholds that bargain. Citing every possible speeder while those fines fatten the police budget is a gross perversion.

Maybe my own opinion is coloured by the fact that I live in France, where speeding cameras are very common and seem effective in reducing speeding, but fining every speeder with automatic cameras seems a better solution than citing speeders at random

I hated speeding cameras with a passion in Italy. The concept is not bad but the ways limit are set is just plain ridiculous and an obvious plot to get people to pay the tolls for the highway (owned by Allianz as of now). The slower roads are perfectly fine and mostly deserted but you have stupidly low limits and the chance of getting a high bill which can be quite stressful.

I understand why people opt for the highways and paying a small amount now vs a bigger unexpected bill later on.

Another example of government policies and taxpayers money aiding private companies the government sold something to (they used to be public).

The gilets jaunes felt quite differently about the speed cameras.

What I found really effective were traffic lights with speed meters that would turn red for five seconds if you were over the limit. No cameras, no fines, no police.

> Reducing traffic speeds by citing a few speeders - this upholds that bargain. Citing every possible speeder while those fines fatten the police budget is a gross perversion.

I don't know. I feel that the citing every speeder is overall better than selectively catching a few speeders. First, it's fairer, leaving less space for selective enforcement based on arbitrary criterion. Second, based on my experience on US highway, the latter isn't very effective. While I usually cruise at speed limit, vehicles rush past me at 80~90 mph every day.

I certainly don't agree with the idea that police should give fines as much as possible to make profits. But it's equally wrong to deliberately reduce the amount of enforcement, because less enforcement leads to less profit.

In my opinion, enforcement is enforcement; the profit-making problem shouldn't even be a consideration when we decide how enforcement is carried out. It should be dealt with separately.

I think a big part of the population believes 80-90mph is perfectly fine (of which I am a member) so everything is kind of working as intended. I don’t want the speed limit increased, and I don’t want the law to be religiously enforced. To me, we are in the perfect balance.

However, my world view is that all rules should be written to be broken in the right hands, with just enough pressure for someone who shouldn’t be breaking the rule to be discouraged from doing so. Nothing is perfect in life anyway, and you can never truly capture a complex world, so I think you might as well consider it in rulemaking.

That said, it does open the world to profiling, but that will already happen regardless. Racists will always find a way to be racist.

> Citing every possible speeder while those fines fatten the police budget is a gross perversion.

Tying budget to citations is a perversion. Applying the law equally to everyone is just. You're conflating two issues.

Consider that "laws enforced selectively based on feelings" often describes racial profiling.

This has been true of many recent movements. I wish I knew what was behind it. I'm sure it can be explained by humans being humans, but part of me can't help but wonder if it isn't intentional.

Some people believe that phrase had good intentions.

Other people, like the NYTimes, believe it literally means abolish the police: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/opinion/sunday/floyd-abol...

You mean "Mariame Kaba" not the NYTimes, because that is an NYT Opinion piece written by someone outside the NYT who does not necessarily represent the NYT's editorial views. Publishing other relevant perspectives that in-house journalists may not write for is the entire point of the Opinion section in every publication.

Your office got off lucky.

We had a guy walk into our office behind employees. No one challenged the trespasser... he walked off with a stack of laptops.

As a teenager I worked in a large logistics center for supermarkets. Usually we would fill trucks that brought the supplies to the supermarkets, but rarely they had ran out of something small and would come to us with a van or so.

So one day two guys drive up with a van, park it at a loading dock, go into the warehouse and start loading the van with coffee. They even got help from some workers. Turns out they weren't related to any customers at all, they just stole a van full of coffee.

Which wouldn't be worth a story... But two weeks later, the same guys did the exact same thing again, at the same logistics center. Successfully, again. That takes some nerve.

A story from the RAI congress center in Amsterdam has it that someone purposefully scratched a 911 on the Porsche display, cue a car transporter that shows up the next morning with a big logo on the side that gets help from the staff to remove the 'damaged 911' so that it can be replaced with another. They never found either the car or the guys. This was before CCTV was common, but still, a couple of hundred people must have seen the whole thing and absolutely nobody thought anything strange was going on.

>So one day two guys drive up with a van, park it at a loading dock, go into the warehouse and start loading the van with coffee. They even got help from some workers.

Reminds me of that scene from Trailer Park Boys


Reminds me of a gang I heard about a couple decades ago that would just roll up in a moving van to a nice suburban house in a neighborhood where nobody really talked to each other and just empty the place.

> Your office got off lucky.

I disagree. Sleeper guy wanted to crash & didn't want their hardware. There wasn't meaningful risk.

I think we make the mistake that perceiving risk makes it real. It's reality that determines our actual risk tho.

They got lucky in the sense that their exit door was unlocked, and anyone (not just the sleeper guy) could have discovered it.

This is reasonable.

right, thats why they were lucky

Did you ask the women in your office how they felt about that incident?

We had a drunk homeless woman sleeping in the ladies room at our office, during work hours. After that event we got a faulty intercom which creates countless problems with the delivery guys, but also a lot less interruptions from random people doing fundraising for random causes.

Are you not insured for that kinda stuff? As long as you don't own the company, that seems like a pretty negligible situation to be in.

Did your employer offer him a job as night security guard?

It appears he really badly wanted the position...

This read like it could have been a chapter out of a Stephen King novel, until the stranger saved the puppy:

> I got a puppy. While she was being toilet-trained, I kept her in the bathroom. One day, when I was out, the apartment flooded. I came home to find the puppy in the sink. She was tiny. I didn’t know how she could have got up there unless someone had put her there to save her.

I visited SanFran a couple of years ago, and this reminded me of a homeless guy, in his late 60s I imagine, that I saw at a fast food chain.

So I was I think at in-and-out, and a homeless guy was going through the garbage bin to find food. When I came over to dump my stuff in the bin, he was immediately considerate and stepped aside so I could dump the covers and napkins, whilst making sibilant sounds and keeping his gaze down in a strangely submissive manner. And then the staff came over and tried to make him leave the place. I recall he said no actual word but put a mild challenge with more sibilant sounds but eventually left. And I remember thinking, well, he smelled and I tried to avoid physical contact, but was there really a need to make him leave, and take away what small dignity the world had assigned him? Clearly mentally off, I don't know, but trying to survive in the way that he can. But I find myself thinking again what I thought then -- there, but for the grace of god go I

I would assume that you would have to very mentally stable to resist all that humiliation without going nuts.

I have a friend that wasn't homeless, but all unemployment money was used on rent required to keep his shared custody (without an apartment to house the kids, you cannot have custody). He always was clean and used good clothes, but he made the line with homeless people to get free food daily. Otherwise he wouldn't have money to eat.

He said that the worst part of all was the look from voluntary women that were working on the food delivery organization. Each woman reacts differently to men. But he says that this is completely different. The look is like if he wasn't even a man - it's like they are feeding a lesser species. He says that he have never experienced the same reaction from women in other contexts, and that it hurts. It steals away all feeling of manliness. Luckily he got out of that situation many years ago.

> He always was clean and used good clothes

An alternative explanation could be that the women thought he was abusing the service to get free food even if he didn't need it, and thus put on some faces that he misinterpreted.

As if if someone has the means they would totally go out and eat with the homeless just to 'abuse the service' and get free food. Right.

Sadly, there’s no shortage of people who believe such abuse is rampant. I heard such a claim the other day from someone I generally regard as intelligent, and who I expect to know better.

This is a very interesting observation but also one that could support a few different interpretations. Is it that women enjoy at last a social circumstance where they are superior to men? Or is it men realising the brunt of their experience and the extent of their fall when receiving help from women? I would think it’s mostly the latter, given the volunteer women or men I know all have dedicated significant part of their lives to helping people, not men or women or children or elders specifically.

> there, but for the grace of god go I

You might be interested in this:


[Disclosure: that is my movie.]

I look forward to viewing it this evening. And FWIW: It could motivate me to _buy_ ($20) rather than _rent ($4) [from Amazon] if I knew the respective portions that go to (your) production company rather than just to Amazon.

Yes, I get a cut of every sale and rental, thought I don't recall exactly how much. It's a very small income stream and I don't really need the money. So much as I appreciate the gesture, you should feel free to rent. Frankly, a good review is worth much more to me than a sale.

+1 on this. I’d much rather spend more money if I knew it directly supported the creator/maker/etc. I often do this with my purchases where I look for their direct website and purchase from there.

> I remember thinking, well, he smelled and I tried to avoid physical contact, but was there really a need to make him leave

A homeless person was going through the garbage in the middle of a fast food restaurant... yeah, I assume that would be off-putting to customers & detrimental to their business.

Yeah I really don't understand this line of thinking. I imagine most would sheepishly agree that they would also do the same thing if it were their restaurant.

Offtopic but I feel I must add, sibilant sounds are an effective way to get boring meetings to end quick.

They are also tropes in old movies and cartoons when someone wants to pretend “there is nothing to see here, I’m just whistling in the wind… minding my own business” maybe throw in some foot shuffling.

Pro-tip on charity - see someone eating out of the trash? They could probably actually use your money. Much more effective than giving it to panhandlers.

They're looking for recyclables (for deposit refunds), and other things of value.

I have been wondering how I'd feel if someone cleaned out our recycle bins, before the truck picks them up. Our house alone goes thru a lot of aluminum.

In NYC a few years back, old women and men (elderly, often Chinese?) would regularly go through the trash refuse bins and collect cans and bottles. It was apparently a way to feel useful and busy while also earning some money.

One of my passing thoughts is that recycling could be a way to keep people occupied and also perform an extremely useful service. That is, expand on this.

The cynic in me, however, feels that this would turn into a dystopian nightmare rather quickly.

In NL we used to have door-to-door collectors of metals, paper, vegetable matter ('schillenboer') and glass. Then it all got industrialized and a couple of large companies got exclusivity from the municipalities. Who now have to supply them with mandatory minimums in tonnage or face steep contractually agreed upon fines. And here we are trying hard to reduce the amount of waste. It's such a complete fuck-up. Every yard now looks like a miniature recycling center, with up to five containers in some municipalities (we only have four, but they take up a lot of space and the smell is incredible). (the categories we have are 'remainder','plastic','vegetable/green','paper', and they are emptied irregularly and have a strange mix of capacities, in total there is about 1000 liters of volume across those four containers, and they take up 2 square meters).

Or at least a meal from the restaurant.

Yea, there is that aspect of it. Ideally, I will go buy them a meal, so they can't use the money for other things. I personally don't indulge in "other things", but I don't know how concerned I am about them using the money for that either. I think it's very, very difficult for someone digging through trash to get their life together, so if they indulge, they indulge. Note that it's not a comment on their character or anything of the sort, just the sheer number of things needed to re-adjust in society from zero, with zero real help.

Another point is that in most countries outside of the US, panhandlers are either "working for themselves" and make decent money, perhaps better than at a low-end job while having proper living arrangements, etc (and thus "rob" the true poor from the donation). It can also be worse, with situations where panhandlers are actually curated by an organizer who pays them a salary and takes a profit. The latter schemes are also mixed up in exploitation.

Now that I type it all out, I am realizing that buying a meal also prevents the second scenario too. Good stuff.

From a logical point of view from a resource management perspective you giving them money is better and allows them to get more bang from that gift.

You buy a McD combo drop it off and feel good. They have to eat it right away. There stomach will not be able to handle it all. They cannot save split the food.

If you give them money they could still dumpster dive for food, keep the money and buy other things they need like (maxi pads, or 1 food bar every morning for a week or a stamp to mail someone or quarters to make a call). They can buy a smaller meal or food in a form that will allow them to space it out over time. Most importantly they can buy the type of food that works best from them.

5 dollars could have multiplier effect. A pre-purchased fast food meal will leaving the homeless person craving for days.

The homeless are drinking/doing drugs less than homed people drinking/doing drugs because they don't have the resources. I would be concerned with salaried beggers.

That's a valid point as well.

if you give someone begging on the street with a drug habit money that they use for drugs, they either won't have to steal to fund their habit or they won't suffer through painful drug withdrawl, neither of which is good (the first for society, the second for them) so there's that. whether it'd be the ethically correct thing to refuse just because you don't approve of drug use is a complicated question...

I had a guy ask for $5 to buy cigarettes and beer. I gave it to him. Too often, I can't buy honesty at any price.

Living in one of the worse parts of San Francisco, for the past few years (west SOMA), I can say that people going through your trash is quite a nuisance.

You'll put your trash out for pickup day, and a significant portion of the time, someone will come and go through it. And often as they are going through it, they will just throw random things on the ground. So our little side street kind of has a constant layer of trash.

The city does employ people to come through and pick it up, and they do that regularly, but they would have to do it daily to really keep the street clean. I think they come more like weekly.

Tangentially, I was walking my dog this morning, and had to ensure she didn't step on the used hypodermic needle on the sidewalk. Nothing covering the needle. This happens all the time.

Right now they are at least 3 tents on my small side street block.

For businesses, like if you were at an In-n-out you must have been at Fishermans wharf, that's the only one in SF. They regularly have to ask people to leave who are acting in various disruptive ways, and bothering their customers.

A few years back, I was sitting at a bar in SF, that had outdoor tables. I think I was on a first (and only) date. I guy walked up, took my dates glass of white wine, drank the whole thing down, and then said "I'm an alcoholic". And then just stood there looking at us.

(Also as someone who's lived in San Francisco for years, I just can't help but be triggered when someone says San Fran.)

> people going through your trash is quite a nuisance.

Sure, but who is ultimately responsible for this, the people going through the trash, or the people who have structured our society in such a way that there are people who think their best option in life is to scavenge other people's trash? Because I'm pretty sure that the people going through the trash would stop in an instant if they were offered a better alternative.

I live close to Los Angeles so here’s my take. Even where I live an hour away there is a sizable homeless population.

Most people who enter homelessness leave it within a couple of weeks. That’s because these are people like you and me who due to unlucky bad circumstances are out on the street. They want to get back on their feet so they take advantage of social services, don’t have drug addictions or mental illnesses, and maybe have broader support structure through friends and family.

Then you have about 40% of the chronically homeless who are unfortunately not served well by the public services. These folks have mental illness that is left untreated and it’s sad to see them die slowly on the streets. These are fellow humans who are mentally incapable of making decisions, and they need full time care or something that puts them in a safer environment. We have ignored mental illness in this country.

The remainder is basically people who willingly want to be homeless and do drugs. They won’t enter shelters because you can’t do drugs there. They won’t take up temporary housing because the hosts ask for basic decency like no raging inside.

I think we need to make a clear separation between mentally ill/addicts and those who want to just do their own thing. Ultimately I’m paying A LOT in taxes and I feel that I have a right to access the public parks and not have to deal with belligerent people who pose a safety threat to the community. I can excuse the folks with mental illnesses or drug addiction as I believe we have an opportunity to help them - but if some folks adamantly refuse help then I’m not going to settle for letting public places just become dumping grounds.

> Most people who enter homelessness leave it within a couple of weeks.

I'm a bit skeptical of the "Most" claim but it's based on anecdotal evidence from recent years of interacting with our sizable homeless community. I haven't seen any stats.

> They want to get back on their feet so they take advantage of social services

While the first part is undeniably true, the latter depends on the availability or existence of social services. Southern US states are openly hostile toward folks with long term vulnerabilities. Where services exist, politicians here proudly trim them back where they can.

>and maybe have broader support structure through friends and family.

My mom rescued me from homelessness when I was a teenager. The odds of escaping homelessness without help are ~0.

you are interacting with the chronic permanently homeless population, what gp is talking about is the fact that there is an even larger population of temporarily homeless. although the statement is true, i don't think it is a useful distinction, because what most people mean by 'homeless' is those chronic cases, anyway, and that is the problem society, government and homeless charities are trying to solve. acknowledging there is another set of people with similar problems is great, but as pointed out, these people generally are getting the support they need, and are a 'solved' problem (in some sense) unlike the people you have been interacting with, who still need some kind of help and are not receiving it...

the skepticism is justified by simply defining homelessness as being without a home for more than a few weeks (the 'usual' definition, tbh) thus making gp's statement obviously false, i suppose.

San Francisco is on track to spend about $1.1 Billion dollars on homelessness this year, and $600M next year.


So it's not for lack of spending. But 40 years ago, we decided to downzone the city because we don't like even mid-rise buildings, and then we got a massive jobs boom.

Combine a huge amount of wealth creation, with a very constrained housing supply, and you're going to have price shocks, which will push the most vulnerable out on the streets. That's what we see.

And I happen to live in the neighborhood that that used to be much more light industrial, and happens to have the most shelters and services for anyone experiencing homelessness. Generally the others parts of the city fight against any kind of shelters or services... so it all ends up here.

> Because I'm pretty sure that the people going through the trash would stop in an instant if they were offered a better alternative.

Mostly, yes. Having been homeless myself for an extended period, I saw just how much mental illnesses impact so many people experiencing homelessness.

In my completely unscientific lodgings with them, I'd say its probably around 30% of the people have some sort of debilitating mental illness. I had other reasons for homelessness (lost job, eviction) which are much more mechanical and easier to fix.

I've talked with my SO about the mentally ill on the streets, and the only plan that seems to might work is to forcefully treat them, get them mentally sound, explain their whole situation, and have them choose. It would be in writing, and sealed with a palmscan. And I get that forcefully treating them once may be considered abhorrent, but they are not able in their state of mind to make decisions for themselves.

Once they're of sound mind, they should then have complete agency to choose to remain on the streets, or to obtain emergency services to get out of homelessness.

There are very few mentally ill people wandering the streets in Oslo, Norway. I have seen one guy with unkept dredlocks who seems to enjoy hanging around and chatting to passers by, but he almost certainly has a public-funded apartment and generous disability pension.

The difference is very striking compared with Boston (a city with similar climate to Oslo) where there are many obviously mentally ill people wandering around talking nonsense, begging for money, carrying their things in plastic bags, and sleeping on the ground.

I was homeless for less than a year. In my case, my mom (term cancer) and I were tossed from our long time family home.

The way - the only way - my homelessness ended is I had help.

Or maybe just offer them some basic food for free, so they don't need to dig in trash cans for it? At least the western societies (I don't know and have no opinion on others) are producing enough food that there is no reason not to offer some basic nutrition to everyone.

> At least the western societies are producing enough food that there is no reason not to offer some basic nutrition to everyone.

I live in one of the southern US states that tends to be hostile towards people in need. My kids and I had on-and-off hunger 2008-2018.

(created alt cause of HN's idiotic "posting too fast" - how dare I have a conversation with people online)

I don't understand what I said somehow excludes helping in other ways.

My views are probably a bit more radical, in that I think that everyone should have free food. Homeless, homeful, working, unemployed, citizen, foreigner. Everyone. No exceptions. And, we already have a basis to maintain this system - SNAP.

So when I talked about how to help those whom are experiencing homelessness combined with debilitating mental illnesses, I'm talking of making that program... Not by destroying other programs.

My 1 second old idea is for their psych clinic to offer free food in trade for checking their blood levels. It the meds are insufficient, they get Rx food.

Can't tell if I'll offer that idea again, once I think about it.

No one is really looking for food in the trash cans in the Bay Area. They are looking for recyclables that they can turn in for cash. Or other things that have some value that they can turn in for cash.

In the Bay Area there are plenty of ways to get fed. Happy to be shown I'm wrong, but I don't think it's common to be lacking for food.

AFAIK, it is kind of cycle. Being mentally ill makes you more likely to be homeless. Being homeless makes all your mental health issues much much worst.

> AFAIK, it is kind of cycle.

For folks who need meds, getting them to stay on them can be hugely difficult. It's even harder when that person lacks shelter and support.

I know it is a tempting idea, but forced treatment is an oxymoron. You can't force anybody to get healthy, unfortunately. As usual, prevention is worth a metric shit ton of treatment. Apart from that, all you can really do is reduce harm and marginally improve quality of life through housing, etc. Not that a marginal improvement in QoL is anything to scoff at.

This isn't true, and the fact that you call it forcing people to get healthy shows you're missing the point.

It's not about getting someone healthy, it's about getting them to a point that they are of sound enough mind that they can make rational decisions.

If you hear voices that tell you that antipsychotic medication is going to kill you, you won't take it. The idea that you're choosing to not take medication of your free will is wrong - your free will is compromised by a mental illness so severe that your perception of reality isn't even correct. How can you possibly decide what's best for yourself if you can't accurately understand the world around you?

The point of this kind of forced treatment is to get people into a state where their brain isn't lying to them and they have a basic understanding of what's happening, so that they can then make decisions.

The folks who say it's unethical to force this kind of treatment sound like they're sticking up for folks with severe mental illness, but they're really just condemning them to suffer from that mental illness for life, because without some kind of outside help they simply can't take the actions needed to stop suffering from it, because it prevents them from doing so.

there are no "people who structure society" in a meaningful sense. no one sat in a meeting and said " ok lets design it so some people have to eat out of the trashcan"

yes some people have more pull than others, maybe a lot more, but even the president doesnt have that kind of ability to "structure" the day to day reality of average people ina generalized way

> there are no "people who structure society" in a meaningful sense

That is ridiculous. Our society is governed by laws and social norms. Those are not handed down from heaven by the gods, they are made by people. Yes, it's true that "the people who structure society" is not a small or easily-identifiable group. That doesn't mean that this group of people does not exist. It most assuredly does (and if you are on HN you are probably a member of that group).

If all of HN is in this group than the group is so large as to be meaningless. 1% of all Americans is more than 3 million people.

I certainly don't wake up in the morning and ordain where people get there food from even if I'm an incremental part of structures that have some influence on the economics of America (all voters are)

> That doesn't mean that this group of people does not exist.

This logic sounds a whole lot like what a moon landing denier would say. I'm not saying you are in that group but the line of reasoning is the same.

That is equally ridiculous. A group does not become meaningless once it gets beyond a certain size. The Republican Party is very large. That does not make it meaningless.

righ which is exactly my point. the republican party as a structure has influence. that does not mean being a member of it gives you any meaningful influence. the collective has distributed power. this is in the same way as how the government as a collective determines a lot of how our society runs without their being people who "control society" even though the government is made up of people.

It’s not quite distributed though, it’s concentrated into a few hands, and we can name those individuals. Those hands passed a tax bill in 2017 that sent 80% of benefits to corporations and the top 1% of Americans. It was the only major piece of legislation they passed after getting into power between 2017 and 2019. That was a choice as to how they used their power, and they used it to help the richest Americans. That’s what people mean when they say “the people who structure society”.

>> no one sat in a meeting and said " ok lets design it so some people have to eat out of the trashcan"

What are panhandling ordinances if not exactly that?

Yeaaaa, but you guys have SEALS and electric skooters that tell you where the bad areas of the city are (where you can't leave your scoot). It's good times all around. And that windy road thingy.

It's a city, not a mall. If you want to keep alcoholics away from your beverage, it would make sense to not have it out by the sidewalk when they stroll by. Otherwise, that's life in the (sorta) big city.

You are victim blaming, and have low standards.

I, for one, would like to live in a city where I can eat/drink outside without fear of someone stealing my food.

And I want a pony

> that's life in the (sorta) big city.

Not in any city where I have had a drink in a pavement café! Not even in the US.

This reminded me of my aunt, who recently expressed concerns like this. Someone uses my toothpaste, "I just bought this tube a few weeks ago and it is almost empty" for example. And similar with ice cream etc. Thing is, it was her. She has recently been committed to a facility with Alzheimer's. At certain times, as the disease drifts in and out, she is quite present and sane, and cannot explain to herself the lost time any other way.

Have a similar situation at the moment. My grandmother has dementia and pretty much doesn't know where to go or what to do anymore. Is on meds almost all the time. Today she went like 6 times to the bathroom in an hour and this happened like for 3 - 4 hrs. I don't know if this is psychological / or from the brain or an actual urinary infection. I guess it's hard to find out this kind of stuff when she's on meds all the time. Interestingly, my grandfather is perfectly fine (she's like 79, he's 90 !). He's starting to have a bad eye but apart from that still goes out and about. Of course, his heart is sort of more tired now but he can still drive, walk around, go buy stuff. But my grandma can't, I can see in her eyes that she can't really recognize me or usually only recognizes her husband, unfortunately. Also, I had a grandfather who lost his life due to alzheimers, although I didn't really spend much time with him, or at least do not remember it but he was a veterinarian and died of relatively young age ( ~ 66 y). My theory for the cause of dementia for my grandma is that she stopped doing and having interactions with her friends and family. As we grew older, we stopped coming to their house, having dinner, having birthdays, family got more dispersed and she hasn't done much about it; the fact is, it's been only about a year and a half since the dementia first started (she was very functional like 2 years ago), probably the pandemic blew the fuse... She used to do all kinds of things back in the day. She coordinated exchange programs between my city and a sister city in the U.S. for students to learn the culture, language and study there. Also, she doesn't really have any friends afaik, just sometimes talks to her family but otherwise, has lost connections; while my grandfather, still looks for real estate to buy, things to do, art to buy/sell, etc. Still talks to some friends out and about.

There was the guy who dug a secret underground bunker under Hampstead heath: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/mar/05/invisible-city-...

There was also a story about an elder woman living in closets or even a cupboard in a home of some family, for over a year iirc.

This is it I think: https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna24889337

Turns out that one can easily find more than one such story, DDG even helpfully suggests the remaining keywords.

This article's introduction sounds a bit like the intro to Dickens' Bleak House. Quite a bit of literature. The nasty thing is they threw the guy in jail because they found an improvised firearm with his DNA on buried it near some of his stuff.

If you have nothing better to do, many of the "Experience" series in The Guardian are a fun read: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/series/experience

I like how honest the titles are, especially with the "Experience: " before everything.

Many many years ago I got kicked out of student halls at university. I used to keep my stuff in my lockers and sleep in the bathing rooms all night. If people tried to use one I'd yell "In the bath". One time I slept in a student lounge behind some sofas and very late a couple came in and made out, and I remained as still as I could. As they left the girl said "I could swear there was someone else in there" haha.

When I was cycling between Lisbon wnd Istanbul I made sure to either sleep far from view or to be as obnoxiously visible as possible (calling the local municipality, cleaning around campsite, knocking doors of farms nearby) precisely to avoid scaring people. I was lucky enough to do my homelessness as a choice, I can only imagine how many persons do this in city environments ourbof need of a shelter.

It's a relief to read an article about Enumclaw that doesn't mention horses

Wasn't there a similar story in Japan? Also multiple stories of people secretly living in office building and warehouses. Gotta make do, I guess.

The critically acclaimed South Korean movie "Parasite" has a story like that.

Another recommended Korean movie with a story like that is "3-iron". It has a more poetic approach.

Many years ago this happened in my area, it was in a grocery store (part of a large chain), but not as bad as in her house.

When workers showed up, they would be 1 or 2 wrappings on the floor and other minor things people would not take major notice of.

He got caught because the night crew schedule was changed and never posted, he was found walking in his night cloths.

He was a in his (low 20s) lived in a forgotten attic above the main store. Seemed he was an ex-employee who had setup a nice small apartment up there. Had a bed, small frig and a TV. He lived there for years.

They never prosecuted him because the company would be embarrassed.

These days I would think that would be very hard to do with all the cameras around.

I know this because I worked at that store right after he got caught when I was very young.

At my university a student lived in the physics building for a while since they didn't want to commute. I've also heard that at my high school, after I graduated, a kid was found sleeping in the drop ceiling due to likely an abusive home.

After the first time I dropped out of college, I had a three week period of homelessness. Since students had the keypad codes for after-hours access to the academic buildings, I slept in the math department lounge. There was a visiting professor from Germany, I think, who would come into the lounge every morning, see me sleeping and leave. I then would hide my pillow and blanket behind the sofa and walk to a dorm at the far end of campus where I could take a shower (most of the dorms on campus had bathrooms accessible only from dorm rooms but the one farthest away had a more traditional bathroom down the hall arrangement—and also a keypad whose code I knew).

I like to imagine that the visiting professor would come back with some other faculty/staff member in tow saying, "I tell you, he's HERE! sleeping in the lounge!" only to be treated like Big Bird trying to show people Snuffleupagous.

I lived in my office for a month or two when I was a grad student at a UC about a decade ago. I just put cardboard all over the windows.

At one company I worked for, a new hire started living on a floor under construction in the building. He thought no one knew, but we all did. Stayed up there for months since management was afraid of confronting him about it for some reason. He did do good work, I guess.

How did everybody know? What gave it away?

For months, every day?

Yep, for months it was where he lived. People suspected something odd when they saw him long after he'd "gone home for the day." Someone eventually went up to the floor under renovation (it was bare concrete and steel) and found his stuff. No one ever said anything to him that I'm aware of, but everyone (in our division anyway) knew he was up there.

He eventually got an apartment, and I ran into him in that neighborhood so we knew he was really out. I'm not sure what his situation was, we were all quite well paid by local standards.

RMS moved into his office after his house was burned down in an insurance fire.

In 2009 there was a Finnish woman who lived inside the buildings of the Berlin Tegel airport, for several months. She was mentally disturbed.


‘The Secret Apartment’ is the story of a Vietnam vet who claims to have lived in Veterans Stadium for years


Reminds me of Otto: https://overcast.fm/+U0D9gsAl8

Weirdly wholesome story, despite the dark undercurrent. Those of a certain faith may argue the stranger was an angel.

This story was covered in a more riveting way on a podcast I once heard, but I can’t remember the name of it.

The worst part of the story for me was the puppy. I couldn't care about her, but poor puppy

What's poor about the puppy here? It sounds like when something bad happened this person helped keep the puppy safe

How did this comment make to the top of HN?

The quality is deteriorating...

This works with votes and flags, the more votes a post or comment of people visiting HN the higher it gets, inverse to flags and some other factors but you will find more detail here:


About quality I guess is subjective but I would say there are two options here:

- use the voting system to accommodate it to your quality standards

- don't visit the page

Also weekends have had a quite long tradition of having more general interest subjects posted.

Not noticed it but as I said we always have the option to look elsewhere for "hacker" news

Yes but we don’t always have the option to see hacker news discussion. I personally invite to see HN’s viewpoints on non-“hacker” topics.

Agreed. I like that it feels like days off.

> - use the voting system to accommodate it to your quality standards

The downvoting seems increasingly bizarre. I have a post on this page downvoted; I said the post above was reasonable.

The reasonable post was correcting me; it brought up a point I had missed.

Yes I guess not the place for "hacker" news anymore...

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