Homeless “Dignity”


With the 24 hour news cycle, it’s probably forgotten by now, but there was a big to-do about a company that offered jobs to homeless people through a shelter.

The idea: homeless people walked around the city with a wifi broadcaster and a shirt emblazoned with “Homeless Wifi” people could approach & purchase the password.

The people in the program (all men I suspect) made at least $50 a day plus tips.

Now there was a big bru-haha about how “exploitative” and “undignified” this program was. Clearly these people have no idea of what dignity is to the houseless! (I prefer that term to homeless)

Begging people for change is undignified. Digging in the garbage for people’s leftovers is undignified. Having the cops roust you from sleeping in a doorway at 5AM is undignified.

Having to pee between cars and poopin the park with no shovel because you don’t have enough money to qualify as a customer to use the bathroom is undignified.

Constantly fending off offers of cash or drugs for sex is undignified. Selling drugs or your body because that’s the only way you can see to get by is undignified.

Being arrested for things “normal” people do every day just because you’re homeless is undignified.

Marketing and providing a service for more than minimum wage?

Sounds dignified to me.

But don’t worry, I’m sure all the negative press has assured that this program won’t happen again.

That Time I Got Violent…

I haven’t written about my early years on the streets for a while, but this story came up last night…

Back in 1999 I was living in a 21 foot trailer in a junk yard in Ballard/Seattle with a bunch of strippers, tweakers, and alcoholics. Now, I’ve never been a violent person, but one night as I was walking in the yard with one of the strippers–who was also pregnant–the Manager of the property suddenly hauled off and decked her out of the blue. She hit the ground hard.

I grabbed him, trying to immobilize his arms from behind. The move didn’t work like I had it in my mind. Maybe it would have worked if he had resisted, but he went all limp and flaccid in my arms, staring at me with dead fish eyes. He wriggled out of my grasp and ran to his room in the warehouse with me hot on his heels. He barely squeezed in the door shutting it hard on my leather clad arm, until I had to pull out and  let the door close. I tried to kick down the door, only to be restrained by the “music producer”/pimp who lived downstairs. I almost kicked him in the balls in frustration, but managed to calm down as four or five people restrained me.

I never did find out what that incident was all about, except that the stripper said he was always peaking at her through a hole in the wall of the shower and she told him to stop (possibly forcefully). She was okay, and continued to live there, but I had to leave shortly after that.

I moved into a four-foot tall nook in the basement of a hippy house off of University Ave.  A year later I ran into the stripper’s boyfriend, and he gave us some bizarre story of her giving birth alone with him in a canyon during a flood while he was tripping on acid. He seemed fuzzy on the whereabouts and status of both his girlfriend and their child.

I’m a really non-violent person, but if you beat a woman in front of me I will fuck you up.

Pride Friday Dyke Night

I went out dancing Friday night at the “Greatest Bar,” a four-storied bar near the Gardens in Downtown Boston. Actually, I didn’t know quite where it was when I set out, or that it was game night–but as it was, after much fervent praying to the Goddess Asphaltia–I landed a sweet spot a couple blocks away.

I loaded my sneak-a-toke and headed out through the streets. Orange street lights gleamed off store fronts as jocks and jocketts in garish green roamed the night. I went the long way around, ducking into doorways to suck the sweat pungent mota in deep, trying not to cough.

I circled the block, and was almost at my destination: a generic bar festooned with rainbow balloons, when I got sidetracked by a sweet old man reclining on some gray emergency blankets. Before I knew it I was sitting next to him on the cold concrete. He thoughtfully draped a shelter blanket over my lap. Like most “house people” I dressed to go from my car to the club, and not for sitting in a wind-tunnel at night.

Ben the Homeless Guy, as he introduced himself, told me stories and sang me songs as women strode by towards the Club and Frat Boys sauntered by in the other direction. It had been a long time since I was on the receiving end of averted gazes. Ben seemed more in need of human company than money at the moment, but the guilt so many people felt walking by restrained them from even making eye contact. He sang extra loud and sweet as each group or person came by, eliciting some smiles and jokes.

I’ve always liked hanging out with older men, even if they do tell the same stories over and over. During my early time on the streets the old Alchies took me in and looked after me, “schooling me” on the streets.

We talked for about twenty minutes–actually he talked mostly and I soaked up his stories.

Finally I had to go, I came out to dance, after all.

“You know it’s all just a meat market.” He said, as I got up to go.

“I know,” I said, smiling. “But I like shopping.”

*     *     *

The club was packed with women of all shapes and sizes–all four floors of it. Mixed-in were an odd assortment of frat boys who looked like they had gotten a little more than they bargained for. Black clad male security guards on each floor added a dissonant note. The top floor was where the dance was hottest.

I danced. I danced hard. I danced with the two best dancers in the room–a skinny white stick of a woman who moved with the quirky precision of a mime, and a thick brown-skinned woman who wowed-out on the dance floor. I danced with the second woman a lot. Even got her number.

*    *     *

Then it was time to go, and I found myself back on the street outside talking with my new friend homeless Ben. He was all excited because he had witnessed a man running from a bar fight. Testosterone charged men seemed to be everywhere–running up and down. I couldn’t help contrasting these dangerous-feeling men with the stream of happy lesbians exiting the Greatest. Sirens wailed in the distance.

I wanted to give him something, but felt that giving him money would cheapen our interaction. Just then I heard to women discussing getting a cab.

“Where do you live?” I asked them.



“Well, how about I give you a ride home, and you give the money you would have spent on a cab to him?”

“Well, I was just saying, I don’t have any money.”

“That’s okay, pay what you can–it’s a sliding scale.”

The other woman put a few bills in his cup. We said goodbye, and it was off into the night.