Quote of the day

Loading Quotes...

Homeless: The Battle Against Safety

This is the second post in an 8 part series on being homeless, by a guest author who goes by the name Dreamscaper. It’s my honor to share his story with my readers.

Going a few days without food isn’t hard for most people. So, before you hear the rumbling of your empty belly, a new threat happens. Buildings are closing. Night is approaching and you are officially homeless for the first time in your life. Maybe you were smart enough to sleep during your first day so you can roam the streets at night. You probably have a couple options:

1. Breaking and entering

2. Finding a safe spot you won’t be bothered.

When I was homeless I chose number one. At night I would try every single door handle on campus. The janitors were usually cleaning and could find something. I’d prefer buildings I could have an excuse to be in and lock like an outdoor bathroom. If questioned, I could say I had to use the restroom while up and about and this was open. If questioned, I could say I locked the bathroom because it was the middle of the night and I was scared. As a final precaution, I usually preferred to sleep on the toilet with my pants on my ankles. I always wanted an excuse to be where ever I was. If I heard the janitor coming in I had my excuses, pulled up my pants, flushed the toilet, and nobody would be none the wiser. Luckily I was never caught. Plenty of times someone checked if the door was unlocked.

(The above image was taken by JoeTaxpayer in 1994 on his honeymoon in Paris)

Next best building was a building with a 24 hour computer lab. I slept in computer labs plenty of times where the lab monitor just told me to close the door behind me when I left. He thought I was a student. But typically a building with a computer lab if I had access to the first door (wasn’t locked) I could safely roam the entire building.

Other buildings that were opened I was thankful the cleaning crew listened to music. I just had to be on the opposite side of where the music was coming from and look for the cleanest rooms. They would have cleaned that room already and had no reason to be back if I was quiet. Once found, I’d look for parts in the room that was hidden from the door. Closets were good. Hallway bathrooms weren’t as good because I couldn’t lock them and had no excuse of being in them if the janitor needed to use it.

When no doors were accessible I started to check windows. I think one night I found a window. I had to crawl under tables to find a door to a hallway then was safe. I didn’t want to be spotted outside. One night I found a frozen burrito in the teachers’ lounge. I didn’t dare use the microwave. I ate it a few hours later when I thought it would be less frozen. It wasn’t. One night I fell asleep pretending to read a book. I got woken up by the janitor and a cop. They looked at my “stay awake” pills, ran my ID to see if I had a record, and told me to try to stay awake next time.

When nothing else was available I found myself on the streets, looking for a locked dumpster or anything else that would provide a couple hours of safety. This happened every single night I was homeless. Luckily, during the day time I found a spot I felt safe. During the weekends, though, even that wasn’t safe as buildings were closed.

Next Week – Safety From What?

  • Don August 1, 2011, 3:30 pm

    I was lucky and had my car to live out of, but very little else, and barely had gas money (one month non, so walked everywhere). Finding places to park and hide at night was hard though!

    Sounds like you were near a school campus? I would think that would make it even harder to find places to be safe, and out of site of the cops?

    Food does come first!


  • Evan August 1, 2011, 2:42 pm


    Joe, did you ever discuss how this particular individual got to being homeless?

  • JOE August 1, 2011, 7:46 pm

    It will come out in a later installment in the series.

  • Anji August 3, 2011, 3:36 am

    When I used to work into the eveing in our local town the homeless people were settling down in shop entrances at around 8 on a winter’s eveing. The earlier they arrived, the better the shelter. They used to start queueing up at around 4 in the afternoon by the over night shelter for the homeless (now in the process of closing). Those with dogs couldn’t stay there. Most of them have dogs for safely and company. There is no heating in the bus station nowadays because in winter it used to fill up, Same for the railway station. Dreamscaper doesn’t say whether he met other homeless people on the campus.

    Thanks for sharing this Joe. Everyone should read this – it can happen to anyone, as Don would confirm

  • DS August 4, 2011, 8:26 pm

    It’s been awhile since I wrote this so I don’t remember if I answered. I think there was one well known homeless person on campus that I knew even when I was a student. I think he was never bothered by anyone on campus because he didn’t bother anyone. One homeless person, I suspect, stole my cans one night so I didn’t have any money the next day. Off campus I was hasled by homeless people wanting any of my remaining possessions, which was a 10 year old walkman, a cheap watch to tell time, and whatever I could fit in my backpack.

    I think I was lucky because I wasn’t bothered for the most part, and in return, I tried to keep a low profile that even best friends thought I was still a student. Even though this happened 15 years ago, I still don’t know where the homeless shelters are in that city, how to apply for aid there, and I think I felt safest doing what I did.

    I think I mentioned this towards the end – If it wasn’t for people to force their help on me I know there was no way I’d ever get back on my feet. I wrote this to Joe like 6 months after this almost happened to me again. Most people would hope to never go through it one time let alone two times.

Leave a Comment