This man, Norman Moore, is homeless. He is my brother. He became an alcoholic and the family gave up trying to help him years ago. We reconnected over the last five years and we speak on the phone about twice a week.
Norman worked most of his life, owned a house, paid his taxes and contributed to society. He and his wife divorced and he invested in a farm and from there an office building. He went broke. He began to drink to excess in his late fifties and the downward spiral began. DUIs, license taken away, lost his wheels. Lost his ability to get to work. Can’t pay fines. Jail time.
No one can live on zero money without stealing or begging or dumpster diving. You can’t sign up for welfare without an address. Social Security will no longer send checks to a post office box. You have to have a bank account. And you can’t get a bank account without an address. Likewise, he can’t collect his carpenters pension.
When you are homeless, you have nothing to lose. But, you can’t live way out in the country where I am, for instance. The homeless need services. A grocery store, a laundromat, a liquor store. Hardest to come by is a shower. Homeless people congregate in cities near parks with restrooms, or any open spaces. Norman can sometimes get to a church or rescue mission for meals if his current camp is near enough. Some rescue missions require you to listen to their religious message first, which he resents.
Norman is a Jesus freak. He is never without his bible. He doesn’t steal or commit serious crimes. His rap sheet is drunkenness, resisting arrest, trespassing, loitering, and his latest, for growing marijuana. He has had a stroke and is crippled to the point where he can only walk about two blocks. He can bike a couple of miles. He has been shoved off his bike, his bike has been stolen several times. He can’t defend himself.
Norman has been removed from camping in the bushes, from under the freeway, from private properties, from public properties or a condemned house, I’m guessing about 60 times over the last twenty years.
Example. He got rousted from some bushes. Found a new spot near a grocery store he’d never been too before. He looks scruffy. He is dirty. Grocers expect the homeless to steal. He went in, bought three cans of beer. The the owner watched him like a hawk. He went out in the back near the dumpster. Didn’t find anything worth eating. He sat on the pavement and opened the beer. The owner came out and said: ” You can’t drink that beer here. I’m going to call the police.” Norman told him, go ahead and continued to drink his beer. It’s mid day.
The police arrived and by this time he has consumed two beers and was on the third can. The cops took one look at Norman sitting peaceably next to the dumpster with his beer and they turned to the owner and said, “You called us out for this? Get a grip.” They left. And, so did Norman when he finished his beer.
It is against the law to be homeless. It is literally impossible for a human being to exist without the right to stand on a piece of the world’s real estate. We treat stray animals better than we treat the homeless. Shame on us.
Norman’s saga continues tomorrow. I know many of you have read Norman’s story in my blog over the years. San Francisco is doing a big study on how to better deal with the homeless, thus I’m repeating since my blog goes from this venue to SF Gate.