Friday, February 25, 2011

Social Networking

Most of us absolutely hate Facebook in one way or another. It's addictive. It takes over our lives. It can create unwanted drama. Sure, that all may be true, but to the homeless it's a way to connect and feel a lot less alone.

Read this article from the Los Angeles Times. You might just see how important Social Networking sites are to some people. The Wired Homeless

I can't complain about Facebook myself, The vast majority of readers find this blog from there, and for that I thank you, and everyone at Facebook... the company.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Losing The Beard

This is me. My name is Sean Donner. Seven months ago, I wouldn't stand out to anyone in a crowd. I looked like every other person, and really, there was nothing super special about me. Then I got an idea to live homeless from city to city across the western states of America. Part of whole idea was not shaving. At the time I thought that homeless people couldn't shave and therefore all of the men had beards. I quickly saw that that wasn't at all true. But I didn't have anything to shave with, and so a beard grew. And although I didn't like it, there it was. By the time I was given a razor, my beard was far too long to shave off.

Well, I decided enough was enough and acquired a beard trimmer on February 14th. I got back to my brothers house in Phoenix ready to rid myself of the thick red hairy mess that was attached to my face when I realized that my beard trimmer needed to be charged for 14 hours. So after waiting about six hours I couldn't wait any longer. Here's what happened.

This is right before the trimmer was turned on. A crazy smile goes with a crazy beard.

Obviously the trimmer didn't last through the whole beard. I got the sides mostly trimmed down and it had had enough.

An hour or so later I went back at it, and got it shaved well enough for the night. 

Yep, with that I can sleep easy. I'd finish it in the morning.

So here we are all showered up and finished trimming. Oh for the record, I didn't forget the mustache, I left it on purpose. I'm going to look like a real old west cowboy for awhile. We'll see how long it lasts. 

So there it is. I'm sorry to anyone who was really looking forward to seeing the beard in all it's glory. But this is after all my life, so you can just go think about that.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Family Matters

Last night at about 8:00 I arrived in Phoenix, AZ after a six hour drive from Los Angeles, CA. I drove straight to my brother and sister in law's house on the north side of the city. It's great to be with some family; over the last few months I've become a bit on the lonely side for some familiar faces. Not just familiar faces, but family.

Over the last couple of days I've been thinking about all the people I've met since I've been on the road. There were so many people who would talk about their families and I would just think about how someone could sleep at night knowing that their father or son is out on the streets, occasionally in some bad situations. There are people out there who really don't have any close family members, but there are plenty that do have close family members. Some of the younger people have parents or siblings that would be more than willing to take them in and help them get back on their feet. And for those who don't live near their family, there's a program (often called Homeward Bound) that will pay your way anywhere in the country if there's someone there who will take you in so you can get back on your feet.

So why don't they?

It's not that difficult to empathize with; at least that's my opinion. Most adults want nothing more that to be able to take care of themselves, and as hard as it is to live off of food given at shelters and kitchens, it's a much larger hit to your ego and self esteem to be taken care of by your parents or siblings. Many other ones are very much like the Prodigal Son, meaning that their family loves them and wishes they could see them, but honestly have no idea where they are, or what their living situation is.

It's sad that it's that way, but in many cases our damning pride is stronger than our desire to live normally.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Officially, I don’t condone panhandling. I feel like you should do something for the money you’re given. And I don't think that it's a good way to spend time if you're claiming you'd rather have a job. This is why anytime I’ve been asked by people who they should give money to or where to donate, I suggest shelters, kitchens, other local homeless programs, and as far as individuals goes, people who are doing more than standing or sitting with a sign. I like people who are out there playing an instrument. As a wannabe musician and a music lover, there are few things that make me happier than unexpected live music. So it’s my opinion that people should donate to the people who are doing something more than those who just stand there with a sign.

With that said, I’ve watched, talked to, hung out with and been one of those people. (I panhandled twice in order to get the experience to be able to intelligently write about it) So first off, for those of you who are a panhandler, here are some simple rules of ethics. Why do you need ethics in panhandling? People are more likely to give you money if you're not a total dick. I've seen people walking the streets screaming about no one caring about him, but he was really making it hard to want to help him. Yesterday, I watched a man panhandling at the way out of a parking lot. I watched for a while as he explained to a man that he couldn't get a job because he's an ex-con. I don't know what he did to go to jail or prison, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for him. He was talking back to people who didn't give him money and to another homeless man who was panhandling in the same area, which brings me to the next ethics rule.

Don't overcrowd an area. If you have a spot that you like and one day you get there and someone else is there, don't try to fight him for it, respectfully find a different place for that day and get there earlier the next day. Don't fight for "turf", you don't have any.

I've already talked about it but do something. You're less likely to be looked at or treated badly if you're doing something that people would want to tip you for. Everyone has a talent of some kind; use it. I've obviously come in contact with people playing music, I've seen people selling art. I've been told jokes and spent time with people who make tips telling jokes.

The point is if you're going to beg, realize that you're going to be looked down at, don't get mad, don't fight over a street corner, and for goodness sake, do something. 

Friday, February 4, 2011


I've been with some friends over the last week of my life and I've been asked a lot of questions. I've been thinking of some of these questions and about the fact that I'm running out of things to write about. I've thought a lot about a few things that I left out in other cities and maybe somethings that I never meant to leave out but still, somehow, forgot to mention.

I feel like this might be kind of old information, but I've been thinking a lot lately about the different reasons people find themselves living on the streets.

There are people out there who, like me have chosen to be in the situation that they are. To most people this makes absolutely no sense. Honestly, I have trouble understanding it myself. I can understand wanting a simpler life. In a lot of ways "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" is true, but at the same time, having a bed to go home to beats not paying utility bills. And with out a doubt, taking a shower everyday beats taking a shower every week. The romance of being completely free is, in my opinion, what makes people decide to live on the streets, at least it did for me. This is a tiny percentage of the people on the streets, however.

I haven't said much about it, but the obvious reason that some people are homeless is substance abuse. I haven't talked much about this on purpose. You see, one of the main reasons I'm experiencing this way of life is to be able to break down stereotypes, and what's a bigger stereotype than, "all homeless people are on drugs and always drunk"? But I've always said that stereotypes are stereotypes because in a lot of cases it's true. With a lot of the substance abuse there's mental illness. It's my experience that in a lot of these cases the people in the situation are veterans. Most of these guys are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Dealing with my own trauma from experiences in the past, I can relate and empathize with these people. Luckily for me, where they were failed, I was not. If we want to take a huge bite out of future generations of homelessness, we have to start with our veterans. A little bit of time in therapy will do wonders for each person returning from war. It's terrible that it's not mandatory for each person returning from war to at least undergo psychological evaluation. I'm not saying that everyone who experiences war is going to have issues, but there's a large enough percentage that something more needs to be done.

I touched on the group of homeless people who are suffering from mental illness, but not all of these people are self-medicating with drugs and alcohol; likewise not all of them are veterans. There are people who are born with a mental disability that can keep them from being able to hold a steady job. In many cases these people slip through the cracks of the Social Security system because they may not look or seem disabled, in some cases they themselves don't realize that there's something not normal about them. And so they go from job to job, not knowing why they can't handle holding just one of them, and spend there lives in poverty or homelessness.

This brings me to the last group of people I've clumped together, and the major reason I decided to live this time of my life in this way. In this economy there are too many hard working people losing their jobs. In many cases these are people who have given the best years of their lives to a company and a job they probably don't even enjoy. Some of them spent year in and year out working for weekends, vacation time and retirement. Then they lost everything they worked so hard for when the company either couldn't or refused to keep up with changes in the way business is done. And so now they find themselves living on unemployment which is quickly running out. There are successful business owners in that are finding themselves going from living in multiple houses to selling everything and moving into an apartment that is too small for their families. If things don't turn around soon, even these people will find themselves staring down poverty to the point of homelessness.

Next, it could be your job.