The “secret homeless”

 
The homeless that you happen to notice — the obvious-looking homeless — are just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath them are millions of “secret homeless” — the ones you’d walk right by and never guess that they’re homeless.
I was talking earlier about the “secret homeless.” The millions of “secret homeless” who nobody even notices that they’re homeless, let alone gets counted by the census-takers. Take this guy, for instance.

He’s been hanging out on Sproul Plaza on the Berkeley campus every day for years now. Usually all day long. He usually shows up every morning. And leaves every evening. Asian guy, around 30, neatly but blandly dressed. So he blends right in on the campus. Usually sits alone in the shadows. I’ve never seen him talk to another person. Usually sits there quietly with his head down, reading a newspaper, or doing the crossword puzzle. Doesn’t do anything to call attention to himself. And you’d probably walk right by him without even noticing he was there.

At first I wondered if he was maybe a Chinese spy, secretly spying on the Berkeley campus, the way he was always lurking in the shadows (you know me with my imagination). But I quickly had him pegged as one of the “secret homeless.” I figured he had some kind of hole he could crawl into nearby where he could sleep at night. And then hung out on the campus all day for lack of anywhere else to go.

Then, sure enough, a week ago I was walking down this street a couple blocks from the campus, and I spotted him getting out of his car parked on the side of the road. His car was packed with stuff, all of his possessions. And he was obviously sleeping there every night.

This guy is super discreet. His car is cleverly parked in this spot where there are no residents or businesses, so he probably never gets noticed or hassled (in fact I’ve walked by it hundreds of times without noticing it). And usually, instead of carrying his stuff around with him in a backpack or bags, he carries it in this bag that you’d carry a tennis racket in, so people would think he’s just on his way to enjoy a jolly good game of tennis. Pretty ingenious.

The only reason I noticed him is because homeless people are good at spotting other homeless people. In the same way, I guess, that gay people are good at spotting other gay people. And I assume gay homeless people are good at spotting other gay homeless people. Ha ha.

2 thoughts on “The “secret homeless”

    1. Nah. Every person on the streets has a story to tell. But I leave it up to them whether they want to tell it.

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