Distress Signal

It is not just that I don’t deal well with confrontation and stressful situations, there is something in the way I’m wired that causes me to freak out. As I have recently learned, it is due to Asperger’s Syndrome.

When on the streets and selling The Contributor, Nashville’s homeless newspaper, it inevitable that other homeless people will see what you are doing, and will want to challenge you and edge you off the spot so they can panhandle there.

Certainly, most vendors of the paper will stand their ground and fight for right to sell, but every time I’ve attempted to do that, the homeless just escalate things to the point of violence, or the threat of it.

Think of me what you will, but I just can’t deal with that.

So, I have tried to find some place in the county to sell the paper where there are no homeless people, and where average people are willing to buy the paper. I had found such a place. It was not easy. It took an hour bus ride and three miles on bike just to find the place. But now there are homeless people and panhandlers there, in a place they had not been before. Sure, this is partly a sign of the increasing population of homeless people, but this is also a reaction to the growth of The Contributor. Now that there are 350 or more homeless people selling the paper (and competing with each other for the few good selling areas), regular panhandlers are also having a harder time finding places where to panhandle. The location I found was at the county line.

For some time I didn’t see any homeless people while I sold there. Now I see several every day. And they have seen me. And they know that spot were I sell is a money maker. There is a camp under the interstate nearby with 4 or 5 homeless people living there. And they approached me just the other day telling me, in so many words, that I needed to give up my spot to them. These are fairly desperate types, alcoholics who can become violent when they can’t get a fix.

I could try to fight for the spot, threaten to call the cops. I tried calling the cops before, when I sold at another location, but they never showed up. Many of the police see no difference between homeless newspaper vendors and homeless panhandlers, and won’t take sides. They always make a low priority of conflicts between homeless people.

Anyway, I have lost my selling spot because of this, and will have to find another place to sell. With so many vendors out there already, all competing for the few good selling spots, I’m worried, and quickly losing hope. I don’t know what to do. When I explained this dilemma to the administration of The Contributor, all I got was, “I’m sorry.”

I cannot imagine myself going back to the streets, I don’t know how I’m going to continue paying my rent.

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About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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