Of course everyone needs and wants friends, and in most situations, the more friends, the better. But life is different on the streets and the same rules do not apply. I guess it mostly comes down to the fact that being homeless is, among other things, a state of constant desperation, and desperate people are more likely to disregard other people’s needs, as they struggle to take care of their own. Time and time again I’ve heard the sad stories of how one homeless friend screwed over another.
For example, a girl cries to a case manager that her “boyfriend” up and left without her, he left without saying where he was going. And she had put all possessions in his care. They had come to this city in his car. All her luggage and other personal affects were in the trunk of his car. She had always slept in his car at night, so she didn’t know where she was going to spend the next night, she had no clue how to get into a shelter.
Then, there is the “crab mentality” or “crabs in a barrel”. For reference, there is a wiki page that explains it well, and there are youtube videos that show this particular phenomenon at work in real time. In a bucket or barrel, a crab could easily climb his way out of it. But, when in the barrel with several other crabs, he’s never able to escape. This is because, once the other crabs see a crab making his way out of the barrel, the other crabs will grab onto him and will pull him back into the barrel. When the other crabs see another one about to escape the barrel, they think they can hitch a ride, so to speak, on the one who is about to escape. The problem is that the escaping crab does not have the strength to pull himself and the others to safety.
It is very much true for homeless people as well. It is very difficult escaping homelessness, but if your homeless friends see you getting off the streets, they may very well expect you to help them get off the streets as well. And often what happens is that no one gets off the streets. For example, you may get yourself an apartment, and the next thing you know, your homeless friends are asking if they can come live with you. If you say no, they will become offended, drama may result. If you tell your friends where you’ve moved to, they will show up at your door unannounced, expecting you to take them in. This could only cause trouble with your landlord, and just might cause you to lose your apartment.
I personally have had many things stolen from me while I was on the streets, and those were just random acts. Someone once stole my eye glasses. I was staying at the old rescue mission in Nashville, it was winter and the place was packed to over flowing. All they had available for me was a patch of cold linoleum covered floor to sleep on. I took off my glasses as I prepared to sleep, setting them on the ground right in front of me. When I awoke in the morning the glasses were gone.
I also am not well equipped for making friends, I just don’t have the social skills for it. Even when not homeless I don’t really have “friends” – usually just acquaintances whom I’ll briefly talk to in passing. Someone once called me “anti-social” but that’s not the case. I am very much “pro-social” and I wish I could engage more people on a social level, but I lack the ability to do so. Chalk it up to my Asperger’s Syndrome. From what I’ve seen, there are a lot of homeless people with Asperger’s Syndrome.
I guess what I’m saying is, be very careful about whom you trust among the other homeless people around you. You should also keep your guard up in regards to people who work at homeless shelters. Being homeless is a very precarious situation, and even the slightest loss can be a big setback.