Fake Homeless People

There are not many fake homeless people, but they do exist.  These people actually have access to homes but for whatever reason, they choose to not stay in them.  Let me qualify this and say that I’m not talking about people whose homes are toxic – the woman with an abusive husband who would gladly take her back into the house, or the kid who could live with his parents if only he would stop being gay.  Those people don’t have a realistic option to stay in a home.  That is what really makes a person homeless, that they have no other option but to live without a home.

The guy who decides he wants to wander around the country while sleeping in the back of his car and playing his guitar for traveling money isn’t homeless.  Kids who are bored with life and are looking for a little excitement and stories to tell their friends at home are not homeless.  The young lady who can’t afford tuition and housing at college so lives in a shelter while she attends classes is not homeless.  The homeless advocate with a “big heart” for the homeless who travels around the country visiting homeless destinations, so to learn what homelessness is all about, is not homeless.  All of these people have homes to go to, they have the option to live inside somewhere, and eventually, when their tour of homeless life is over, they’ll go back to living in a home.  They also have that special luxury, if things don’t work out right, to leave homelessness at any time.  Truly homeless people do not have that privilege.

It may seem strange that these people would decide to live among the homeless, they all have their reasons, but I’m not sure that they are justified in doing so.   Have you ever been to an  AA meeting?  Often times the addicts will tell war stories about how bad their lives had gotten, each one trying to out do the other with horrendous stories, like old war veterans sharing stories about the battles they fought.  They wear their experiences like a bad of honor…”man, if you think that’s bad, one time I got so drunk that…”   Well, for the fake homeless person, it’s kind of the same thing.  To declare themselves as “homeless” or to say that they were once homeless, somehow increases or validates their personhood, their identity, or character.  Supposedly, it give them credibility, a type of hero status.

“Joey, he did two years in Iraq – that must have been tough.  I’m glad he’s back”

“Billy was homeless for a while – that must have been tough.  I’m glad he’s back”

Worst of all are the people who have decided to become homeless advocates, thinking that there could make a living for themselves as such – and some have actually done just that  They spend a bit of time on the streets, declare that they have experienced homelessness, then they study up on homelessness on the internet, and go on speaking tours, or business ventures, using homelessness as the hook.  They create an income for themselves   off the backs of the homeless.  It just seems so unethical.

I’m not the churchy type.  Heck I’m about as atheist as they come, but there were a couple homeless advocates who really did it right.  They did it for churchy reasons, but they never thought it necessary to identify themselves as homeless, but only they they were living like homeless people do.  They wrote a book about their experience called “Under the Overpass,” and it’s on my recommended reading list.


About Kevin Barbieux

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


  1. …You didn’t say anything in the third sentence that ” she could stay home with Mom & Dad ” ~ simply that she can afford college/university , but not student housing . Hypothetically , if that is the case , if Mon and Dad are willing for her to be homeless (and while she is doing the ” good ” thing of going to (as the Australians call it:) ” uni “) , her folks will not let her have a home…that sounds fairly ” toxic ” to me !!!


  2. …To start with , I would really disagree with your third example in your second paragraph . Your example as you wrote it of someone who cannot afford college classes and university housing and so lives in a shelter certainly sounds like she is likely Truly Homeless (TH) to me , if we are to quibble of defining ” true ” TH-ness .
    Just breaking this down:
    Presumably she does not have money for off-campus housing while going to college , either (including family or friends to stay with) . Would you have her not go to college , so that she could afford minimal housing ?
    That, actually , assumes that she has cash available for such . Except for the richest , I believe college attendance usually involves some amount of grants/scholarships nowadays ~ Not generally applicable to anything else .
    Perhaps she had get sufficient loans/grants/schloarships ofr those classes , but…
    Yes , the first two examples as you outline them don’t come off as TH ~ But , there can certainly be a soft/porous line , in defining that sort of thing ~ I was going to say , ” Okay , granted , you don’t , LITERALLY , say ” They are not TH , therefore bad ! ” ~ But , um , the graphic you stuck on top sort of shifts the scales of the apparent ” opinion of the court/this newspaper ” over to the ” Editorially , I DISAPPROVE !!!!!!!!!!! ” side , let’s face it !
    Even if someone doesn’t have a TV human interest story-level ” toxic home ” ~ Let’s face it , some situations , whether home situation or money , might be ” The situation ISN’T YET at being literally evicted/” toxic ” , but…”
    I have read you for a long time , I’ve looked at your very earliest 2002 posts , I recall you posting a link up to the blog/page of someone who , while housed , intentionally went homeless for a while (I only part-read what I saw and , if it was ever resolved/finished , I don’t know whether that resolution is up anywhere .) . Were they ” posers ” ?
    Bluntly , in your as-recounted-by-you life situations , you have on occasion gone from one town to another , away from where you lived at that time , to that new town , homeless . It also appears that , again , I only know what you have described here , at times left housed situations when it was , anyway , not a situation of being literally , at that second anyway , totally cashless/ or locked out or both .
    I think that could , if someone followed such a ” Got to prove I’m REALLY homeless ! ” mindset , lead to someone just delaying inevitable homelessness and depleting themselves of all their funds/bad situations happening/even , frankly , getting themselves a little too ” homeless-looking ” in both/either image or looks , and thus having less to draw from at the beginning ~ You are the one who has tended to say that you , yourself , ” try not to appear homeless ” , and has advised those facing likely homelessness status to not hang on to your housing til’ the very last dime is gone , accept it/try to move on from there .
    Yes , I am homeless myself . As of right now I am housed ~ in a nursing/care facility , getting some extremely needed care for medical problems of mine(Which I have spent YEARS having , on not getting proper care ~ I could tell you some stories…) , on California state insurance ~ I’ve already been told that the insurance has given a date for when it runs out . That date has not been explicitly spelled out to me yet , but I already knew the general given length of my time here from the beginning .)
    But then again , I myself have ` a little more humorously , and following more of a ” broad church ” definition ~ chewed over the ” who’s REALLY homeless ? ” ? myself !
    Se ya , Bro………..


    • Yeah, it’s a bummer that a lot of kids cannot afford to go to college, but that situation is not forcing someone to become homeless. They have a home back with ol’ mom and dad. And please don’t get me wrong, I don’t really care if people decide to live among the homeless, just so long as they are honest about things and don’t refer to themselves as being homeless.


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