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Homeless by Choice

On any given night in American there are between 700,000 to two million homeless people and many are their by own choice.

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As a nurse working in a large hospital, I see my share of varied patients. This week I had the pleasure ,and I truly mean pleasure, of taking care of a 48 year old homeless gentleman.

Mr. X had a history of TB and had not been able to afford his medications. Sleeping outside in a field with only a sleeping bag and blanket as his home and with the raw freezing nights, his respiratory status quickly deteriorated.

He walked three hours with his personal belongings on his back and a blanket wrapped around his shoulders to the nearest hospital. The temperature was around 25 degrees.

He was admitted with rule out TB and possible pneumonia, placed on my floor in Respiratory/ Droplet Isolation and started back on his unaffordable medications. It was soon found his TB was not active and he did not have pneumonia, only the flu.

Mr. X was a model patient. He was kind, quiet, respectful and thankful for whatever we did for him. It was noted in his records he had a drug habit and he did often ask for pain medication. His complaint was pain in his chest from coughing. He would request IV Morphine but when told no he smiled and gave no further argument. We did give him pills for complaints of pain every four hours.

Because of his homeless situation case management was called in to help with outpatient medications, and to try and find a group home or half-way house in which he could recuperate.

Mr. X refused all our efforts to help him. I asked him why. I was told he liked the way he lived. He enjoyed sleeping outside in the quiet, even when it was cold. He didn’t need a home or family, he was fine on his own. He told me he received a small monthly check from the sale of some land he once owned in another state. This kept him in food, drugs and cigarettes.

In the end he was discharged with his belongings on his back, a months supply of his TB medications, and whatever we nurses could hide in his backpack or a bag. I know he left with a new blanket, juices, peanut butter and crackers.

I found his choice to be homeless confusing. I tried to look up statistics on the homeless by choice and could find none. I did find several personal stories by people with family members that are homeless by choice. This odd breed of the homeless population seems to be thriving and growing.
In my research I found on any given night in American there are between 700,000 to 2 million homeless people and the main reasons stated for their homelessness.

                        REASONS FOR HOMELESSNESS

1. Low wages.
2. Reduced benefits.
3. Shortage of affordable housing.
4. Limited access to public housing.
5. Parent or parents unable or unwilling to help a child.
6. Disputes with a spouse from divorce and or domestic abuse.
7. Mental illness or drug abusers.
8. Former prisoners.
9. Natural disasters.
10. Teen runways.

The definition for homelessness is having no home or haven. There is no definition for homelessness by choice and the reasons someone would chose this lifestyle is a bafflement to me.

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User Comments
  1. drelayaraja

    On January 16, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Nice article… touching

  2. T. S. Lewis

    On January 16, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Not being judgmental but maybe it falls under mental illness or drug use.

  3. Brenda Nelson

    On January 16, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    While in Vancouver my first husand had a homeless friend whom he invited for dinner, we made a nice steak. They whole time the guy belittled us for being fools and working for a living when he lived off the system.
    What an insult… if we didnt work for a living he would not have had a nice big steak dinner that night.
    While I can be sympathetic to some homeless people, each one is their own reasons


    On January 16, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    It was sad to know that there are still many homeless. I hope the local govenment will provide necessary help to those people. Great post to help bring attention! You’ve me clicked you “I like it”.

  5. Anuradha Ramkumar

    On January 16, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    What a touching article. In India, you can see many homeless not by choice but because they have no other choice.

  6. Littlekid137

    On January 17, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Homeless does not seem all bad. The world is away from you and you do not have to concentrate on society and all it’s flaws. This was a very touching article. Thanks for sharing

  7. joyhyena29

    On January 17, 2010 at 12:54 am

    great post^^

  8. Karen Gross

    On January 17, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Great write. Homelessness is a complex issue – not easily solved. I guess it is a way to drop out of life.

  9. qasimdharamsy

    On January 17, 2010 at 3:27 am

    Great Post…well done…

  10. Val Mills

    On January 17, 2010 at 4:31 am

    One of Wellington’s homeless by choice died about a year ago, and if the papers were anything to go by, he was missed by many. I used to see him spending cold days in the library, reading and writing letters. There are at least two more down there that I know of. Not sure if it’s a mental illness as suggested above or just that some people prefer to live differently.

  11. albert1jemi

    On January 17, 2010 at 4:45 am

    thats really bad substitution

  12. Christine Ramsay

    On January 17, 2010 at 4:53 am

    It baffles me too. I love my home comforts. It is a sad situation when so many people are homeless. Thanks for bringing this home to me. Well done.


  13. ken bultman

    On January 17, 2010 at 6:07 am

    It’s the system. Once you learn to work it you don’t need to work at anything else. Responsibility weighs too heavily on some individuals. They will claim to like the way they live. What they mean is they are incapable of being valued members of society.

  14. Glynis Smy

    On January 17, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Some folk like being alone, with no world pressures. I like you, came across them while nursing. I too, ensured there was soap, food and a fresh blanket in their bag. I remember a Dr asking one patient if he could measure his feet, I was baffled but smiled when I noticed an old but good pair of shoes sitting on the bed.
    Lovely article.

  15. Guy Hogan

    On January 17, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Like poverty and crime, homeless will always be with us. As a you man, I was homeless once. My parents took me in and helped me. I found a job and went on to get a Master of Fine Arts degree. It is my theory that the people who make the choice to be homeless have finally given up. And they give up for valid reasons. They don’t want to deal with the reasons any more. They cut all ties to other people, institutions and society. And once you are homeless so long it becomes your lifestyle. It becomes the way you deal with life. You don’t know any other way. I was trapped in that cycle myself. It’s the devil you know; and at least you know what to expect. My parents saved my life.

  16. giftarist

    On January 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks for bringing this up..a very touching article.

  17. papaleng

    On January 18, 2010 at 3:54 am

    A very touching post. We do have a similar problem in our country,

  18. magicdarts

    On January 19, 2010 at 3:38 am

    thought provoking -I would suggest that many are simply choosing to run away from suffering or abuse in their lives rather than making an active choice to be on the streets

  19. Ruby Hawk

    On January 19, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Pam, it is weird to me too, but these people exist. I knew a man who had family to help him, They would have been happy to provide a job so he could live comfortably, but he would not. He lived on the streets of Atlanta, and died in his fifties, likely from poor food and exposure. I could never understand it. He did say the streets were where his friends were.

  20. cutedrishti8

    On January 20, 2010 at 7:28 am

    It’s in every part of the world…

  21. amandeep13

    On January 21, 2010 at 3:22 am

    Good Stuff

    Keep the good work on


    On January 21, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    wow interesting, choosing to l alone. dats interesting. thanks for sharing.X

  23. alensmith

    On January 23, 2010 at 3:45 am

    realy very nice post.and thanks for ur reply also in my post which i will find.

  24. Moses Ingram

    On January 23, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    An interesting post. I’m sure that as you say for some it is choice, but I think there has to be something more.

  25. lovenluck

    On January 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    great article

  26. fishfry aka Elizabeth Figueroa

    On January 27, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    You are so correct, and yes they do choose this lifestyle. Why?
    Because there is nothing to worry about, and with a good sleeping bag, and a few dollars he is carefree and yes Happy. A very “deep” // “intense” reality check. Thanking God I have an abundance of food, a roof over my head, which all comes with responsiblity. Whoa………

  27. R.B. Parsley

    On January 28, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Until the Reagan administration, the homeless were rarely mentioned publicly. When the homeless situation came into the spotlight, they often were called the New Poor. The Homeless Situation was created by uncaring politicians, Industrial Leaders, and business owners who wanted to tighten job qualifications. Suddenly if you didn’t have a high school diploma you couldn’t sweep floors and clean toilets. When I worked at Ford in my hometown I worked with people who were lucky to have a sixth grade education let alone a high school diploma. Believe it or not these same people were some of the best workers you could ever imagine. Because of a piece of paper, they were laid off and fired. So its real easy to see why some of these people prefer the streets instead of a regular job. If you don’t have a diploma, the streets are where they prefer people to live. Its time people put their foot down on these uncaring Industrial leaders and heartless politicians and get these people off the streets and back to the lives they once had, and by that I don’t mean jobs that pay next to nothing, but decent paying jobs. In these days and times, the Homeless situation is getting worse with our present economic crisis. Requiring someone to have a High School Education is nothing more than legalized job discrimination that should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Sorry about getting on a soapbox here, but the largest portion of our homeless population wouldn’t have or wouldn’t be homeless if it weren’t for these heartless fools. Great article Pam. This guy is a excellent example as to the condition that our billion dollar companies and cold hearted politicians have put us in. Lets take their cushy jobs away from them and make them live on the streets. Then maybe they will remember that their companies were started by people that didn’t have a high school education, and the people that built their products and helped turn their companies into the billion dollar companies should once again be their most valued asset. Job security is no more and for that reason, the homeless situation will always be in existance until the voters and the citizens of our fine country put their foot down.


  28. zoeyclark

    On February 11, 2010 at 8:05 am

    This is just as confusing to me as well. I can respect the fact that he grew stronger and could really survive but being homeless by choice is plain shocking…can’t get my head around it. But then again, maybe it is a good thing. Then we can concentrate on helping people who are not willingly homeless or don’t enjoy living like that…

  29. Kris Myers

    On February 22, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Wow, what a compelling and sensitively written article from your excellent, nursing perspective! Many thanks for sharing this insight – Kris

  30. Goodselfme

    On July 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Gently sharing post from one who genuinely cares.

  31. Lars

    On February 22, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    I feel a kinship with the homeless man and understand why someone would sooner be homeless. What do you do if your like me and would sooner die than work. A job kills your soul.

  32. crossroads

    On November 30, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Im homeless by choice. I’m a single 35 yr old woman. I live in my office, get ready @ the gym. My business suffered greatly in 08, then I trusted family that robbed me – ended up in debt. Going homeless seemed to be the only answer. After 2 yrs – I now see the truth, have to file bk. Can honestly say tried everything to avoid it, after 82 job applications, coupons, walking to save on gas. I plan on staying homeless maybe 1 more yr to create financial buffer since awful credit the next decade. Then find a home for emotional stability so i can successfully go & complete school for a more stable career. I admitt, the thought of walking into an empty home @ night makes me sad. Maybe I avoid a home cuz it concrete evidence that i’m alone. I got out of a bad 10 yr relationship with no children. It was my biggest dream to have a family. Being an ‘ostrich’ & sticking my head in the sand is 1 of the main reasons im where i’m at. Emotionally, relationship-wise, financially. When things got tough, i avoided. After some counsiling to help with my co-dependency, and finding my faith, I have the strength to become my potential instead of my bare mininmum. Your kind words help, ususlly i just see judgmental thoughts. Pray for me :)

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