Fix Homelessness How to rebuild human lives

human stories

man falling down from a hole of light, surreal concept
man falling down from a hole of light, surreal concept

The Lowest Depths

Back to California. Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths, first staged in 1902, focuses on run-down people living in a flophouse: Vaska the thief, Nastya the prostitute, Luka the tramp, and Kvashnya the meat-pie seller, along with a downwardly-mobile baron, a suicidal actor, and others equally miserable. But in the play, at least temporarily, they are alive and conscious. If fentanyl had hit Russia then, even famed Moscow Arts Theater director Konstantin Stanislavski would have been stymied in creating some dramatic action: Users of the synthetic opioid are often inactive, with stiff limbs. Gorky portrayed lower depths, but fentanyl drops users in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district into the lowest depths, close to death. I’ve walked many crime-ridden areas by day, but Read More ›


The Humanitarian Crisis Right Before Your Eyes

How could 6,000 shelter beds be unoccupied in Los Angeles County? It’s a number, reported in LAist in July, that makes no sense given the miles of homeless encampments that occupy area streets and sidewalks. Looking for an answer, I talked to Dave — a formerly homeless man who asked me not to reveal his last name. Dave told me how he ended up unhoused in the 1990s and then worked his way into a good job and a steady roof over this head. He believes that homeless individuals who live on the street choose to do so, because when he didn’t have a roof, he chose to spend the night in missions with rules, not on streets without them. Read More ›

pawn shop sign
Neon Pawn Shop Sign
Photo licensed via Adobe Stock

Homeless in Seattle — in fiction

In 1993 Native American writer Sherman Joseph Alexie Jr. published a short story collection titled The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. In 2003 he publisherd in The New Yorker an Alexie short story, “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” that was one of the top three stories of the year, according to the prestigious O.Henry Awards. It has been anthologized and assigned to thousands of high school students. Although all the action is within one small area of Seattle, it’s a culturally important meld of the Noble Savage and Happy Hobo traditions I wrote about last week.   The story begins, “One day you have a home and the next you don’t,” and then quickly identifies the narrator/hero Read More ›