Let's discuss homelessness and it what it means to our difficult children


Well-Known Member
The idea that some prefer homelessness to conforming even to shelter rules has been a big source of discussion lately. We, as those who follow societal norms, think our difficult children are suffering greatly, starving, alone and scared. Yet there is lots of evidence that there are tightknif homeless communities that know the score and the best places to eat and that they prefer this lifestyle to the safe, warm homes we tried to give them. Since all people are different, I don't think everyone prefers to be homeless, but a lot of our adult kids are in a place where they plain do not want to follow rules and in the US this usually means they do not want to go anywhere if they can't be out as late as they want, if they have any 12 step groups they have to attend or if they have to try to get jobs and, most importantly, if they have to be clean and sober.

My only really homeless son was 36. When he got kicked out, he still whines about how he walked around one night and had nowhere to go. Of course, in his case, he hadn't needed to leave...he chose to leave. After that he would have come back but only if he didn't have to do anything differently and he did not see his abusive, aggressive behavior and locking himself in his room 24/7, porn (some which was very kinky) and total isolation and breaking of the laws as a "big deal." He never did promise to change.

His father came to the rescue. We were divorced by then and put him up in little hotel dives, but 36 was living with drug addicts and criminals in the other rooms. He is no hero and was scared. He was lucky he had anywhere to go at all. Andl, except for only acting aggressive and bullyish toward people who are weaker and smaller than him, he was a criminal too, minus the drugs (at THAT time). I used to drop by at his current hotel sometimes with food and to keep him company. He actually didn't like it. He was scared and depressed, but again unwilling to follow the rules because he didn't think he did anything wrong. Most important to him was to be allowed to stay in his room with the door locked. Since we found numerous cartons of urine in there, rotted food, and the mess on the internet...the answer was no. We also found stashed money which he had probably stolen. Finally ex actually bought a condo right in his area to give him a place to stay. guess he figured he could handle him better than I did, but difficult child shoved him a few times too and was doing illegal stuff there...still, he didn't want to be homeless. He liked people to look up to him (narcissism is in him). On the surface, he looks good. Nobody sees what I saw.

What do you think about your difficult child?

Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
It seems to me that the kids are drawn to, seem almost to be fascinated by, the idea of "making it on the streets". Just like it is for us when we learn to face up to our fears for them and let go, when we learn how to not be held hostage to love or guilt or fear or hope...the kids seem to be choosing homeless.

Ours is a wealthy and generous and charitable society. Once our kids are actually living on the streets, we learn there are shelters, soup kitchens, medical care, people to check on and counsel them, and a community of people in similar positions.

And at long last, because they are already homeless, because they have nothing to lose and nothing to protect, they can do as much alcohol, or as many drugs, as they can get money for.

difficult child daughter would not like to be homeless again, but she is proud to have survived it.

I think homeless in America is not the nightmare it seems to be to the parent. The money we sent difficult child out of fear she would be penniless went for drugs and alcohol. Because she had something in that culture where no one had anything, she was, so she told us, beat for that very money we were sending to help her.

She overdosed and woke up in Intensive Care more than once. Again, that was the money we were giving her every week that made that possible.

We truly believed, the whole time, that difficult child was using that money for food, soap, toothpaste and etc. That money was a comfort to us. difficult child would not come home and it was all we could do for her. It was the most frightening, powerless feeling. Now, we know better.

Here is a funny thing: When difficult child daughter was homeless, I called or emailed the street outreach program here so many times for things I wanted for difficult child that the legitimacy of her homelessness was called into question.

Can you say "helicopter parent"?

Even difficult child was like, "Mom. What are you doing."




Well-Known Member
Staff member
I believe there is an excellent chance our daughter would be homeless if it 1- weren't for SS disability and 2- if it weren't for her dad being designated payee. I think at one time when she was younger, she briefly had some odd fascination with the idea of being homeless. But, as she became an adult, I would say its a little more like what MwM said a refusal to be in a shelter ...combined with a utter and compete inability to see cause and affect logic. So, she can't save he money to pay rent even if her rent payment was just days away. She might spend it on music and then run the very real risk of being homeless. Being homeless doesn't scare her all that much. The only thing that scares her, is the idea of being in a shelter. She is so fortunate that we manage her money and she has a roof over her head because of this disability money. She knows many homeless people. They don't frighten her, etc. she is comfortable around them. The entire thing is concerning because of course we wonder what would happen if and when something happens to us. We asked her older brother if he would take over and at first I thought he would throw up, but his wife convinced him to consider it.
I wish she would improve or there was a place she could and would stay at that would keep her safe. It's all so sad.
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one day at a time
Just a few observations I have right now on homelessness:

***It appears that my son's "schedule" goes something like this: Go to the day shelter early in the morning (it opens at 6 a.m.). Take a shower there, wash clothes (sometimes), use the computer, eat breakfast and lunch. At 3 p.m. the shelter closes. Then they walk to the McDonald's nearby and sit outside on the picnic tables. If somebody has some money or a gift card, they might eat there. They go to the library and get on their computers. They sit on benches downtown. At night, they sleep downtown either in a plaza-like area where there are benches and bushes and grass or they go into the downtown parking garage and find a stairwell or other place to sleep. He says it's cold at night, even in the summer, so the garage is warmer. Sometimes they go on the greenway and walk around and swim in the river. They can go to the Salvation Army at night and eat dinner. This is the weekday schedule. On the weekends, the day shelter is closed so there are no showers, and no meals there. A church provides breakfast on Saturday and Sunday and the Salvation Army has dinner both nights as well.

***A social worker told me there is little incentive to get off the street in summer for a lot of these young people. The weather is good, and they can do it. In the winter, it's a different matter, she says.

***My son also gets food stamps. Last month he had $187 in food stamps. Now, in our state, to get them again, for subsequent months, they have to be drug tested and found clean.

***There is a community. They have friends. They are not "all alone." They help each other. If one gets money or a gift card somehow, they share it with the others.

***The state hands out free cell phones. You can make calls and text.

***From where I sit, it looks like you have to spend a lot of time just walking around and using the services available. You don't have a car, so you have to walk. It's hot outside so you are sweaty and sometimes you can't take a shower. You have to find places to use the bathroom. You have to carry all of your stuff with you---my son has a backpack that is crammed full. They will hide their backpacks and sometimes they get stolen. The other day the police had my son's backpack and he had to go to the police station to get it back.

***The police stop my son about every day or every other day. They ask him for ID and they can search his backpack and him any time without cause because he is on felony probation.

***For medical care, they can walk into the ER here and they will treat them. My son has health insurance through his dad and he can go to a clinic with a copay. I have paid his copay for his depression medications.

***The main problem is that there is nowhere to sleep. Then they are really tired, and if they wanted to "get something done" it would be hard because they are exhausted.

Bottom line, it's really not that bad. I mean, it's bad, but you know what I mean. It's doable. My son said the other day: "I'm sick and tired of this life Mom, but sometimes it can be fun."

There you have it.


Well-Known Member
"I'm happy Mum"

that's what it means to my son.

(Of course he doesn't think of himself as homeless though, because he lives in a tree in the grounds of a derelict farmhouse and managed to evade the bailiffs' first attempt at eviction :confused:, so maybe I'm not eligible to respond to this thread. )
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Well-Known Member
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), what stories.

I've already discussed with-my husband that we'll probably have to subsidize our difficult child when he moves out. I just don't see how he'll have the stick-to-it-iveness to work as many hours as he will have to, to even pay rent, renter's ins, much less afford a car, car ins, maintenance, health ins, groceries, and god forbid, kids.

He really wants his own apartment, though. He is too scared to live on the streets. He would probably couch -surf for awhile, but I know he would get into arguments, and want a place to be alone with-his girlfriend. And he likes his "alone time." (As I do.)

I am betting on the idea that it's too scary out there, and he'll follow our rules. Plus, we hinted that we might buy him a car some day and all of a sudden, he's behaving, doing chores, and he wanted to open a savings account. We had a big, huge fight the other day because he took out $14.95 for a video game (he only had $50 but the majority was my money, because the econ teacher told the class it was only a $5 deposit). I withdrew most of the money and will put it back another time. But today, we drove to the ATM and he deposited $5.

Maybe there's hope ... as long as he takes his medications, and continues to behave ... it's the behavior maintenance that's the hard part, as you all know.


Well-Known Member
Mine will bounce from mental hospitals to jail. It hurts to my very core to say that. He will not be able to couch surf because he has no friends. He refuses to follow rules. That eliminates staying in a shelter. He will not be able to keep any type of job for more than a few days for the same reason.


Well-Known Member
My first born son and darling boy has been homeless for three years, for the most part. He is 20 now, was 17 when he left home. He has couch surfed, slept in friends cars, slept on the floor in the apartments of people he meets on the street, slept in and on cardboard boxes, and now, for a long time, has slept under one of two bridges in town (meaning for the last 8 months or so). He frequents emergency rooms for minor things like headaches or cuts or what he describes as anxiety attacks. Sometimes he gets admitted to a psychiatric ward or detox (he is probably hospitalized briefly 5 or 6 times a year, and another dozen er visits) He had disability and food stamps, but I don't think he has them anymore. He begs. In the winter he shovels sidewalks for cash. Sometimes he gets a job delivering take out food, or washing dishes. He sells drugs.

As Child says, he gets free phones sometimes, and sometimes just uses a beater. He migrates with his loose group of other homeless people from free breakfast to free lunch to free clinic. He uses the computers at the Apple store, or he buys a cup of coffee at a coffee shop and can use their computers for 30 minutes. He uses the toilet at the train station. He carries his belongings in a backpack, but when that gets stolen (which seems to happen regularly) he'll carry them in plastic or paper grocery bags. He doesn't have much anyway, even when I give him warm clothes or new underwear it disappears. He gets medications and showers at a local center on weekdays. Sometimes he'll embark on a short stint with a social worker (meaning trying to get him lined up with housing, job preparedness, reinstate his disability, whatever). Sometimes he'll go to AA or NA and focus his day around those meetings.

Overall he is usually with other people, and they seem to have a pattern to their day. He is not hungry. He does not lack for food, drugs, or companionship, and has access to medications and social services if he tries.

That is his life. Now I"m going to stop typing and go back to mine.

Echo (bitter today)


Well-Known Member
Both COM and Echo have described my difficult child's life to a "t". From the day shelter to the soup kitchen to the free phones, ER visits, belongings getting stolen, community of homeless friends, etc. All of it. Uggggh. When this first happened a couple of years ago I was in denial and used to pretend that his situation was not real and that instead he was off to college or doing something great with his life. It was my coping mechanism at the time. I stopped doing that though because every time reality hit - it hit hard! Lately I've been accepting the reality of his situation. Like COM says - I lean into my feelings. I let myself really feel the sadness, anger, fear, guilt, disappointment - and then I move on. Sometimes the feelings linger but I've noticed lately that I'm in a much better place emotionally than I was a couple of months ago. Although the situation is and always will be devastatingly sad, I'm now able to separate myself from it and live my own life. When and if difficult child gets tired of that lifestyle he'll change it.

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one day at a time
I've noticed lately that I'm in a much better place emotionally than I was a couple of months ago.

I think this is key to better emotional health for us. Feel our feelings, whatever they are. Make time for it, and the aftermath. Don't do anything with the feelings, just feel them. I used to be afraid of letting myself feel my feelings, because they were so overwhelming. Keeping them pushed down was NOT GOOD for me.

Also, I am now talking more directly to difficult child. I can be more matter of fact, and less emotional with him, because I am feeling my feelings---away from him---I am creating separation and distance between us, and I am simply being direct about ME. I am talking more about me and what I want and will do and won't do (as it is necessary) and why, instead of always him.

He just called me. He is coming over to meet AAA to tow his car to a shop to have them ID the problem and either see about fixing it and/or selling it.

He said he is applying for jobs.

Still not living anywhere.

Okay. Life goes on.