6 Hidden Dangers Of Being Homeless You Didn't Know Existed
Most of us assume the dangers faced by homeless people are straightforward: You have to stay warm, stay fed, and avoid the myriad falling anvils that you never realized materialize out of the sky when there's not a roof to protect you. And although all of those dangers are true for people who call the sidewalks their home, there are also a ton of underreported traps and scams that no one ever tells you about.
Psychotic Harassment Can Come From Everywhere (Including The Cops)
For the world's shittiest humans, homeless people are fair game as a source of entertainment. By this point, you've probably heard of Bumfights, those terrible videos made by terrible people using the homeless for human cockfights. And not the kind of human cockfights that show up in the gay section of PornHub -- the kind where filmmakers pay transients cigarettes and booze to Jackass their bodies into permanent disability for entertainment purposes.
Calgary's most disgusting citizens took homeless baiting a different route with Creature Sightings, a Facebook page where assholes post pictures of local homeless people ... to make fun of them. Another douchenugget uses a Steve Irwin persona to play pranks on homeless people "in their natural habitat." Someday, his "natural habitat" will be Hell, where he'll be sewn face-first onto Cerberus' taint.
"Oh, Here no. I don't want that shit." -- Satan
Sadly, all of that is mild compared to what the homeless population endures from the boys in blue. Rather than protecting a vulnerable population of people, it's not uncommon for officers and authority figures to use their position for some good ol' fashioned bullying. Members of the Sarasota Police Department were caught "bum hunting" when police logs revealed messages like "I'm the Bum Hunter tonight son! UR a nerd and gonna get beat up by a bum when you wake up ..."
Officers from another police department skipped all niceties and went straight to pouring warm cooking oil all over homeless people in their jurisdiction. After all, as one officer admitted, "After time, it starts to get boring just slapping people. You have to devise new methods and new tactics to revitalize the hunt." Revitalize the hunt. Jesus. Is ... is this the new midlife crisis? When your sadistic torture games fill you with ennui?
"There has to be more than tear gas and tasers. I need something ... exciting. You know?"
Sometimes, it's not the police force but the goddamn Army taking advantage of the less fortunate. The Arizona Army National Guard came under scrutiny when it was revealed that some of their recruiters were driving around in Humvees and shooting homeless people with paintball guns. These are the same people responsible for visiting high schools and convincing impressionable teens to join their ranks.
The lesson to take away from all this? The Earth's crust should be booby-trapped with giant hilarious mattress springs, so that we can fire entire acres' worth of assholes into the unforgiving vacuum of space at a moment's notice.
Fines For The Homeless Are A Kafkaesque Nightmare
Across the country, officials are instructed to fine the everloving hell out of the homeless, for no other reason than that they're homeless. As we've mentioned before, "Quality Of Life" laws ban sitting or lying on sidewalks, so that the unhomeless don't have to walk around the less fortunate. That's great for pedestrians, but not great for the people who are expected to live their entire lives on a never-ending urban hike. For them, the choices are to keep walking or pay a $50 fine. Not that anyone who found themselves resting their bodies on a sidewalk would be able to raise money to pay the fine -- anti-panhandling laws create restrictions on where and how people who are down on their luck can beg for money. And most of these laws are enforced with, you guessed it, fines.
"Sir, loitering is illegal. As is wearing dirty clothes and ... well, frankly, I'm jealous of your beard."
In 2004, San Francisco issued somewhere in the ballpark of 31,000 citations for actions like sleeping in cars and panhandling -- things specifically done by the homeless population due to them having as many options as a hot dog in a hamburger bun shop.
It's Easy To Screw The Homeless Out Of A Paycheck
It turns out that many people living on the streets actually do have jobs, thank you very much. There's just the little issue of nobody wanting to pay them. One homeless advocacy group in Florida recently came under fire for expecting their beneficiaries to sell concessions, do landscaping, work in construction, and write grants ... for free. According to Tampa's New Beginnings, all of these work opportunities were "therapy" for the workers participating in their program. And by "therapy," we mean cheap-ass bullshit. In exchange for food and shelter, New Beginnings participants worked untold hours doing WHATEVER the charity asked them to do work-wise.
Worst of all, they were forced to watch the Buccaneers.
And they weren't the only ones. A council member in Atlanta hired homeless people to help her campaign, which would be inspiring if they weren't paid in tax dollars and were given more than $5 an hour.
"We can't offer more -- we've got schools to not fund, you know."
Meanwhile, Japanese gangsters hired a group of homeless men to help clean up the 2011 nuclear spill in Fukushima. Yes, for the equivalent of $100 a day, homeless people were asked to clean up the shit that spawned like 45 percent of Godzilla's rogues gallery. And guess fucking what? The workers who were mopping up radioactive sludge didn't make the money they were promised. Once they were docked for housing, food, and spacesuits, some of them only ended up making $10 a month. Others left the cleanup in debt, probably because they went a little nuts on the Fukushima cafeteria offerings.
The Homeless Are Often Coerced Into False Confessions
We aren't talking about forcing someone to admit to their all-time favorite guilty pleasure song here; these cases are a lot more serious than losing your cred with the hardcore metal crowd. In 1994, a 19-year-old homeless woman admitted to beating a man to death, despite the fact she was totally innocent. The man who interrogated her, Jim Trainium, has since realized how he led her to that confession, basically coaching it out of her the entire time. Meanwhile, a homeless veteran from Chicago was convicted of rape, and spent 11 years in jail before everyone realized that the incident never actually took place.
"That's the Chicago way!"
Mental illness and low mental capacity play a major role in the false confession phenomenon. At least 32 percent of false confessors were found to have one of these issues. Which puts the homeless specifically at risk, seeing as how a fifth of that population suffers from mental illness.
Six different studies have shown that, since the 1980s, at least 250 false confessions were directly caused by interrogation tactics. That isn't 250 false confessions total -- which wouldn't be so bad, given the time span -- that's 250 due only to interrogations gone wrong. Just since 2012, the University of Michigan Law School's National Registry Of Exonerations has recorded 1,599 exonerations of previously convicted suspects due to new science and investigation techniques. Clearly, there's a disconnect between those two sets of statistics -- either someone is really, really bad at math, or there's another sneaky element at play here.
Which serves as a nice little segue into our next entry ...
People On The Streets Often Get Themselves Arrested Just To Have A Place To Sleep
A 2010 British survey found that one-fifth of the homeless population admitted they would be willing to commit a crime in order to be taken off the streets. In a two-year span, 920 people were taken into custody by the Harris County Jail five times or more. The Corvallis Police Department arrested 38 people multiple times in a two-week span. Being the smart and attractive young readers we assume you are, we're sure you've guessed by now that mental illness was once again the thread tying all of these statistics together.
Well, that and delicious state gruel.
Another 2013 study determined that between 25 and 50 percent of all homeless individuals had a history of incarceration -- a high amount no matter which number you run with. The explanation is pretty simple: Homelessness equals nowhere to sleep (especially with all those fines up there) and prison equals beds. So we end up with large amounts of people with no options and nowhere to go committing crimes and, dare we say it, falsely confessing to crimes in order to get a place to lay their heads at night. These people are so desperate for a place to sleep that they are willing to settle for a nasty, uncomfortable cot that makes your cousin's smelly old futon look like a high-priced hotel bed.
Prison isn't the only refuge for these poor unfortunate souls. Many choose to rely on the healthcare system instead, repeatedly visiting emergency rooms in order to sleep in a real bed with a real blanket under a real roof for a night. One California man is said to have racked up a million dollars in healthcare charges over the years because he kept turning up in the hospital. That's just one man. An area hospital was said to have lost $900,000 in one year treating five homeless patients. But hey! Free healthcare at least.
Except that isn't always a good thing ...
Using The Homeless For Fraud Is Common
In New York, 23 doctors were recently charged with insurance fraud because they thought they had hit on the perfect way to make a bunch of free money. They simply went around asking homeless people to sign up for state-provided healthcare, and then had them participate in unnecessary exams so the doctors could bill the system for beaucoup bucks. All the homeless got in exchange were pairs of sweet-ass kicks.
But there's no need to get too down on doctors, no matter how wrong they may be about our eating habits. Lots of people are guilty of using the unfortunate to make a quick buck. One group of hooligans paid $50-$100 to homeless victims in order to use their identities to purchase $600 iPhones. The phones were then sold for a profit and the phone bills charged to the bank accounts of the homeless -- who, of course, couldn't pay them off.
"No money? Looks like we'll have to charge you a fine ... which you ought to be used to by now."
So for those of you keeping track: We have a population of people whose lives are destroyed because their credit has been trashed and they're in massive debt to the city. On top of which, they each have too many arrests on their records to be able to find a place in a society that has taken to hunting them for sadistic sport. Too bad there isn't any way to prevent the total destruction of a citizen's future and the loss of millions of taxpayers' dollars.
Except maybe paying them for the jobs they hold. There's always that.
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Be sure to also read 7 Things No One Tells You About Being Homeless and 5 Mind-Blowingly Valuable Things Hidden in Everyday Life.