Living HomelessWith scandals about the “homeless” settling in squatter camps on the main streets of major cities making headlines, I decided to investigate. I quit shaving and bathing, sewed an “emergency” credit card into the waistband of my most ragged pair of old jeans, and hopped the next freight train out of town.

For the next few weeks I became a homeless man copping hobo rides on freights to major cities in the U.S. and living on the streets. What I discovered reveals a lot about the state of civil society in America—and even more about how so many of our virtue-posturing elites are destroying the culture.

First of all, it’s not comfortable living on the streets, sleeping in back alleys with prowling cats and rats, lining up at missions for coffee and donuts, and queuing at the Salvation Army for a hot and a cot for those who don’t already have tents and shelters erected on sidewalks. Although I appeared—and smelled—unkempt, volunteers at homeless shelters regarded me suspiciously since I didn’t stink of alcohol and didn’t appear stoned. I had to make up stories.

“I’m a combat veteran with PTSD. I don’t give a ___ about anything. Dying seems easier than living…”

“My wife left me, so I just took off walking…”

“Anything’s better than working…”

The people I met on the streets? Mostly alkies, dopers, criminals, ne’er do wells, the lazy and worthless, a smattering of mental cases…

I happened upon a man scrounging through a trash can in a public park in St. Louis. I watched him fish out a half-eaten McDonald’s burger. He spotted me watching. He jumped back in alarm.

“I’ll share it with you,” he offered quickly rather than chance my seizing it from him.

I lined up on the sidewalk outside a Salvation Army with a few dozen other decrepit-looking men and one scrawny woman scratching parasites. Some of them were boozing or shooting up with heroin or using cocaine. A tall, imposing-looking black man dressed like Tex Ritter walked up with a dog leash and collar, but no dog.

“Pet my dog,” he demanded.

Drunks and dopers wanted to pet his nonexistent dog. They became frantic with fear. They petted the sidewalk, the curb, anything to get the cowboy to move on to the next in line.

In Chicago, I executed a little experiment. I lay down across a major city sidewalk and pretended to be passed out drunk. Most pedestrians paid no attention, simply stepped over me as though I were a rain puddle.

A police car passed and kept going. Dopers shooting up, passed-out drunks, scraggy whores, thieves, all living on the streets in cardboard boxes, shelter halves, old ponchos, pup tents, even rusty vans parked at the curb. . . I asked a cop about it.

“Liberals are nuts,” he explained, pointing to used syringes in the gutters. “Instead of doing something about it, we’re told not to bother them, to be tolerant. It’s ‘insensitive’ and ‘racist.’ They have a right to live on the streets if they want to. We’re becoming a Third World Country because of a bunch of nutty politicians and liberals.”

Once on a rainy night in Seattle, I slept in a mission dormitory, on the top bunk after removing my shoes and draping them over the bed post. Next morning, I discovered my sneakers gone, replaced by a pair of shoes with holes worn in the soles. I put them on and continued unabated.

I was dining in a mission one evening (bologna sandwich) when a national TV crew filmed us for an episode on America’s homeless. I concocted a story so bizarre that only an idiot would have believed it: abuse as a child, abuse by my alcoholic wife, hooked on substance abuse, mean commanders in the Army… Even my dog had hated me.

Apparently, the interviewers were idiots. I appeared on national TV news that night. Just another homeless man living on the streets and tolerated by a society gone a bit nutty.

Charles W. Sasser is an adventure author of more than 60 books and thousands of magazine articles. His most recent book is Crushing the Collective: The Last Chance to Keep America Free and Self-governing. He has been selected by Marquis Who’s Who in The World to receive its 2019 “Marquis Lifetime Achievement award.”