David is 60 years old. He receives Medicaid benefits and $200 a month in food stamps.

David says he falls through the cracks. He can’t get much government aide because he doesn’t have a qualifying disability, and he’s not of retirement age.

“If you're pregnant, have adolescent children in the home, or have a disability check or Social Security coming in or retirement, we can help you financially,” David said of a visit with a Social Services employee. “But if you're single, male, between certain ages, they don't seem to be able to financially help. It's kinda like a limbo.”

“This is America. There shouldn’t be 1,800 people dying in this country from hypothermia in the wintertime because they’re living out on the streets. Sixty-four percent of them are men. This is America. I mean, it shouldn’t be this way.”
— David
February 2017:  David says he’s stuck out in the middle of nowhere. "Other people get help that they need, and that's a good thing. But I do know that there are some who fall through the cracks of the red tape of bureaucracy. ... It's like nothing applies to them. Then it all just goes to, in my mind, to survival."  “It's really kind of saddening for me because a lot of places and stuff, 'Oh yeah, we're gonna help, we're gonna help,' and they do to a point, and then it just ... That's the end of it. What is to come along after that to help, to be beneficial? I feel that I run into a brick wall, a roadblock. And another one, and another one and another one. And it shouldn't be like that. It really shouldn't.”  David sleeps outdoors often when he can’t arrange to stay with friends. David recently had cataract surgery, but his vision remains blurred because he can’t afford glasses, and Medicaid will only pay for glasses every two years. He must wait until December 2018 to qualify. David says he once stayed at the Fishers of Men shelter in Quincy, but a manager there asked him to flush his prescribed pain pills down the toilet so the manager wouldn’t be tempted to steal and use the pills himself. David then decided it was time to leave.  “I became homeless three years ago. Medical problems, financial problems, poor relationships and loss of jobs -- a chain of events -- made it to where the only alternative I have is shelters, missions and camping out,” he said.  David says things happen to him that he can’t always foresee or prepare for.  “There’s probably a lot of people who face things beyond their control. People end up in situations like mine.  It becomes a circle of survival. You gotta stay warm, you gotta stay clean, you gotta eat,” David says. “I find that even when I wasn't in this situation that I took a lot of these things for granted because it's just an everyday thing and that's what, you know, I was there. To turn around and have the world upside down, it's not all there. So you have to obligate your time to these things. I find that I don't really think a lot of people understand the roughness of these things gone … just simple little things, gone. You have to improvise and trade this thing for that to take care of things.”  David said doctors have told him he has bipolar chronic depression and have labeled him a "chronic homeless.”  “I have some anger issues, some other things that are happening that I really don't understand,” he said. “I’ve got vision problems. Got back and neck problems from an accident. Depression. I get depressed. Anxiety level. I don't wanna be around anybody. I don't like being closed in and indoors, small spaces. I have a real problem with medications. A psychiatrist might want to prescribe you a medication that has odd side effects, only in a certain percentage of test subjects. That scares me because if I have another medical problem with another doctor, and I'm not supposed to take that kind of medication, then there's a problem. More stress, more anxiety. Then after the doctors and the prescriptions and everything, then I find that there's times you can't afford it, even with your copays and that type of thing.”  David says obtaining housing is pretty difficult.  “Most everything is privately owned or state or city property,” he said. “You gotta be real careful. You don't wanna be camping out on somebody’s property without permission. That's go to jail, criminal trespassing. You’ll end up in court, fines, jail time. I had to be real selective of where I camp out because I don't want a whole lot of traffic in the middle of the night. Safety. Place that's dry. Wintertime. Dry, snow, rain. A lot of these things are real detrimental. You gotta have certain amounts of equipment, blankets, that type of thing. Stay warm, stay dry.  “Last time I heard statistically, there's about 1,800 hypothermia-related deaths in the United States a year. You have to be pretty much aware, pretty much survival conscious, to be able just to deal with the elements. Not even worrying about the human element that may be lurking around out there. Bigger the city, more dangerous it is. Of course any town or city's dangerous. You never know what another individual might have going through their mind or what they wanna do.”  David has tried staying at the Salvation Army.  “There’s the possibility, this time of year in the winter months and bad weather, they stay pretty full,” he said. “I don't really think that they have enough accommodations for the amount of people who actually are out there living through this.”  David is confident things will get better.  “At least I'm gonna try my best to make that happen for me,” he said. “I'd like to see more people become aware and not have a blind eye against an epidemic that we've had in this country for years. People being broke, poor, in poverty. On the streets. Begging for handouts. Just trying to survive.  “It's something that's not going away. A lot of people say, "Well, we gotta help, we gotta help. Let's put a Band-Aid on it.” Hey, maybe it's time that people looked around, opened their eyes. Instead of putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm, let's put it in a cast and fix it. This is America. There shouldn't be 1,800 people dying in this country from hypothermia in the wintertime because they're living out on the streets. Sixty-four percent of them are men. This is America. I mean, it shouldn't be this way.”

February 2017: David says he’s stuck out in the middle of nowhere. "Other people get help that they need, and that's a good thing. But I do know that there are some who fall through the cracks of the red tape of bureaucracy. ... It's like nothing applies to them. Then it all just goes to, in my mind, to survival."

“It's really kind of saddening for me because a lot of places and stuff, 'Oh yeah, we're gonna help, we're gonna help,' and they do to a point, and then it just ... That's the end of it. What is to come along after that to help, to be beneficial? I feel that I run into a brick wall, a roadblock. And another one, and another one and another one. And it shouldn't be like that. It really shouldn't.”

David sleeps outdoors often when he can’t arrange to stay with friends. David recently had cataract surgery, but his vision remains blurred because he can’t afford glasses, and Medicaid will only pay for glasses every two years. He must wait until December 2018 to qualify. David says he once stayed at the Fishers of Men shelter in Quincy, but a manager there asked him to flush his prescribed pain pills down the toilet so the manager wouldn’t be tempted to steal and use the pills himself. David then decided it was time to leave.

“I became homeless three years ago. Medical problems, financial problems, poor relationships and loss of jobs -- a chain of events -- made it to where the only alternative I have is shelters, missions and camping out,” he said.

David says things happen to him that he can’t always foresee or prepare for.

“There’s probably a lot of people who face things beyond their control. People end up in situations like mine.  It becomes a circle of survival. You gotta stay warm, you gotta stay clean, you gotta eat,” David says. “I find that even when I wasn't in this situation that I took a lot of these things for granted because it's just an everyday thing and that's what, you know, I was there. To turn around and have the world upside down, it's not all there. So you have to obligate your time to these things. I find that I don't really think a lot of people understand the roughness of these things gone … just simple little things, gone. You have to improvise and trade this thing for that to take care of things.”

David said doctors have told him he has bipolar chronic depression and have labeled him a "chronic homeless.”

“I have some anger issues, some other things that are happening that I really don't understand,” he said. “I’ve got vision problems. Got back and neck problems from an accident. Depression. I get depressed. Anxiety level. I don't wanna be around anybody. I don't like being closed in and indoors, small spaces. I have a real problem with medications. A psychiatrist might want to prescribe you a medication that has odd side effects, only in a certain percentage of test subjects. That scares me because if I have another medical problem with another doctor, and I'm not supposed to take that kind of medication, then there's a problem. More stress, more anxiety. Then after the doctors and the prescriptions and everything, then I find that there's times you can't afford it, even with your copays and that type of thing.”

David says obtaining housing is pretty difficult.

“Most everything is privately owned or state or city property,” he said. “You gotta be real careful. You don't wanna be camping out on somebody’s property without permission. That's go to jail, criminal trespassing. You’ll end up in court, fines, jail time. I had to be real selective of where I camp out because I don't want a whole lot of traffic in the middle of the night. Safety. Place that's dry. Wintertime. Dry, snow, rain. A lot of these things are real detrimental. You gotta have certain amounts of equipment, blankets, that type of thing. Stay warm, stay dry.

“Last time I heard statistically, there's about 1,800 hypothermia-related deaths in the United States a year. You have to be pretty much aware, pretty much survival conscious, to be able just to deal with the elements. Not even worrying about the human element that may be lurking around out there. Bigger the city, more dangerous it is. Of course any town or city's dangerous. You never know what another individual might have going through their mind or what they wanna do.”

David has tried staying at the Salvation Army.

“There’s the possibility, this time of year in the winter months and bad weather, they stay pretty full,” he said. “I don't really think that they have enough accommodations for the amount of people who actually are out there living through this.”

David is confident things will get better.

“At least I'm gonna try my best to make that happen for me,” he said. “I'd like to see more people become aware and not have a blind eye against an epidemic that we've had in this country for years. People being broke, poor, in poverty. On the streets. Begging for handouts. Just trying to survive.

“It's something that's not going away. A lot of people say, "Well, we gotta help, we gotta help. Let's put a Band-Aid on it.” Hey, maybe it's time that people looked around, opened their eyes. Instead of putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm, let's put it in a cast and fix it. This is America. There shouldn't be 1,800 people dying in this country from hypothermia in the wintertime because they're living out on the streets. Sixty-four percent of them are men. This is America. I mean, it shouldn't be this way.”

This year marks the 52th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty – part of his Great Society vision, which brought us such programs as Medicare, Medicaid and Head Start. Yet the income discrepancy between rich and poor has not been as wide as it is now since the late 1920s, an era Mark Twain termed the Gilded Age due to the abject poverty that existed beneath a thin veneer of great wealth.

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