I found Joanne via Twitter. I was contacted asking for help moving a homeless woman’s belongings into storage. Joanne’s story is powerful… and common. Thirty days ago, she was “kicked to the curb” (literally) by sheriffs enforcing […]


I found Joanne via Twitter. I was contacted asking for help moving a homeless woman’s belongings into storage.

Joanne’s story is powerful… and common. Thirty days ago, she was “kicked to the curb” (literally) by sheriffs enforcing foreclosure orders. Since then, she’s been living on the streets with all of her worldly possessions.

Sadly, Joanne is not new to this predicament. She has been in and out of homeless for nearly 20 years. She wants to work, but claims she is “financially and physically disabled,” she says she has a PhD in homelessness.

This interview was not easy for me; it hit really close to home. But she shares some valuable insights, the most important being that homeless people are exactly that… people.

I hope you watch all the way through, her closing sentence blows me away!

Joanne has been in and out of homeless for nearly 20 years. Click To Tweet

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  • Not Impresses

    No sympathy for someone who is so manipulative.

    Get your act together lady. 19 years of homelessness is not because the world is against you, it’s because you try to get over on the world.

    What do you mean you didn’t think breaking into a closed warehouse to stop your stuff was going to be a problem. Somehow the concept of paying your own way and not taking advantage of other people passed you by.

    Get a job, stop wasting resources to help others when you are such a disaster yourself, stop making it out like the world is such a cruel, uncaring place, when you have repeatedly taken advantage of other’s efforts.

    I have a heck of a lot more sympathy for those who lost a job or became homeless because of illness, but are helping themselves rather than someone like Joanna who has taken others’ generosity for granted for so long.

    Other than as a warning to some naive people, is there a reason you posted such an unsympathetic story?

  • @minorheroine

    I wouldn’t want to come across as uninviting to discussion, particularly because I’m pretty darn naive having found myself in the midst of this actual situation, but I’m not sure how your comment is constructive or helpful or reasonable or even very logical or attentive. Forgive me for being confrontation and cutting to the quick here, but as one of the people who might actually learn how to to use my own resources best (however I choose, i.e. for myself and for others) this can’t be directed toward me even though you have a strong perspective as to how resources should be used… and it’s obviously not directed at Joanna because she likely wouldn’t have access to a computer to see it.

    It seems to be that naivety is a common theme in this conversation. Perhaps I was naive to help in the way that I did – maybe it encourages dependency on others. Perhaps Joanne is naive to think that an empty building is an okay place to live while searching for a roof. I’m not exactly sure what your intentions are for commenting… but I’ma venture that they’re naive cuz they don’t really make any sense.

    If we’re not talking about the objective status of the people involved or subject of this conversation, than perhaps we are talking about feelings? I can see by your writing that you are very upset by this – it’s a valuable perspective to have. But if you feelings and attitude are valid, than so are Joanne’s.

    It’s kind of hard to converse on a subject when what are clearly opinions are stated as unsubstantiated facts and what could possibly be action-inspiring or a directive lacks an audience.

    I’m clearly annoyed with how unhelpful your comment was – but I think you make some valid points to consider and explore. Would you mind restating them? Or adding to what I think I gleaned from you? I’m going to generalize, though I know that these do not fit ALL cases.

    1) The duration of time homeless is a clear indicator of one’s ability to live of resources acquired through manipulation or naivety of generous parties

    2) Generosity toward those in homelessness fails encourage independent sustainability in the homeless

    2b) We are all capable of independent self-sustenance

    3) Effort toward jobs merits sympathy and generosity

  • alex

    Selectively choosing who we have compassion for is a flaw in logic. Though it’s much easier to condemn people for what we consider to be poor choices, (as we surely would not have made the same mistakes…), compassion isn’t about helping people we like and think are deserving of it. It is about helping people who are suffering and in need of assistance.

    Life is about choices. It is your choice to do what you will with your resources, sympathies and finances. The comment above says more about the poster than it does about Joanne or the plight of homeless people in general.

    There is no one good solution to solve this multifaceted cultural problem. In my brief life, I have learned on very important lesson, and while I don’t think my anonymous words will impart that lesson effectively here, I’m sharing them anyway.

    It’s foolish to endeavor to compare pain. Degrees of suffering are not measurable. There are so many kinds of suffering, and they all hurt. To turn a blind eye to one may make it easier to face all the suffering we confront on a daily basis – easier to justify why one person should suffer so greatly while another does not – but it’s dishonest.

  • thanks so much for the comment. i encourage everyone to be honest here. i know people think exactly like you do and unless it’s out in the open healthy dialog cannot happen. open communication leads to understanding.

    everyone manipulates. everyone! I worked for two pastors who were masters at manipulation. People living on the streets are in crisis. each day is harder then you can imagine! I don’t agree with everything Joanne did that day. But i understand it.

    I’ve been there! also, when in crisis people don’t think right. In extreme stress we sometimes do not make right choices. when dealing with people who have mental illness the normal rules don’t apply.

    14 years ago I was homeless. Too be honest i am close to homelessness again. Getting off the streets is hard. I don’t know if i have the strength to do it again. Many people in all walks of life experience “learned helplessness”. you try so hard to change your situation but after getting nowhere time and again you just give up.

    I have lots of sympathy for anyone who is living without a home. the reason every story in this site is put up unedited and raw is so we’ll see the truth. there is good and bad in everything!

    We MUST love people until they are able to love themselves! no exceptions!

  • I agree with Not Impresses that Joanne is manipulative. Although she is articulate, I wouldn’t testify to her mental or emotional wellness either. I’m pretty sure that most of Joanne’s homelessness has been the direct result of her choices. And I still believe Joanne is as much of a viable candidate for help as any other disadvantaged person among us. I’m speaking completely from the perspective of another human being sharing the planet with her. First of all, ignoring Joanne or denying Joanne isn’t going to make the Joanne’s go away. Secondly, I believe that American people, independent of the government, who invest themselves in coming alongside people like Joanne to re-train, counsel and help Joanne receive a new vision- a vision of what it would be like to live out the results of her wiser choices- those Americans are investing in the future of our country- not just Joanne. If Joann could experience more satisfaction from new coping mechanisms and skills I think she would live differently. Why? Because I think Joanne does what makes Joanne feel okay. For whatever reason, this behavior has worked for her. Not Impresses is right. Joanne’s been getting over for a long time. But we’re going to invest in Joanne one way or another. I’d rather invest in Joanne , the soul who shares this planet with me, in the attempt to make Joanne’s future and the future of America a little better. Not an easy task and not a just responsibility to fall on the shoulders of Not Impresses. or Mark or me. and it might not even take root with Joanne at first. But then again, how many times are we to forgive the Joannes of the world? Seven times? Seventy seven? Or until change occurs?

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  • Thanks for this blog! I have been homeless at several points in my life. Contrary to popular belief, most homeless did not become so out of choice and not because they are lazy, stupid, or immoral. Many homeless people are victims of abuse in the form of neglect and abandonment by their parents or other caregivers. Some of them are simply victims of life’s tragedies, such as hurricanes, fires, or other catastrophes from which they simply don’t have the resources to recover. I invite you to my blog devoted to raising awareness on homelessness: There you will find an article I wrote on homelessness and pictures I have taken of homeless people. I always give them a dollar or two for the privilege of photographing them. I am often surprised by their cheerfulness and sense of pride. Often, they will show themselves to have some kind of talent. There is a fine line between genius and insanity.

  • Karen

    There will always be people who take advantage of the system and of people’s generosity. But there are also circumstances beyond our control, when life smacks you upside the head and says, “Take this!” Good hardworking people become homeless every day, as well as people who are mentally and physically disabled. Becoming complacent and working the system is one alternative, but it only leads to dependence on others. My grandma used to say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” A good lesson to be learned. To those who are taking advantage of people’s generosity and good nature, “Shame on you!” Do what you can to be responsible for your own destiny and leave the services for those who really need them. Thanks for letting me rant!

  • ALison

    Joanne is awesome. How can I find her?

  • ALison

    Joanne is awesome. How can I find her?

  • Chichotango

    I don’t think ask for help is manipulative. We have to ask  why are you very harsh?. She is living at the street, not from the government , or your taxes, she tries to survive certainly like the bible said, OF COURSE SHE IS A HUMAN BEING, SHE IS NOT PERFECT. 
    But for that we are not going t discharge at her our rage, hatred, but who knows reasons hidden inside our consciences .
    If somebody is generous she is not taken advantage.
    Always read from conservatives:Get a job, get a job, even if you have one, buit doesn’t fit the stereotipe of conservatives. You don’t know about her life, maybe she is too old, sicken, etc. You don’t see the stick in your eye, but you see the breezle in  her eyes, (bible)

  • john

    hey peeps im homeless but im still cool n fresh

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  • Shanti Shaharazade Texeira

    compassion isn’t about helping people we like and think are deserving of it. It is about helping people who are suffering and in need of assistance.

    fact Alex, it those persons who seem to deserve it the least that in fact right now, need it the most. i was in the car with my parents, and saw this homeless man who was so apparently suffering, i totally felt for him. in a real way, i wanted to get out and hug him, my parents were so indignant. i told them, hey that used to be me, is that how you felt about me too??? my heart, love, light and BIG mouth are with each one of you. I will keep writing and talking until some one listens. holding ya’ll close to my heart!!!!!

    I too have been homeless, and many of the WRONG choices I have made in my life was to AVOID ever being homeless again. ever.

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