Life on Skid Row: Cigarette Man Tells Us “There’s No Dreams Here”

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“Cigarette Man” earned his nickname by selling single cigarettes on the streets of Skid Row over a span of four decades. He was born in the back of a station wagon to a single mother; he never met his father. When he was twelve years old, his mother died, leaving him to fend for himself. Aside from some short periods in foster care and prison, Cigarette Man’s been homeless for most of his life. Cigarette Man is 66 years old.

Cigarette Man gets by in Skid Row by selling cigarettes, second-hand goods, and groceries that have expired past their shelf life. He sleeps in his chair or on the ground, forgoing the trouble of setting up a tent every night, only to be forced to take it down the following morning as businesses reclaim the sidewalk.

For those who have the chance to know him, he’s a reliable source of street knowledge, a storyteller who makes any stretch of sidewalk his stage. Cigarette Man’s experiences have been hard-won, yet he shares them as insight into human nature.

No one should live without adequate housing. Although the streets and homelessness are all Cigarette Man has known, he needs to be inside. Otherwise, he will end up being another homeless death statistic. This is where you come in. Cigarette Man will not go into a homeless shelter. He’s been outside too long to go sleep on a cot in a dormitory-type facility. We all need to advocate for more affordable housing and to get homeless people the support they need.

Produced by Adam Trunell

More stories from Life on Skid Row:

Life on Skid Row: Panhandlers Are People Fighting to Survive Homelessness

Life on Skid Row: Flowers Helped a Homeless Veteran Find Forgiveness

Life on Skid Row: Heartbreaking Story of a Disabled Mom Surviving Homelessness


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