The Humboldt Edge

Dear Humboldt


I used to be homeless. I was homeless for the better part of 2 1/2 decades. I used to tell people who would inquire, “I am homeless by choice,” little did I know how true that was.

I was homeless by the choice I made to do drugs, not to live the way “normal society” prescribed living and the fact that I was actually having fun. I chose to have fun and search out my way of living, thinking and being. I was a younger man at the time and the world was open to me and the thought of living truly free was very appealing.

A lot of my time being homeless was spent right here in this county – more specifically, Eureka. I have to put this out there—inasmuch as I was addicted to mind altering substances, not all homeless persons are drug addicts. While I was homeless I met many people across the United States who, for many reasons, did not live inside—some had the means to, but were not happy with that living style.

I was a drug addict; my addiction was to marijuana, alcohol, heroin, methamphetamine and anything else that I was able to get my hands on. Was this the reason for my homelessness? Quite possibly, but I think I would have explored my options for living in the same manner with or without drugs.

My reason in writing this: for me, living the way I lived for the first part of my life, looking back on it now, was a way of finding my niche in this world. I have heard people say that the homeless are scary. I personally do not think so. They are people like you and me.

I see no “us and them.” I see diversity – the same diversity that this great nation was built upon.

Just as with any human being there is a potential for violence. We read in the paper every day about how some person shot and killed their entire family and then turned the weapon on his/herself—these people had a home. We read how two people took some weapons to their school and tragically killed many people – these two lived in a home. On the other hand, we have also read about a person who was homeless and rode freight trains and killed when he would get off the train. My point, the potential for violence is within all humans.

Just because a person has never been homeless, has a bunch of money or lives on the fringe of poverty doesn’t mean anything. We are all human and therefore, even with all of our differences, we are very close to sameness. Given the right turn of events anyone of us could become homeless.

I think it is time for a paradigm shift. What if we stopped looking at those who do not live inside as a problem – what if we looked at each individual and asked that person if he/she is in need of help and if so how we can provide that help. Help tailored to each individual. Let us stop for a second and look within and ask – if I were in this situation, how would I want to be seen?

~Don Johnson

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