Homeless Drinking

From ALL my dealings with homeless people (especially the ones you see flying signs on the road), there’s always some element of alcohol involved. I was further confirmed in this “fact” during this homeless experiment.

From hanging out with the Riverside bums (which is comprised entirely of people who have been homeless for long periods of time) you quickly learn that LIFE IS ABOUT BEER.

It almost sounds funny, but it’s absolutely true. Nearly every action they take is geared towards scoring money to buy beer, getting people to buy them beer, or just flat out stealing it.

Certain people definitely also use other drugs, but I’ve not seen enough of that evidence with my own two eyes to know (nor would I want to be present when it’s taking place). However by far the prevailing intoxicant of choice is beer (or malt liquor which is like strong beer).

If you ever want to COMPLETELY MAKE A BUM’S DAY….give him a 6, 12 or 24 pack of beer. I’ve already proved food in easy to come by if you ask for it or know where to go, so when you see a bum asking for money, it’s usually going to something such as beer, cigarettes or drugs. Sure some of it goes to buy food, but I’d say a larger portion goes directly to the brew master.

NOTE: This is pretty true at least in Austin from what I’ve seen.

Now most “normal” homeless people are not asking for money on the street. These people are not necessarily categorized into this hardcore drinking group. The chronically homeless are what I’m talking about.


I already figured alcohol was a good escape and way to pass the day by if you’re homeless, and I wanted to test this by my homeless drinking experiment. The experiment consisted of me having a full day of nothing to do and a full bottle of straight bourbon. I was trying to see why alcohol is such an attractive commodity when living on the streets….and well, it just sounded like a lot of fun :-)

Here is some of what I wrote in the experiment:

SO imagine you’re one of the homeless people living Downtown or on Riverside. Your food needs are taken care of by either grifting for a few hours or going to a homeless shelter and getting food. You don’t work, you don’t do much of anything….so what can help pass all that time?

Drinking and drugs of course!

On any given day a homeless person whose food/water/shelter are taken care of probably has about 10-12 free hours of the day. That’s a lot of time when you’re doing NOTHING….and doing nothing can be excruciating if you do NOTHING all day long, everyday.

Did it help pass the day? ABSOLUTELY! Were there repercussions? Yes. I explain them in my Drinking Experiment Results.


SO CAN YOU BLAME THEM? I mean, billions of people on this planet enjoy a good drink now and then, so what’s the harm? I think what’s socially acceptable is going out, having a good time and using alcohol to enhance your good time….it shouldn’t be needed. What’s not socially acceptable is to escape your boredom and problems in life through alcohol. That’s where it starts to get dangerous.

I’ll soon discuss if I think giving money to homeless people is acceptable.

Blog posted on: June 9, 2009

3 comments on “Homeless Drinking

  1. Anonymous

    Nev, I'm the president of an agency that houses homeless families in Durham, North Carolina. I've been following your "experiment" with interest.

    I must say I have mixed feelings. I find it admirable that you seemed to want to gain some understanding of how people very different than yourself live. But you seem to have viewed the experience as a lark or an adventure, a personal challenge or growth experience, a bizarre vacation rather than anything deeper. And it really bothered me to hear you keep saying how easy it is to be homeless. Sure it is, if being homeless is optional, if you didn't have to really experience the final crisis (and the series of crises leading up to that) that makes most people homeless (eviction, illness, layoff, divorce, domestic violence that's so bad that you finally leave), if at any minute you can go back to your 4,000-square foot loft and take a shower, and if that's what you do after a few days. When you know you have a college degree and a good job.

    I was also hoping you might express a desire to get involved to help homeless people in Austin in some way. I've read the whole blog, and I haven't seen any inclination toward that yet, though you did seem to gain some understanding of the people you met.

    I'd like to challenge you to volunteer at the ARCH or another agency that helps the homeless. It would also be nice for you to at least donate $50 or whatever to the shelter to make up for moral transgression of crowding a truly homeless person out of a bed that night you stayed there.

    What I'm most wary about is that some people may read your experience as "evidence" that homeless people are not worthy of our help because they have it easy or because they are making poor decisions. Emergency shelters like the ARCH are an important community resource, but we also need agencies that help the homeless solve their problems (addiction, mental health, education, illness) and attain maximum self-sufficiency long-term. Each of us fortunate to have more than enough has a moral obligation to share with and try to help our neighbors in need who were born without the advantages we have. So I agree you should never give money to a person begging on the street — you are often enabling addiction, and you are certainly enabling continued homelessness. But all of us who enjoy plenty should give money and time to agencies working to help homeless and other less fortunate people find long-term stability and return as contributing members of society.

    Bryan Gilmer

  2. Kanu

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  3. Joe Adkins

    Just read every post of your ‘The Homeless Experiment’. Love the idea. Often wanted to do something like that. Looks like you had a great time actually. lol

    i might try it someday if i can convince my wife it’s a good idea. i might settle for working fast food for a week or 2 or work in a high school cafeteria.


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