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March 29, 2015

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Homelessness and the indignity of hurtful speech


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Lela Michael steps outside the apartment she shares with Rodger Jacobs and watches the goings on in the parking lot Thursday, December 2, 2010.

The New Homeless: Part 3

Freelance writer Rodger Jacobs and his girlfriend Lela Michael moved to Las Vegas from California in 2007 to take care of Rodger's terminally ill mother, and when the recession hit, they ran out of money to move back home. The couple is now living in a weekly rate residential hotel after being kicked out of their North Las Vegas home in August when they fell behind on their rent. You can see their court hearing in the Sun's Part 1 video. After their move, which the Sun documented in the Part 2 video, Rodger set a goal of moving back to Los Angeles by November 15, 2010. Now past their deadline and still living in the Budget Suites residential hotel, Rodger reflects on what's keeping them here and his new routine of work, walks and the occasional margarita, and Lela has begun volunteer work on a mission to improve her self-esteem for what she hopes will be a happy reunion with her family in California sometime in the future.

The New Homeless - Part 3

Rodger Jacobs checks his email while Lela Michael works on getting dinner ready in their apartment Thursday, December 2, 2010. Launch slideshow »

The New Homeless - Part 2

Rodger Jacobs pauses for a moment while moving into an extended stay hotel August 31, 2010. Launch slideshow »

The New Homeless - Part 1

Rodger Jacobs reacts to bad news from girlfriend Lela Michael after waking up Tuesday, August 24, 2010. Launch slideshow »

This is the third installment by freelance writer Rodger Jacobs, sharing his experience as one of the new homeless in the Great Recession.

The long columns of slot machines are blinking and twinkling and beckoning with their tinny carnival tunes. But only a haunting memory remains of the fun seekers who flocked to this popular off-Strip casino before the Great Recession swept in and devastated home values, savings and retirement accounts, jobs, futures, dreams, security.

It is 4 o’clock on a breezy weekday afternoon. As I settle onto a stool at the horseshoe-shaped bar at the sports book at the Fiesta on North Rancho, a dull ache in my arthritic joints warns me of impending winter. Enduring another season of Southern Nevada’s harsh wintry wind and frigid biting cold is a prospect I am prepared to move mountains to avoid.

Even more stinging has been the reaction by many readers to my first essay on being homeless in Las Vegas — mean-spirited remarks that have fueled my decision to leave town. We had arrived here from California in 2007 to care for my ailing mother, at a time when my freelance writing business was following a trajectory parallel to the recession. After her death, we moved to an apartment for two years and then to a North Las Vegas rental home. But we couldn’t afford the cost of maintaining the house that we were contractually saddled with, and in September, under threat of eviction, we moved to a small two-room affair at Budget Suites. Along the way, we have shed most of our possessions; the rest is in a 10-by-10 storage unit, waiting to be redeemed.

We had hoped that by now we would have returned to Los Angeles. But Lela, my girlfriend, and I are still here; relocating even just to L.A. requires more capital than we have. We get by on my Social Security Disability payments of $926 a month (after a $100 monthly deductible for Medicare) and occasional freelance writing and editing assignments. At the urging of Three Square, where Lela volunteers weekly, she recently applied for federal grocery assistance.

We did receive generous donations from a few readers after I first wrote about our homelessness — money that has been spent on groceries, rent, transportation, laundry, medical expenses and IRS payments.

But any warmth of kindness was lost to judgmental creatures wrapped in their conservative ideology and intoxicated by their own venomous rhetoric. (One reader, Ron, called me a “lazy, lazy lazy loser” and worse.) As journalist and author Michael Scott Moore (“Sweetness and Blood”) wrote on his website Radio Free Mike: “The worst part is that the Sun has uncovered a new and virulent strain of American unfeeling for the unfortunate.”

More than the tale of my plight itself, the vicious online response to the New Homeless series (particularly in Part One) became the story for the press beyond Nevada’s borders. And that will be my take-away from this unwanted experience: how others react to a stranger’s homelessness. During Channel 3’s recent Holiday Helping Hand Drive, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak summed it up best when he said, “Societies are judged by how they respond to those in need.” Indeed, the citizens of Las Vegas have been judged by the shrill voices of a very vocal minority.

In the popular New York-based Web daily The Awl, editor Choire Sicha, in an Aug. 30 posting titled “Why Is American Selfishness So Widespread Now?” observed that reaction to my story serves as “a reminder of the American lack of empathy … the (comments) went from awful to judgmental to trashing to witch hunt.”

On Oct. 1, at the Working America blog, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, New Hampshire writer Susan Bruce attempted to make sense of the outrage: “The lack of compassion is troubling but the level of anger is even more disconcerting. I suspect that the anger some people have for the homeless is fueled by their own fears that they are only a paycheck or two away from being homeless themselves.”


I order a $1 frozen margarita from the bartender and the frigid concoction arrives in a 12-ounce plastic cup. Most patrons who take up space at the bar are transfixed by either the video slots embedded in the bar or the daily betting sheets. I always ignore both costly pastimes and choose to occupy my time reading a book or working in a journal.

A few afternoons a week this sports bar that largely caters to locals is my refuge from the cramped, dark room at the Budget Suites that is almost impossible to breathe life into. It is not a home. It is a way station. (I freely choose to make this admission of my visits to the sports bar because I have nothing to lose; more than one commenter harshly condemned me for spending one dollar on bottled water, so go ahead and make hay with this; there’s nothing I can say or do at this point that will not be met with scornful criticism; stone throwers are nothing if not predictable, though their aim is often errant and lacking in grace.)

I take a sip of the margarita and pull my black journal out of the canvas tote bag slung over the back of the stool. Poring over my notes for the third installment of the New Homeless, I linger on a quote extracted from “The Air-Conditioned Nightmare,” Henry Miller’s 1939 survey of the American physical and moral landscape: “We loathe one another. We hate what we look like when we look into another’s eyes.”

I cannot say it any better than Miller did, though the author outdoes himself in another quote also hastily scratched in red ink in the journal’s margins: “What is the most steadfast condition of life? Cruelty to one another. Man torturing man is a fiend beyond description.”

My occupation also came under the hateful scrutiny of the Sun’s readers with many suggesting that I must be a failure as a writer because I don’t share the success of Stephen King. Just because fame hasn’t conferred any external interest in my work does not make me a failure by any stretch of the imagination. Shall we confer the word “failure” upon a plumber, carpenter or an architect whose hard work did not allow them to open their own business? Shall we deem an exemplary chef a failure for never seeing his name above the marquee of a trendy bistro?

Henry Miller notes that writers “begin to develop, to reveal their true personality, after passing the age of forty-five” and that the scribe’s life is one of unceasing labor, study and observation, not a leisurely life, as many suggested, of three-hour lunches while watching cartoons and sleeping until noon. In Patrick Marnham’s biography of the prolific Belgian novelist Georges Simenon, “The Man Who Wasn’t Maigret,” the author quotes one of the writer’s many lovers, who told the biographer: “I was very impressed because he was a writer and I no idea what being a writer meant. I thought they lived in a chateau and walked around all day in a silk dressing-gown. I didn’t realize they had to work hard like other men.”

And before another self-righteous paragon of integrity regurgitates theological dogma in my direction, consider the wisdom of a true theologian, Joseph Speranzella, a man who holds degrees in biblical studies and Christian counseling, who addressed my articles in the Norfolk Catholic Examiner on Sept. 26: “The plight of the new homeless often includes ridicule and insensitivity. When I found myself in a transient situation, I was amazed at how quickly some Christians whose love is ‘always patient and kind’ (1 Cor. 13:4) lost patience and turned unkind … Many will take the low road and, instead of giving compassion, will make complaint. So be it. It is not for me to judge (Rodger), nor those who judged him. It is mine only to pray and be moved to action.”

If not for those who were generously “moved to action,” our transition from lease holders to a more uncertain lifestyle could have been a much uglier story. And there has been forward momentum since the second installment of this series ran in late September: A colleague has offered to underwrite the cost of movers when we are ready; my story has also gained a lot of traction in foreign media.

And two publishers in New York have expressed interest in a book proposal, “Shakespeare’s Hand is Missing,” based on this series of articles and features I have penned elsewhere on the marginalization of writers and artists in our current culture (think George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London” with a contemporary spin). But to finish the book, I need to get back to L.A., where I have a support network and greater opportunities for supplemental income to sustain the writing. When the move can become a reality is uncertain. As Orwell writes in the aforementioned work, “The great redeeming feature of poverty is it annihilates the future.”


It is near 5 o’clock and I briefly consider ordering a second margarita (for one dollar you wouldn’t expect a cocktail to pack such a potent punch but it does). But I don’t need another drink nor do I really want one; what I’m doing is trying to forestall returning to that small room. After another moment of hesitation, I pack my journal and cigarette case into the canvas bag, rise, sling the bag over my shoulder, grab my cane and start for the exit.

The mandate of the writer is to create order from chaos. As for an orderly plan to return to L.A. before the full onset of winter, all I have are scraps of thoughts and ideas that do not add up to a cohesive whole. It is difficult to leave much thought for anything else when you’re struggling to figure out where your next rent payment or meal is coming from.

That’s the great, anxiety-producing paradox we’re confronted with constantly: How to meet our daily needs while we must remain in Las Vegas (where we don’t want to be and, according to many who commented, where we are not wanted) and how to set aside enough money to carry us across the desert and into a suitable living space with reserves for deposits and at least two months of rent.

But potential is the most elastic of human qualities and as has happened repeatedly in the past, my skill and potential as a writer will expand to meet my needs. It’s not a question of “how” or “if” but when.

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  1. If this guy does not want to be in Las Vegas then move to someplace in California or Illinois where the welfare programs are far more generous. I work a lot of hours to support my own family. This guy gets no sympathy from me.

  2. These people are NOT homeless and NEVER were homeless.

    Shame on the Las Vegas Sun for running this misguided series.

    These people had more than one opportunity to leave Vegas at the generous offering of several people.

    I've completely lost what little compassion I once had for this couple.

  3. I have zero sympathy for this couple. I don't know why the Sun would give this guy another article. Nothing has changed Lela won't look for a job and Roger sits around and complains about Vegas. I'm sure they are looking for some handout so they can make it to LA.

  4. These people are not homeless and have never been, the are just not living as comfortably as they would like.
    I see real homeless people everyday and many have real problems that prevent them from being productive members of society; mental illness and drug addictions.
    Also many choose to be bums, getting drunk first thing in the morning. They have gotten used to handouts from people to stupid to know better.
    To the author of this story, I am sorry about your bruised ego. But you are not special and the world does not owe you anything. Time to suck it up and take whatever job you can find.
    There have been times I have been out of work, I just had the sense to take what ever minimum wage job I could. Then find a cheap place to sleep until I could make things better. You can make a buck go along way when you really need to.

  5. Nice Comments by Fisherman, Cliff and Runmad.

    People, read the articles. Your comments are what he is writing about. Hate and a lack of understanding for the less fortunate.

    Do you want him and his girlfriend to be out on the street without a roof? Will you then feel better about their situation? Will they then gain your sympathy or just be another couple of bums on the street that you will rail against?

    If you do not believe him as to his circumstances, reach out to him, talk to him and make your own investigation as to his circumstances. Then you can make a determination of whether he created his circumstances or whether circumstances created him.

    But for goodness sakes, what happened to the sons and daughters of a caring generous people who created the Marshall Plan and rebuilt Japan after World War II? Do you remember what America stands for and who we are as Americans? We are supposed to be the Best and the Brightest; not the Mean and the Dispirited. We are supposed to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

    So ease up, show some compassion and learn from a man who is willing to share his pain. Thank you Sun for allowing this man to educate us.

  6. Money for booze but not for food? How about for cigarettes, gambling and other of lifes "necessities? Just who is kidding whom here? What did this guy & gal do with the rest of their lives? Why did they not anticipate they might retire someday and need to save for the future? Yes, times are tough but some make it tougher on themselves by frittering away their time and money mindlessly. My wife & I are the ants; Roger & Lela are the grasshoppers!

  7. Although I found this instalment a bit interesting, I wish Rodger would do an article detailing how his neighbours are coping with the recession. I assume that most of the people living in the weekly rentals are struggling emotionally and financially, and most are likely very close to slipping down to the next rung of the poverty ladder.
    This article by Rodger seems too focused on his own anger about the negative comments he felt were unjustified relating to his first two articles. What he doesn't seem to realize is that he is in a position to shed light on the depressing details of how the extremely poor live in Las Vegas. Few people in that situation have Rodger's ability to write clearly.
    Come on Rodger, give us another segment describing other people in your predicament. We already know how angry you are at most everyone.

  8. Mr. Jacobs observations and statements about the cruel and judgmental attitudes of many in Las Vegas need to be written.
    I do believe the digital essence of communication has created this atmosphere .
    Interestingly, Las Vegas seems to have a jump on most parts of America-
    For years the comments have been so vituperative the Sun began to request accountability from those who comment.
    Does it make a difference?
    I guess not!
    So much hate and anger in this town.
    Why is that?

  9. As I read this unfortunate story, I couldn't help but think about what our society has become? It seems that many among us have forgotten the importance of helping people less fortunate than ouselves and have developed a sense of denial in concluding that other people's dire straits are always because of things that they did or did not do with their lives and that they could exert control over all of life's variables--that simply is not possible.

    Have those unforgiving souls actually forgotten that many things in life--good or bad--are undeniably influenced by circumstances totally beyond one's control? People have many different levels of support systems available to them (i.e. family, friends, savings, education, qualifications, etc...) so when unfortunate situations arise for many, you can't simply judge them by what you would do from your sterile and inexperienced (hopefully) perspective.

    Come on people, let's get back to basics and help other less fortunate people rather than just dismiss them as parasites that we'd rather brush under the carpet or otherwise dispose of. We've always had the down and out elements of society so, how have we allowed ourselves to become such uncaring beings as it seems by the posts being made about this particular situation.

    From what I've read in the 3 installments, this fellow is trying the best he can under the circumstances, but I submit that once the downward spiral begins to generate momentum, reversing things would be difficult even for the best of us. With all sincerity possible, I do hope that none of the individuals who make their insensitive and viral comments are ever placed in such predicaments as described by the author. Only then would it be possible to fully comprehend the gravity of such a situation.

  10. Jacobs -- good article.

    You and yours are discovering what a thin veneer civil society really is. It's one reason why it's called the herd. Welcome to existential reality.

    "Life begins on the other side of despair." -- Sartre

  11. Pay Back

    While I would never speak for anyone else here on this post or in general for that matter I have noticed that A lot of people have to be made whole before they can become compassionate again.

    I also along with other people have also been on the verge of homelessness or homeless and as I reached out to others for help I too would be shrugged off or scoffed at, I was working a job it just wasn't enough to get by all I really needed was help but I became hardened at my empty requests and as the years passed I did make things better for my self and I encountered others seeking help and I turned them away as well telling them the same things I was told and it occurred to me I became one of them and although I didn't feel enjoyment for turning these people down I felt like I was made whole for the things that were done to me.
    Soon afterwards this weighed heavily on my mind that it was my own convictions toward others was not my convictions but of the ones before me and all I was doing was passing it along, I severed that conduit and once I had I became more compassionate toward others. Please don't let other trespasses against you keep you in the wrong state of mind.

  12. Rodger circumstances came about because he simply ignored the signs that his freelance work was pushing him into poverty. By his own admission the work was drying up long ago and he simply failed to heed the signs. Rodger is the equivalent of a typewriter repairman, a telephone booth installer, a unicycle salesman, a horse and buggy taxi driver. He refused to give up on the idea that his services were being phased out. This didn't happen overnight. It probably took decades as Rodger burned thru whatever monies he had trying to live the dream of the Beatnik writer.

  13. The backlash connected to this story is crazy. This man's story is personal, and if people don't want to read it they shouldn't. But to belittle him because his story isn't pathetic enough in their eyes is sad and indicative of people who lack true compassion.

  14. Excuse me, maybe some of us have had harder knocks, or have just read about the plight of refugees or something. It's not that we are cold and heartless, you just haven't sold anybody on your misfortune, mainly because of the tone of the story. The self-pity oozes from your diatribe;I feel a little sorry for your girlfriend. Be grateful you have a check and a roof over your head, and most importantly a woman. What a lucky guy. Life is hard, and it goes up and down, just like a hookers head. Please! Help some body who is less fortunate for yourself. Don't read this, instead focus on what needs to be done and do it. L.A. may or may not be better. You take care, and call me sometime or write and tell me something good. In the meantime, be grateful for what you have especially that wonderful woman.

  15. Part of the reason people are so outraged is because we who work already have huge chunks of our checks removed to pay for all these social programs, without a choice. We could have more saved for ourselves if so much wasn't being yanked to pay for those who won't help themselves (and yes, I know it helps many who can't help themselves; that, I don't mind so much). And if we felt more secure, then we would be more willing to help those around us who are truly in need.

    Every time I hear of another single welfare mom having another child, another illegal immigrant heading to the ER for a minor issue, another working poor refusing a better job because they don't like the work, the neighborhood drunk taking unemployment for a year walking to the minimart for his daily bottle of wine - I can see my $ floating away. So yes, I'm ticked.

    Lela seems to be doing much more to help herself than Roger; it's interesting that no one they know has offered to let them stay in LA until they can save enough to get their own place. I have to say, based on these articles, Rodger with his drinking and whining would be the last person I would want staying with me...

  16. Roger..This is a town built by gangsters to sucker very stupid people out of their money..These comments are from the same people who, if they saw someone fall dying in the street from a heart attack, would not interupt their cell phone conversation to call 911..It's built on losers with little education who could not make it anywhere else..Yes, there are some exceptions, but they are a rare find here..I hope your situation improves and you and your girlfriend can get the hell out of here..Best of luck to you..

  17. Mr. Jacobs has put himself out for the public to make comments and have opinions of him. That is his choice.

    There are many opinions on each side of the story here. None of us are him and no matter what he writes none of us will ever know the full and underlying story of what has happened in his life.

    Many here making negative comments may know what they are talking about but most have never been in the same position. That is a good thing and I hope that none of you ever end up on the streets or close to it.

    Mr.Jacobs is the only one that has control over his life and he is the only one that can do anything about his current lifestyle. He may have been dealt some bad cards but hopefully he will get the right direction and do something with it.

    The people of Las Vegas are not hateful over all, there are some but that is not the majority. You will always have some people that way no matter what the subject matter is. He, and all others should never let a few negitive people dictate the direction of their life though.

    You are a writer, spend the time writing about something that will benefit you, these stories in the Sun do not put food on your table unless all the national press brings something positive your way.

    Good luck to you Mr. Jacobs.

  18. If you didn't spend $1 on the frozen Margarita, you could afford your rent???

    On the Alan Stock Show on a radio station run by manager Bob Agnew, a caller said: "homeless should be put down like dogs." Stock thought this was funny. I have no respect for the veterans in this area who use this guy to emcee their parade. A good percentage of the homeless are Veterans.

    You will find the same talk radio hate where ever you go. The dittoheads will spend money for housing in Iraq and Afghanistan, but not the USA.

  19. If a brokerage house, a bank, or a defence contractor (like Lockheed) get into trouble, the taxpayers bail them out.

    If you were a drug or alcohol addicted right wing hate talk radio ranter (e.g. Rush Limpbaugh or Glen Buck), you would get the sympathy of the teapotties.

    If the hate filled Governor or a publisher of a hate filled newspaper have medical problems they get special treatment. Who is paying for the Governor's medical care? The Ranch where he was injured or the taxpayers???

    If your name was Sherman Fredrick and espoused some sick rendition of Liberloonytoonianism, you would get full medical benefits for writing a column once a week. How many part-timers get medical insurance so they can deal with the financial impact of their pre-existing conditions??

  20. Wait; you have a place to live and a dollar for a margarita at a bar, and yet this series is about "homeless" people?


  21. I commend the Sun for allowing Rodger to write this series of articles. The unfortunate fact is that many of us in society today do not have sympathy and compassion for those that have fallen on hard times. Some people are going to fail economically for a myriad of reasons, some having to do with poor choices and some because of circumstances that are thrust upon them. I agree with FromBellevilleCanada that I would like to see more stories from Rodger that focus on people who have been impacted adversely by the economic downturn and what they are doing to cope, that to me would be more interesting and instructive. Not that I didn't find his and Lela's story worth reading, I did. I would like to see the Sun, since they have become involved with Rodger and his situation, to find out how much it would cost to get Rodger, Lela and their belongings to California and set up a fund to accept contributions toward that amount. I would be willing to donate. I am wondering, however, whether California is a wise choice with its high cost of living, given that their only income is the Social Security Disability of 900 some dollars per month(which by the way, is not welfare, for those who may not be aware of that, it is funded through payroll tax contributions). There are low cost states where they could go and live on that monthly income, especially if they could get into some senior or subsidized housing. They wouldn't be living in luxury but they could exist reasonably. I know from reading the previous article that Rodger has some health issues, but perhaps if they were to move to a lower cost state, where the unemployment rate is lower, Lela could get a part time job in retail to bring in some additional money to augment their income.

  22. Oh, and by the way, this articile is about a couple who lost their home, moved into temporary accomodation (Budget Suites) and are on the verge of becoming homeless. A situation that many people today find themselves in today. Only in that regard is the article is about homelessness. There is a distinction. Unless I missed something, nowhere in the series of articles does it state that Rodger and Lela are homeless.

  23. Disagreement is not hate. Because people question what this man says or feel perhaps he had a hand in landing where he is today does not mean they hate him or wish him ill. They just have a different opinion of him than he has of himself.

    A newspaper is a place for discussion. Obviously some take issue with the things this man says and the excuse he makes. Don't expect everyone to post only positive comments.

    Also I thought he said in the last installment that he was headed for the happier place of California. What happened to that?

  24. I rarely agree with most of the commenters on this site, but this time I must echo the sentiments of others who question the Sun's decision to choose this particular couple to represent the "new" homeless. This man's story is hardly new. Poor decisions, substance abuse issues, and a refusal to take responsibility for one's own actions have led to destitution and despair practically since the beginning of time. I would be more interested in the story of someone who is willing to actually change something to improve his situation. Mr. Jacobs and his companion clearly have no intention of ever changing a thing.

  25. Yes, bring back the old whipping post, the shanty town, the chain gang...the libertarians want the world of the 1890's...

  26. Rodger - in August you wrote that you wanted to move to L.A. Apparently, you have since ignored some of the most HELPFUL OFFERS that were posted to your articles.

    One poster OFFERED TO DRIVE YOU TO CALIFORNIA - FREE! SO why are you still here? Has this alleged "support group in L.A. "dissolved? Do you REALLY want to leave Las Vegas and begin a new life - with new opportunities (as you said)?

    Am I being unreasonable? I don't think so. After reading all 3 of your morbid articles, you appear to be not much different than anyone else who is just "hanging on to what he/she has got" - for reasons that only you know. This is what happens to many people who come to Las Vegas and get down on their luck. But YOU seem to have a way out. MUSTER THE WILL POWER, and TAKE IT!

    Perhaps your "support group" is a fiction. If I sound much different in tone than I did in my prior (more positive) comments, it is because I see NO improvement in your status - and nothing you are actively doing to make a change. Are you just afraid of making the move?

    You are not alone in your misery. I know something of what your problems are because, as a kid - in Brooklyn, NY, I lived in a 1-room apartment with my mother, two brothers (all three less than 5 years old), and my 11 year old sister. We existed in constant fear of becoming HOMELESS and DESTITUTE because my father had died in 1945 (WW II) - and we had NO Pension, NO income, NO car, and only a few food coupons.

    To SURVIVE, my mother WORKED 3 "JOBS" for 18 years. She worked at the Post Office (traveling on a bus at midnight to work, until 7 a.m.). Then, she took in alterations (sewing) as was available. But her BIGGEST job was raising 4 very young children - with much concern, and NO help from anyone - except our church who maybe twice a week would give us some food. For everything else - except utilites included in the rent - we depended on 2nd hand clothing from Goodwill, and other donations for medical or other needs.

    When my sister became 12, my mother took a correspondence course and became a Nurse Practioner. She was hired by our (generous) family doctor to work in his office. Life was meager, but we were happy. But you know, it just took the WILL POWER to do something - and our faith that "God will provide." He did - for 18 years.

    So while I can understand your difficulties - I also remember the value of "trying to help yourself." And that experience in Brooklyn was instrumental in framing an attitude that helped us all become successful later in life.

    So Rodger, I suggest you RE-READ prior posts, and CONTACT the folks who made offers of help in those postings. Then - unless you have a fatalist attitude - go to L.A. and start your new life over. After all, California IS the sunshine state, and has lots of rainbows.

    Good luck, and may God bless you. I believe He will if you, first, seek His help.

  27. I'd venture to say that a great number of Americans have been in this same or a similar situation at some time in our lives. Mine came in 1982. Out of work, divorced, on the verge of homelessness, I was willing to take any kind of work I could get. Truck driver, warehouseman, lumberyard manager, street sweeper, it didn't matter. I had my car repossessed because I had refused to be responsible for making the payments, and had to save the money to buy what looked like a used police car with four bald tires. I moved in with a friend in a one bedroom apartment. He slept in the bedroom; I on the couch in the living room. It wasn't ideal, but it sure as hell was better than sleeping in the park. I can distinctly remember frequenting used tire shops in an effort to keep servicable tires on the used police car so I could get back and forth to work. Riding the bus wasn't an option because there was no bus service between my apartment and my job. I ate a lot of Ramen noodles, spagetti, potatoes, greens very little meat and hardly any fruits...too expensive. I swore then that I would never look down on those who had fallen on hard times. I didn't smoke or drink, so wasting money on booze and tobacco wasn't an option either. It wouldn't have mattered anyway; there was no money for those things in addition to rent, food and gasoline. I feel bad for these people, but it's not something that most of us have not experienced. Eventually, I kept going to work, nursing the used police car along and my situation improved.

  28. Roger, thank you for sharing your story. It helps us all to remember to have some compassion for others. Alot of people are in worse financial situations than we were five years ago. I do not believe that because of that you are supposed to not go anywhere or do anything that could bring you any joy at all. We all have to have something to look forward to and to keep our minds off some of the negatives in our lives. I wish you and your girlfriend the best of luck in the future. I would also love to read a follow up story after your move back to LA.

  29. Please, enough with the taxpayer funded, welfare, on the dole, government handout nonsense! The man is on Social Securiy Disability of $928 a month. The program is INSURANCE, hence---Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), it is not a handout or welfare. Currently the combined employer and employee contribution is 15.3% (12.4% for old-age, survivors and DISABILITY INSURANCE, and 2.9% for hospital insurance (medicare), also not a welfare benefit).

  30. If you can't make it one way, you try something else. I see little if any evidence at all of any effort on either of their parts to try and start over, look for work, pump out those resumes, filling out apps, temp agencies....nothing.

    Dreaming of making it as a writer is very noble, but few will make it. It's just an unfortunate reality. Get a day job, continue to write for the love of it as a hobby. Maybe sell some stuff on the side, maybe even make it big one day. But in the meantime....

    I just don't understand how they can piss and moan about people's indifference or "hateful attitudes."

    I'm not religious at all, but the old saying seems very fitting "god helps those that help themselves."

    I donate and volunteer all I can, but I'll be damned if I'm going to divert any resources to someone not even given that big of a raw deal in my opinion, seems more self induced than anything. The longer they wait to take action, the more their lethargic attitudes seem to grow. And the more their situation worsens.

    The general public's indifference to you, Rodg, is a byproduct of your own. Think about it, will you? Or will you continue to feed your spite and routine of self pity?

    Will you take action, or will you continue to passively sit there and smoke and sit around in the casino nursing your margarita?

  31. "There but for the Grace of God, Go I"

    I have found no one wants to hear about homeless people, for it triggers their insecurities, the fear that it could happen to them and how awful it would be.

    Ive told stories about when I was homeless living in the Bay Area and the question was posed why don't I write about that period, and my answer is:

    Few want to hear about being homeless unless there is a happy and prosperous conclusion.

    I am not surprised by the vitriolic comments and responses. It is fear. I am also not surprised that people who have gone through hard times (easy to tell who those are), their response have been muted. It is also driven by fear.

    One of the things that initially surprised me when I greeted the many folk who were going through it was "I am blessed". It took awhile to understand appreciate that grace and humble sentiment.

    I dont hear that from the author who thinks he is cursed. He is blessed but doesnt feel or understand that he is.

    Lets hope he and the folk slamming him dont come to that realization that they are indeed blessed the hard way. Because there for the Grace of God, they are.

  32. Also, for those opining that Rodger should get a job at Walmart or some other big box store----Sam's, Home Depot, Best Buy, etc., I'm not sure he would have a chance at getting one of those jobs. I can't speak for Las Vegas, but I know down here in Phoenix, those jobs are in great demand. I see Rodger uses a cane and has medical issues. I know Walmart and the other stores do hire some disabled people, but as I say there are way more applicants than available jobs. I know that people will say, well, you didn't try, but I wonder if that's realistic.

  33. "Please, enough with the taxpayer funded, welfare, on the dole, government handout nonsense!"

    His chosen profession is writing. Proof. He wrote these articles. If his chosen profession is writing and he is working in his chosen profession, why does he receive a government disability check?????

    Government check = Tax dollars. Economics 101.

  34. I too have made more than one attempt to write the great American novel; and I have a file folder full of rejection letters from publishers to prove it. Is there a government funded arts program to which I might apply for a monthly stipend of oh, shall we say...$5,000 to tide me over until my muse inspires me? Maybe a little villa in Upstate New York, as had Mark Twain to coax forth gentle creativity? Now I asks ya, I asks, is that too much to ask? I could quit doing all the rest of the stuff I do to oil the wheels of commerce and concentrate upon setting down in writing the triumph of the human spirit over adversity on the mean streets of Las Vegas.

  35. vegas01, that's very interesting, thank you for checking with the Social Security Administration and clarifying for us, the rules concerning when one is able to do freelance work on a part time basis (here a series of three articles, I believe) and continue to legally receive Social Security Disability payments. You can keep on believing (wrongly) that Social Security Disability payments are a form of government welfare, but it isn't, IT'S AN INSURANCE PROGRAM, with the premiums paid by employers and employees through payroll deductions. I suppose in your mind Social Security and Medicare are welfare programs too.

  36. My biggest disagreement is the use of the word "homeless". Sure a little weekly rental isn't the Beverly Hilton, but it is a "home" to those living there. It may be a crummy place and all, but it's a roof overhead and a locking door. The article should be titled and state that the folks in this situation are suffering hard times, or near homelessness, but not "homeless". To me the term "homeless" denotes living on the streets, or maybe in a shelter or rescue mission. The writer is to be commended for getting a paying gig wherever he can (LV Sun articles, etc.) to cover living expenses. I wouldn't even begrudge the guy his $1 margarita. He did say he avoided the gambling machines. I honestly do wish him well in his future. As one who has made many cutbacks this year due to reduced income due to the economy (but still making my house payments) We are fortunate to be in a better situation than the writer. Living somewhat frugally when times were "good" makes it easier now. It is amazing how many things we have been able to do just fine without, or how many ways there are to reduce expenses when it becomes necessary. I agree with the poster who commented that the weiter should write articles about others in his situation (neighbors in the complex), or those who are actually living on the streets. His situation should make it easier to gain the trust of those being interviewed than if it was a regular reporter.
    and mred, is there ANY article you've ever commented on without airing your dislike for Rush Limbaugh, etc.? your repettitive rants are getting old and way off topic.

  37. Vegas01, I receive Social Security Disability and Medicare because, by the standards established by SSI, my "condition interferes with basic work-related activity" and I can no longer perform, because of my illnesses, at past performance levels. SSI assumes that individuals have other resources to meet their needs as a supplement to SSI (the limit is $1,000 per month). My SSI benefits also cut me off from receiving SNAP (supplemental nutrition program, aka food stamps) benefits as the income is considered excessive by the standards applied by Health and Human Services.

    So, yes, I do work occassionaly but not at my previous level of six to seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours per day; chronic pain has an inconvenient way of working against that desire.

    As for Belleville's comments -- and similar remarks by other readers -- that I should focus my story on my neighbors, allow me to clarify:

    The newspaper business generally works like this --Your editor tells you what they want you to write, not the other way around.

    When I was developing part two of the series I told Tom Gorman that I wanted to write about some of my neighbors and his common sense reply was:

    "If I wanted a grounds-eye view of people impacted by the recession, I could send any reporter out to do that; what another reporter can't do, however, is get inside your head and tell us how you're feeling. That's what I want from you."

    Many readers don't understand the point that I am expressing my emotions in the story because that is precisely what I was instructed to do -- and when there's a paycheck at the other end of the deadline, I don't argue with editors.

    For anyone inquiring why we have not returned to California yet (such as Carolyn Singer) I would suggest a close line-reading of the article for the answer to that riddle.

    As for all others with condemnation in their words and tone, I will simply retort with two finely-honed bits of wisdom from George Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London" ....
    "It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you."

    "It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level."

    Thank you for reading.

  38. Rodger, I see your point regarding writing the article as you were assigned to do. Maybe the Sun will take note of those comments regarding you writing articles about others in your situation and hire you to write more articles on this or other subjects. I have no idea what they pay you for it, but I'm sure you could use a few more assignments.
    I also can't imagine anyone wanting to begrudge you your $900 a month SSI. Since SSI is for those with disabilities, and $900 is hardly enough to live on, and it appears you are legitimately entitled to it.
    Good luck out there. Glad to hear that you've managed to hang on.

  39. Olbuddy, my "elitist, lazy girlfriend" volunteers at Threesquare once and sometimes twice weekly to help feed the thousands of hungry people -- especially school-age children -- in Las Vegas; if that's elitist and lazy, I'll take that over whatever opposing socio-economic imprint you have in mind any day.

    Joe (Bakersfield), thank you for your understanding.

    Willow, the beer at the market up the street costs the same at Wal-Mart; it's called price fixing by beverage distributors. I've been a wise consumer for several decades, please do not assume that I need your consumer tips. And why are you "worried" about my anger? Why do you even assume I'm angry? The anger isn't coming from me, it's coming from elsewhere in some of the comments. A retort to hostility is not anger, it is a rebuttal. An angry man opens his mouth and closes his eyes, as Cato the Elder said a long time ago, and I see a lot of anger here ("Rodger is pathetic", for instance) -- do you see me hurling the same sort of epithets around?

    You know, a few nights ago, shortly before the publication of this installment, I had a busy, disturbing dream that, in one segment, involved me opening a door in the side of a building and emerging onto a theater stage where a prop crew was dressing a set, as they told me when I inquired, for a production of Shakespeare's "Macbeth". I told the crew that I didn't like the set, that I preferred it better when the stage was dressed for "Julius Caesar".

    The dream and its symbolism did not make a lot of sense at the time but now it does; it was an "Ides of March" premonition in and of itself; what we see here in so many of the comments is an expression of the theme of Shakespeare's play: emotional contagion, sometimes more popularly known as mob rule; a broader definition of the phenomenon was suggested by Sigal G. Barsade -- "a process in which a person or group influences the emotions or behavior of another person or group through the conscious or unconscious induction of emotion states and behavioral attitudes".

    The question I would like you and perhaps others to meditate on, Willow, is this: Who, in reality, is spreading the emotional contagion? The commenters feeding upon one another, or the author who controls the narrative and provokes the reaction that he or she wants from the reader? Think about it.

  40. Larry, sorry for any confusion here: I do not receive SSI. I receive Social Security Disability (for eight years now) and Medicare. I paid into the system for over 25 years.

  41. Halo, did you not get that Lela volunteers at the Threesquare Food Bank every week? As for me I do my fair share of volunteer work in the academic field but I perfer to keep it quiet.

    In 2007 when we were living in North Beach, San Francisco, a "computer glitch" (I was never satisfied with an answer better than that) resulted in a loss of my Disability benefits for eight months; my good friends at Vesuvio gave me a night job four nights a week as a doorman and bouncer. I wrote about those days for Pop Matters in this excerpt from a piece titled "Sunday in Kerouac Alley":

    I know more than you presume -- and presume is the operative word here -- about doing work that is "not fulfilling" ... that door man job is what led to the onset of my psoriatic arthropathy.

  42. These things don't happen in a vacuum, Willow, this has been a steady downfall since 2008 with a few brief respites in between. But no doubt the situation worsened after my mother's death and the onset of the recession, which effectively trapped us here.

  43. The only reason the Las Vegas Sun publishes this garbage is for the gossip/comments attention. This is because it's a big hit with reader comments pushing it to the "Most Read" chart. "It sells newspapers."

  44. @ Markey; You said: "Christian Conservatives" in Las Vegas really talk bad about the homeless and unemployed here, until they end up in the same situation that is."

    Yes, the Christian Conservatives are the ONLY ones out there helping the homeless.

    You don't see the ACLU, Harry Reid's, Rory Reid's, Doug Gillespie's or Oscar Goodman's or any LIBRALS, including mred, Killer B, Erwin Winkler, and many other hardcore Liberals out there helping the homeless. I know because I'm out there each and every day.

    Christian Conservatives, Mr. Markey, believe in helping people by VOLUNTEERING our time, money and donated items to the homeless and poor, not being FORCED to contribute.

    The Liberals, Socialist and Communists on this page want us to be forced to help others but they don't want to use their own money, they want to use other people's money.

    And that's the difference. We use our own money voluntarily and they use other people's money by force, never their own money. And, they want a huge government so they can have their lifetime welfare retirement checks at the expense of OTHER PEOPLE.

    The sole reason there are so many REAL homeless in this county is the failure of the Las Vegas Sun to do it's job and report the truth AND the Liberal self-serving power structure in government that fail to help the homeless.

    The people in this story are NOT homeless. And the characters of this FICTION story don't need to define homelessness to me.

  45. Its so crazy how little compassion people have I saw this movie about the end of the world and everyone one was eating people...we are not far off it is day you will be suffering in some way and when no one comes to your aid youll know why..

  46. Mr. Jacobs is not a sympathetic "victim" in large part due to his self-portrayal.

    From personal experience I know that there are some places in this country where you can in fact live on a minimum wage job, or less. There are a number of places in North Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas where you can rent apartments or homes for under $500/mo, sometimes under $$350/mo. Are they big or nicely furnished? No, but they are a base and a home.

    Like many others commenting on this series of stories, I simply can't think of Mr. Jacobs as being "homeless." Neither does my wife, and she is a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.

  47. "quoting Henry Miller will ever win the Pulitzer" True... But being an empty suited president who has lived his entire adult life on handouts from charity run organizations and other government handouts, as well as having no idea what makes the economy work, does win you a Pulitzer!

  48. For those previous comments where assistance was offered... This is Vegas, people here like to talk about offering help. Its backing those words up with action that is difficult to for people here to achieve.

  49. Roger,

    I am sorry for not feeling sorry for you. See I too have been homeless, moving from Las Vegas to LA. I lived under a bridge on Western and Sunset for three months. I got my head out of my ass, quit feeling sorry for myself and used social services to gain employment.

    I gave up the sometime margarita, cigarettes and vices to clean up myself. No one, not even my family would give me a hand out.

    I made it on my own. I didn't care what people think or thought of me, I got myself there and with the help of the Bill Smith Homeless Veterans project and Mr Rich Little I am not homeless anymore.

    Now, ten years later, I have 4 more children, own my own house (trailer) in Florida and pay my bills, taxes and support myself. I am not rich with money, which is only paper anyway but rich with life and the experiences.

    Good Luck and quit feeling sorry for yourself, I dont.

  50. Rodger - I wrote some thoughts in my post on "Dec. 5, 2010 1:26 p.m. that I hope you read - but did not comment on in your subsequent rebuttals of other posts. I was trying to spur you into positive thinking. As were my comments, many of the posts herein provide "food for thought. Such comments should give you HOPE, and SPUR YOU INTO ACTION. Because succumbing to FAILURE, IS NOT AN OPTION.

    As I related in my childhood story - which went on for 18 YEARS - most, if not all posters with similar hardships have RISEN ABOVE their former dire circumstances, and became (their version of) successful in life,

    Over time, your somewhat speculative (e.g., LA) " plans" have become elusive "ideas." And just relating your hardships is NOT a NEW, or "news," story. This is your 3rd article, and you are STILL just writing about what has NOT HAPPENED, along with more comments of misery. Even HAMLET had a CONCLUSION (although not a better ending). For this series to be meaningful, you need to DEMONSTRATE PROGRESS, and SHOW (TELL) readers HOW, and WHEN, you WILL resolve this dilemma - AND THEN DO IT.

    Otherwise, WHAT's THE POINT? How can readers relate to something that goes on and on with no conclusion, and no successful ending. WHEN WILL "YOUR STORY" END?

    DO something more - show progress, give us the answer, and make your 4th in this SERIES - "YOUR STORY of SUCCESS." Your situation happens to millions of others every day. But, Rodger, you have the ability to TELL your story, to inspire others, and GIVE THEM HOPE!

    As for your comparisons to "The Grapes of Wrath" (and other writers), I see them as a figment of your immagination. Yes, you ARE unique - as a person, but there are millions of others in very similar circumstances. There are many writers I could quote, but the best one is Norman Vincent Peale. He wrote in: "The Power of Positive Thinking," that a GOOD "ATTITUDE" was (is) crucial to achieving anything.

    My personal proof of that (presented in my prior post), is the success of my family (while in abject poverty) DID NOT WIND UP HOMELESS. I attribute this to the HARD WORK (3 JOBS a day) my mother did, and her faith-based POSITIVE ATTITUDE that "God will provide." I believe that God worked through others to help us survive.

    After all, when miracles happen, WHO provides them? Look for your miracle, Rodger. It can happen, but only if you BELIEVE in miracles - and seek them out.

  51. Pardon me for interrupting this lively discussion but I would like to make two quick points:

    First of all, the Columbia Encyclopedia defines "homelessness" as "the condition of not having a permanent place to live"; that is the definition being employed in this series of articles for the Las Vegas Sun; when one is paying rent by the week with no intention of living in the residence for a fixed, prolonged period of time, that fits many social standards of homelessness.

    Second point: please refrain from turning this discussion into a moratorium on my legal use of prescription pain medications, which are supervised by a physician as required by federal law. That is off-topic and not relevant to any reasonable discussion of my work here.

    Thank you.

  52. The mere act of asserting that the sky is green when all evidence indicates the contrary does not make it so; I have provided the definition of homeless as it is being used by myself and, I may add, my editors at the Sun whose idea the title was; we can split hairs over definitions ad infinitum but in the end it is nothing more than a useless, non-enlightening discourse in semantics that fails to address the larger topic(s).

  53. The comments with links are being removed because they are in violation of my Creative Commons license at Bat Country, Carvers Dog, and 8763 Wonderland; the license is clearly posted on each blog/website; just a copyright issue -- no quotes are to be used either. The same applies for pretty much anywhere else where you'll find my work on the internet, it's copyright protected. As to Willow's comments: as the author of any articles, journalism, blog or website postings that I may choose to link to or quote from, I am exempt from the terms of my Creative Commons license.

    Nothing personal, just business. Intellectual property is as protected as any tangible physical property.

  54. Area 51, you are invited to read my essay at Pop Matters on the posthumous release of the Kerouac/Burroughs collaboration, "And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks"; in the essay I offer a concise deconstruction and post-mortem of the post-war consumer society, a segment of the vox populi that I have always been critical of. I'm not ashamed of that; and don't tell me that people who sustained thier lives on credit lines were "not financially conscious of their situation." (Not that I'm up for a discussion -- I'm not).

  55. The only people who would invoke Cesar Chavez's name in a negative or mailicious way are those who believe that migrant workers should have no rights or protection under the law.

  56. Willow, my website has an ND Creative Commons license that you are in violation of. Please erase your comment ASAP.

  57. Seven links goes beyond fair use. Sorry.

  58. Hello there, Roger, I'm glad to see your latest article on being down and out in Vegas. I stayed at the budget suites last year and again this spring. It seemed like there were a lot less people there this year than last. Just like your earlier articles, this one seems to get a lot of comments, many of them negative. All I can say is that Vegas can be a tough place to be really broke in. My opinion on your writing is that it is excellent, and I think having you chronicle your travails is a great idea. When I read your article, I almost feel like I'm just in the next apartment, they are modest, to say the least! But as my now-deceased sister[RIP Carole-2010}told me,BSuites beats the crap outta staying in the cemetary down on LV Blvd, down in Northtown.The shanty town down there is rough.I am glad that you are holding on,last time I was there at the Budget Suites our room faced Lake Mead Blvd,everybody I talked to[neighbors] in there had heartbreaking stories as to how they had landed there, usually right after losing their houses. Some of the guys had been working on CityCenter, making fantastic money; but also spending 110% of their income which left them totally exposed when the LV construction industry imploded. I look foward to reading your future articles. Hang in there!

  59. "Willow", what you are engaging in constitutes online harrassment. Since you've quoted Stanford, I'll cite you Black's Law Dictionary:

    "A course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such person and serves no legitimate purpose" or "Words, gestures, and actions which tend to annoy, alarm and abuse (verbally) another person."

    I would advise you to cease and desist immediately.

  60. Hey, Michael; the buildings on the Lake Mead side of the property seem to attract a lot of long-timers here, as do the buildings fronting on Smoke Ranch. Good to see you again and thanks for the comments.

  61. For anyone who would like to read an inspiring story about the journey of homelessness, read about this girl

    She became homeless in Feb 09 and turned her tragedy into triumph with a positive attitude and diligence. And excellent writing. If you go to her current page you'll see (second post down) how she is now getting ready to start a new job. What an inspiration she is.

  62. Rodger say

    "It is curious how people take it for granted that they have a right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level."

    A real writer understands that putting yourself out there opens you to critics. Regardless of how much money you make. And it should be that way. Are we all just supposed to say "oh, poor Rodger, here's some good feelings and, oh yes, here's some money too?" Please. You write, people respond. Some agree with you, some don't. Welcome to life.

  63. I suppose we are to feel sorry for you Roger? You're writing this article re "the new homeless" sitting in a bar, drinking a margarita and most likely smoking up a storm. That, sir, is not going to win any sympathy. No wonder you get such nasty and negative comments from posters; it's not that they are mean and not compassionate, but no one likes to read about an alleged sob story when you yourself are the problem.

    BTW - quoting Black's Law Dictionary doesn't mean a thing. It is what it is - a dictionary, not the law. So your "cease and desist" order is full of crap.

    Quit making a fool of yourself. Start by not actually telling the folks you want pity from that you are in a bar drinking.

  64. Rodger, I was sorry to see that you did not make it to LA. I was glad, however, to read of your new Jack London publication, congratulations.

    On your first article I mentioned that I use coupons to make ends meet, but I didn't link to any of the sites I use. I rely heavily on Internet blogs and message boards to find deals. Hip2Save and are my two favorite sites to use.

  65. I apologize if some of my latter comments read strangely out of context but they were written in response to untrusted comments that have hence been appropriately deleted.

    I would also like to point out that a few days ago a person posted what appeared to be a dubious comment suggesting that he or she would be willing to contribute $5,000 toward our move to California if it could be proven that Lela has been gainfully employed in the past as a freelance editor.

    Although we both cast a jaundiced eye on the Yahoo e-mail address ([email protected]), we both sent e-mails, without divulging any personal information, verifying that the information required could be provided upon request. Lela also provided a link to her work history at her own blog, a measure in which to gauge whether "Secret Santa" was real or bogus.

    To date, no one has visited the link, according to her site stats.

    In short, Secret Santa's dangling of $5,000 -- which certainly seemed too good to be true in the first place -- was a hoax and he or she was probably egged on by many of the other spiteful comments that were posted here Sunday through Wednesday evening.

    This was a cruel hoax perpetrated by a human being with a cruel and callous heart. I wouldn't give ten cents for your karma, "Secret Santa", and you damn well better start looking both ways before crossing the street because fate will be bearing down on you when you least expect it --- or perhaps, as the Bard suggested in "Julius Caesar", your fate may be more prolonged and agonizing:

    "Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once."