Are Most Homeless People Good or Bad?

A homeless man sits outside his RV camper.

When it comes to homeless people, society tends to cast them in a negative light and make them out to be bad people who are in the situation they’re in because of that. But this is just an unfair and inaccurate stereotype.

While being homeless myself, I met many people who were both bad and good. I stayed in a homeless encampment and got to know a lot of people in my area. Some of them quickly became enemies while some became genuine friends.

So when someone says something negative about homeless people around me, I get a little ticked off. Some of the best people I have ever met were people living on the streets. Some possess a level of morality that many other people don’t have. In contrast, I’ve known many people who are productive and work jobs and have families, who have no morals whatsoever.

But as I said, there are both good and bad apples out there sleeping on the streets. From the homeless people I have met, I’d have to say that most of them are not exactly the types you want to trust your belongings around. But just because there’s a large percentage like that, doesn’t mean that they are all like that.

So here’s a few examples of real-life people I’ve met and how they showed traits of either being good or bad. I’ve ranked these people I knew by using what I call a “morality score” with 0 meaning they are extremely immoral people and 5 meaning they are very moral and decent human beings. Some of these people really surprised me in the end, while others behaved exactly how I would have expected.

D.L. – Morality Score: 0/5
D.L. was a homeless man that I actually met just before I myself became homeless and this was the name he preferred to go by. I never knew him by any other name. I would often go grocery shopping at a nearby store and would wait at a bus stop for a bus to take me home while I sat there with all my grocery bags. It was at this bus stop that I met D.L. as he would sit there all day on the bench and we’d have friendly conversations about different things while I waited for a bus. He was always at this particular bus stop whenever I went shopping for food at the supermarket across the street.

I would help him out here and there by giving him food and a few bucks sometimes, but I quickly realized that he had a hustle there at that bus stop and that’s why he sat there all day. His money making scheme was that he would forge friendships with some of the bus drivers, and the bus drivers who felt sorry for him would give him free day pass tickets to ride the bus all day if he needed to get anywhere.

Normally, these bus passes cost people about $7 if they purchase them through the bus drivers, but here they were giving them away for free to D.L. on an almost daily basis. I watched what he was doing as we were talking and I soon discovered that he was selling the bus passes to regular people who would wait there for the bus. He would get them from the drivers for free, and would turn around and sell them for $4 instead of $7.

Because he had more than one driver providing him with passes each day, he made a consistent amount of money doing this that was probably in the range of about $12-$20 per day on some days. But this wasn’t the reason why I felt he was immoral and deserves a 0/5 score.

One day, he told me that he found a woman’s phone and he was attempting to show me videos on her phone. I could not believe that he had this woman’s phone and was not making any attempt to return it. If I had found the phone, I would be calling all the phone numbers listed in the contacts on it to get in contact with someone she knows in order to return the phone.

While I was sitting with him at the bus stop and trying to convince him to return it, the woman called him and began threatening him to get her phone back. He answered and told her “no” and hung up on her.

I then offered to buy the phone back from him so that I could return it to the girl, but he would not sell it to me. There were videos of the woman possibly engaging in activities that would get her in trouble at the time, as there was a video of a specific plant on her phone that may not have been legal in California at the time (this was circa-2011 so it may have been legal medicinally.)

So my hands were tied because I couldn’t call the police to get her phone returned to her as that may actually get her in trouble for all I know, but D.L. would not sell me the phone either so that I could return it to this girl. From that moment on, I stopped talking to him and felt he was one of the most immoral people I had ever met.

It was a very frustrating experience for me and I never saw him again after that. We were very friendly and talked every day up until then, and it made me mad to know that this guy was getting favors from bus drivers all the time while many more homeless people with better morals get less help.

However, shortly after that I heard that the city had clamped down on the bus passes being given out and that they all had to be accounted for better about a year later. So D.L. may have secured his own fate and karma after all by not returning that phone to the woman.

Carl – Morality Level: 5/5
Then there was Carl, a homeless man who was dying from liver disease while he was homeless. I had befriended Carl briefly outside a local shelter as I slept in a parking lot directly outside and he slept in his van across the street in another adjacent parking lot.

I don’t know how exactly Carl acquired liver disease or how long he had known he had it. I didn’t want to depress him by asking too many questions about it, but Carl did state a few times that he was dying, because he would often have to visit a nearby hospital and told me why he was going there.

He may have had cirrhosis of the liver from alcoholism or possibly from Hepatitis C infection, because both of these are extremely common in the general homeless population. But it wasn’t my business and I didn’t want to seem judgmental by asking too much as I don’t think he deserved to have it even if it was from possible bad choices or addictions.

He was a good man in any case because even though he was dying and was sleeping in a cargo van, he would often let other people sleep in his van when it rained and I’m sure that he was just doing this to be kind to them and had no other ulterior motives for doing so.

I knew many people who told me he let them sleep in his van when it was bad outside and for this reason, he had many friends. I don’t know what happened to Carl after I had recovered from homelessness and gotten on my feet.I returned to where he was van was normally parked about 6 months later but it wasn’t there and others hadn’t seen him.

So sadly, he most likely passed away, but I like to think that maybe he just moved on to somewhere happier in the last months of his life or his family reconnected with him and took him in before his death.

I don’t know everything about Carl’s life or what type of person he was before I had met him, but he definitely seemed like a very decent person to me by the time I had crossed paths with him.

Adrian – Morality Score: 2/5
Out of all the homeless people I knew, Adrian was the one I grew closest to and I actually began to trust him. They say you should keep your enemies close, but in this case I had kept one a little too close and assumed he was a genuine friend.

Adrian was a person I met while homeless who seemed very mentally stable and rational compared to many other people I met on the streets, so we instantly became friends and started hanging out together and trying to get off the streets as a team.

He previously worked as a juvenile probation officer and was fired from his job and somehow ended up sleeping in his car at one point. He was someone that I truly believed had just had a lot of negative events happen to him quickly that spiraled out of control, and that he may not have been completely at fault for his situation.

He introduced me to many other homeless people while we were on the streets and he would typically sleep in his car while I slept outside in my tent around others, but he would come to our area and hang out with us at night when the sun had gone down.

When it started to become cold at night, he let me sleep in the backseat of his car and I was grateful for that. Once I got on my feet and acquired an amount of money that was significant to me, I made the plan to move to Thailand as I felt I’d be able to live cheaper there and could eventually find ways to survive that would be easier than in the United States.

To show Adrian my appreciation for the times he let me sleep in his car and for befriending me, I told him I would pay for his round-trip plane ticket to Thailand for a vacation with me if he wanted to go for a month, but that he must pay for his own food and hotel rooms while there.

I knew he was collecting a good amount of money at this point each month from different sources into his bank account, and would easily be able to afford this as he was spending more just staying in the states (he had begun to stay in hotel rooms and had moved out of his car towards the last few months we were in the states.)

I know what you’re probably thinking and that’s “Why would you go overseas when you just got on your feet? Shouldn’t you be watching your money more carefully after you were homeless and becoming more stable in the United States?.” All I can say is that after an experience like homelessness, you’re so depressed and exhausted from it all, that the first thing you want to do is to get happy again and to get away from everything for awhile. For me, traveling to Thailand and even moving there was highly therapeutic and my depression was so severe at that point, even after getting back on my feet, that I felt a little post-traumatic relief might do me some good, which it did.

Once Adrian and I arrived in Thailand, he began to take advantage of the money I had by overspending and acting reckless with the amounts I initially gave him to get by.

This wasn’t just being bad with managing money, as I expected that out of anyone who has been homeless, including myself. This was carelessly wasting my money and acting completely different once we got overseas, while knowing that his behavior and all the spending he was doing may end up causing me to become homeless again.

I foolishly loaned him a little more money when he ran out of the first amount with a promise from him that he would begin paying some of it back within a few weeks as soon as he received another payment to his account.

The $1400 plane ticket was completely free and a gift to him for helping me out. It was not something I wanted him to pay me back for. So I felt it was only fair that he pay for his own expenses as I didn’t have that much money left and he was still receiving payments from the states into his bank account.

Needless to say, I stayed in Thailand and he returned to the states owing me a lot of money and disappeared. He stopped responding to my emails and things soon turned nasty between us.

I felt that it was mainly about the principle of the matter, with him receiving payments and having income, while I was having to live just off my savings for a bit and he knew this.

While most people may not have homelessness or Thailand as part of their stories, just about everybody has had a “friend” or two like Adrian that has not repaid a loan or has otherwise taken advantage of their kindness.

I give Adrian a morality score of 2/5 because he did allow me to sleep in the backseat of his car on some nights after we had met and showed some other signs of morality such as caring about animals in the way I do. But with the way he took advantage of me as soon as there was an opportunity to, I can’t rate him higher than a 2 out of 5.

Mike – Morality Score: 4/5
Lastly, I knew a man named Mike when I was homeless who I had met through Adrian. He was sleeping outside a nearby shelter in a parking lot right next to the lot that I slept in, but he eventually moved into a van and I started seeing him less after that.

Before his move into the van, he and I had walked to Fry’s one day, which is a popular electronics store in California, so he could get a phone charger for his phone.

I went along with him because the library was closed that day and I thought I could learn some things from him through conversation along the way because he had been homeless much longer than I was.

He was released from prison about a year beforehand for a very terrible crime. However, after getting to know him a bit, I felt that he was genuinely a good person now and that whatever he had done before prison he now felt very remorseful and guilty about.

When we arrived at the electronics store, he was looking at many different things and eventually settled on a phone charger which he took off the shelf.

We started to walk up towards the front of the store as he had the charger in his hand, but when we arrived at the registers up front he noticed a bin that had discounted chargers for sale. He looked through the bin and realized he didn’t want to buy the original charger that he already had in his hand and picked up one of the chargers from the bin.

Instead of simply leaving the first charger package just lying there in the bin or next to it, he told me he had to return it to the shelf from which it came. That shelf was in the very back of the store and it would take a few minutes to walk all the way back there and then walk up to the registers again.

This wasn’t OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder) or some type of mental disorder he had. This was consideration for the employees in the store.

He was in such a rush earlier to get back to the shelter that we were sleeping outside of because he didn’t want to miss chow time (when they serve free food to all the homeless people who get there on time), but he still took time out to put that charger back, even after he briefly couldn’t find the correct aisle and shelf from which it came.

I consider myself to be very moral as I consider and look at most things from a morality standpoint. I remember thinking that this is something I would do, but was surprised that another person on the streets like me had that type of consideration for the employees in the store.

It goes to show that some people, even homeless people who have done very bad things in the past, may actually be good people after they’ve paid for their crimes or changed.