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The Top Seven Cities for Homeless Living

By Rebecca Leib

For an extra credit social awareness project in high school, I once slept outside for a night on the streets of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  It was cold.  It was wet.  It was 1999. I had no cell phone, so I couldn’t play any games or make any calls in case I froze to death or needed snacks.

You can put away that tiny violin. My point is that being homeless seems really, really, hard. It also got me thinking what kind of high school teacher would approve of an extra credit project where a fragile teenager sleeps outside, all alone?

In Koldcast TV’s hilarious and heartwarming new show Home At Last, Bob, a drifter, (played by William Russ, the dream father from Boy Meets World) shows up at his son Mike’s door after a lifetime of being homeless. Home At Last tells a delightful and often touching story about Bob trying to become, well, un-homeless by maneuvering himself into his son’s life.  The two couldn’t be more dissimilar but, somehow, someway, they make it work!

Watch Episode 1, “Pee Paw”, of comedy series Home At Last

Click to play Episode 2, “Welcome Home, Dad”

Subscribe to Home At Last

I could do a night with a fancy sleeping bag, but a lifetime like Russ?  I’d be lucky if I survived with only a mild case of dementia.  Still, people do it…and for years on end. Take a gander at these seven cities where being homeless is a little bit easier. After all, not everyone has a guileless son to mooch off like Home At Last’s Bob.

1.     Key West, Florida

Key West used to be a place that wasn’t so good to its homeless, despite its mild tropical weather.  Still, after the development of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, this coastal city has become an excellent place for homeless people to live comfortably and healthfully.  The FKOC provides all kinds of services to Key West’s homeless, including toiletry bags, meal services, religious services, mental health groups and job training workshops.  You probably won’t be homeless for long if you get involved in FKOC, which is a wonderful improvement to the social programming of this southern state.

2.     San Diego, California

Another city that’s delightfully temperate, San Diego, California is known for its generosity towards the homeless.  It has many state, city and federally funded programs in its city limits that include food distribution, temporary housing, drug rehabilitation support systems, and clothing donation spots.  Being a university town also helps the cause of a homeless San Diegan: there are many university food drives and donation centers that contribute to the survival of those who are out on the streets. 

3.     Ogden, Utah

Ogden, Utah can boast its cleanliness and isolation over both San Diego and Key West.  Ogden is a very isolated city, which makes it very low in crime and high in friendliness and generosity. The people of Ogden experience a very low homeless rate, so their shelters are clean and empty. With overcrowding happening in many other homeless-friendly cities, Ogden seems like an attractive choice for the homeless person who doesn’t mind a colder climate.  Also, the people are known to be friendly and giving, so if you’re homeless and in Ogden, don’t forget to hit up some of the food banks and such!

4.     Austin, Texas

If you’re going to be homeless in Texas, you can’t mind seasonal temperature changes. That being said, they’re mild seasons, so the temperature won’t threaten the general well-being of someone living outdoors.  Austin also has a Homeless Resource Center, which is another program designed to provide homeless people lots of perks, including food services and rehab and counseling sessions.  Austin also has many progressive organizations like Green Door and Foundation For The Homeless. The city also stages charitable experiments; during SXSW it allowed a New York ad agency to pay homeless people to don gizmos and free t-shirts, acting as human WiFi hotspots to raise awareness and understanding of homeless people.

5.     Berkeley, California

Much like San Diego, being a college town is a huge advantage to Berkeley’s homeless population.  The University of California at Berkeley is incredibly progressive and liberal-minded, and most of the programs for homeless are designed by UC Berkeley faculty and staff, including The Berkeley Food and Housing Project, and The Berkeley Free Clinic.  Also, Berkeley has parks specifically designated for the homeless to sleep and live in.  Not too shabby for such an expensive city.

6.     Venice Beach, California

You’ll never be alone if you’re homeless on Venice Beach, which is a good thing for someone as sociable as Home At Last’s Bob!  The large networks of homeless people both reduce the rate of crime and color Venice Beach’s culture.  The homeless people on Venice Beach often help beachgoers stay safe. At the same time, Venice Beach wouldn’t be Venice Beach without the homeless, whose aforementioned community is colored with music, dance and other types of arts, not to mention all the programming for the homeless who live there, including the Homeless People’s Network and The Homeless Prevention Rapid re-housing Program. 

7.     Palm Springs, California

If you don’t mind the blistering heat of summer, Palm Springs is a great place to be homeless! Kids on spring break and vacationers often go to Palm Springs and what they don’t bring back with them, they leave – which means plenty of extra food, clothing and vacationing supplies for the homeless.  Palm Springs is desert, too, providing a dry, more manageable heat for those who have to live most of their life fighting the elements.  Of course, the city is no stranger to their homeless. They’ve got great services including the Safety House Of The Desert and Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, to name a couple.

Though William Russ plays a fictional character and this list is for your edutainment, homelessness is a real and serious issue. Check out the National Coalition For The Homeless to learn more.  Alternatively, if you’re curious about how one man gets closer to his son and out of his own homeless situation, watch Koldcast TV’s Home At Last.  Give back with some hard work and volunteerism, and then reward yourself with some laughs!

Rebecca Leib is a comedy powerhouse living in Los Angeles, California.  She performs regularly at iOWest, UCBLA and The Comedy Store.  In addition to The Sixth Wall, her writing can be seen in Beautiful/Decay, Tvgasm, and Perezhilton. You can read her weekly column on http://saysomethingfunnybitch.tumblr.com/rebeccaleib, go to her website at RebeccaLeib.com, or enjoy her web presence on twitter at @RebeccaLeib.

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Must Reads 8/30/2014