By Max R. Weller
I’ve been homeless since September 30, 2002. That’s the day police in my small hometown back in Missouri arrested me after my 1 1/2 year career as a white-collar criminal (beginning at age 45). A lot led up to that: The death of my older brother in 1987, who had been a surrogate dad for me since our father died when I was only 4 years old; the loss of our family farm in Kansas in 1990, due to the expenses from a catastrophic illness suffered by my uncle (one of three partners including my cousin and I); my worsening disability due to venous insufficiency in both legs caused by heredity and a lot of physical labor over the years; my alcoholism; and the final straw being the loss of life savings belonging to my mother and I during her catastrophic illness in 2000-2001. Following her death, I embarked on a felonious scam to defraud the Social Security Administration. My ill-gotten gains weren’t even sufficient to keep up with utility bills and property taxes, however, and I became serious about suicide just a short time before a police officer figured out what was going on and moved in for the arrest.
I literally owe my life to Lexington, MO Police Captain Mark Lamphier — and I thank him here again.
Anyway, I pleaded guilty to state charges of forgery and was sentenced to 5 years in Missouri DOC. Interestingly, the federal government declined to prosecute and I was only too happy to voluntarily pay restitution from the proceeds I received from sale of our family home. After that restitution and paying probate attorney’s fees, I was flat broke.
I became a tutor in the prison GED program. Later, as a parolee, I volunteered and was also employed by several homeless services providers and shelters in Springfield, MO and Kansas City, MO. Since being discharged from parole supervision, I have moved to Boulder, CO and become a self-styled homeless philosopher and commentator. BTW, I’ve been sober since the day of my arrest almost 10 years ago.
I’ve not only been a family farmer and a farmhand/ranchhand working for others, I was a city councilman in my Missouri hometown from 1992-1993, a retail firearms dealer and gunsmith from 1991-1994, a Wells Fargo security officer from 1991-1995, and an activist in the politics of my hometown as a private citizen (who wrote dozens of letters-to-the-editor of the local newspaper).
Now, I maintain a positive attitude by existing at a minimal level in terms of consuming the bounty which is available to any homeless person; you’ll never see me feigning mental illness to qualify for a “crazy check” or otherwise using government benefits which I could apply for and receive. Having lost everyone and everything I once loved, I know that it’s my role now to live as an ascetic.
I will stress two things: The need for homeless men and women to accept more responsibility in their lives, and the need for the homeless services industry to stop enabling homeless people’s irresponsibility. I know many will disagree with my views. That’s great!