Author: Nelson Morais
Date: Nov. 17, 2015

I’ve noticed that when I share with young men (say, 20-25 years old) my experience of being homeless for six years, they often tell me about their own homeless experiences, which usually lasted only months, not years.

Most of these men I’ve talked to had addictions, but now attend a Christian rehab program in this part of northeast Tennessee. When I was growing up in a Southern California suburb during the 60s and 70s, I didn’t know of anyone becoming homeless. In high school, there were rumors that a few students smoked marijuana, but not in the circle of friends that I had.

These days, of course, drugs are rampant, and easy to find. I believe it’s why we see a continuous need for homeless shelters, especially in cities.
In my ebook, “From Homeless to Heaven,” available at, I recount my story of hanging out in southern Georgia with a man in his 20s who I name “Jimmy Cruz.” Our paths crossed at a Salvation Army shelter, while we stayed there a few days.

When we both discovered we shared a desire for crack cocaine, we moved out of the Salvation Army and lived on the streets, or occasionally in a trailer that Jimmy rented that had no furnishings. On the surface, there was no reason for Jimmy to be homeless. He was outgoing, knew how to repair car engines, and, unlike me, could hold his own on constructions sites that we worked on briefly.

Jimmy had a Jeep co-owned by his sister, who did not live in the area we were in. The problem was, and is, that once you’ve tasted the highs of illegal narcotics, getting and using those drugs become your primary focus. That was definitely true with us. Whatever money we made went to buying food to sustain us, gas for Jimmy’s car, and, most importantly, getting our hands on more crack cocaine. One day, Jimmy decided to trade his car for crack from a drug dealer. When you crave a drug, you don’t, as a pastor friend likes to tell men at that local Christian rehab center, “play the tape to the end.” There was no public transportation in the town that Jimmy and I were in. But in our minds, a car worth $1,200 could get us a lot of crack. I’m sure Jimmy thought like I did: we’d figure something out about getting around town without a vehicle when that became our reality.

My homeless experience was a little different than Jimmy’s. I, too, was a drug addict, but I also suffered from a mental illness that kept me convinced for years that I NEEDED to stay homeless.

Not every person I met in homeless shelters or on the streets had a “drug problem.” But I bet a majority of them did.