For the last years of his life Tyrone lived at an Antioch bus stop. He didn’t have a tent. Just a blanket or a sleeping bag. I would yell “Hi, Tyrone” as I passed him on my bike. He had a mental illness and couldn’t talk clearly, but he would smile and mumble something unintelligible. Sometimes I would give him a Clif bar, but normally he refused all assistance.
Several years ago, a person told me that when his own father was homeless that every month someone would come by and ask him if was ready to move indoors. After three years his dad decided that he was ready. So that is what I did, but he would always answer that he was happy there. I would see cars stop and hand him a bag of food.
One friend said that Tyrone gave her money to buy some food from the store across the street since they would not let him inside. As soon as she got out of his sight, she threw the money away because it was so dirty and reeked with a terrible odor. She bought him what he wanted and gave him the change so that he would think that she used his money. On another occasion he actually tried to give her money just for being so nice to him.
Today there are flowers and candles where he used to sleep. A lot of people on Nextdoor talk about their interactions with him and how he was always friendly. I don’t know what caused his death. Some suspect the cold weather, but he seemed content even when it was 40 degrees.
How did our society get to the point where the homeless die on the street? As a former congressman once said, “If it was easy to solve, it would have been fixed a long time ago.”
Tyrone has a daughter that lives nearby, two grandchildren, six siblings and countless cousins, nieces, and nephews. He grew up in the Bay Area, worked at the shipyard and studied the martial arts so that he could be like Bruce Lee. I don’t know how he ended up on the street, but his daughter alluded to an illness. It doesn’t sound like his family rejected him, so I am not sure what his situation was. At one time the state could lock people like Tyrone in a mental hospital, but over the last 50 years laws have been passed to prevent the government from institutionalizing most of the mentally ill. In addition the courts say that the homeless can sleep on public land if there are no shelter beds for them.
The bottom line is that I do not know what the answer is. Interestingly enough I do see a direct correlation between the number of people who say that they are advocates for the homeless and the number of homeless.
I read a book on substance abuse and the author said that the first step is to get the person to want to change. The author went on to say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. However, you can make the horse very thirsty. A good therapist should be able to convince someone that their life would be better if they got off drugs.” I feel it is the same with the homeless. Read Rule 1.10, which just happens to be the one that we are focusing on this month. But that is just my opinion. Let’s start a conversation. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will print the responses next month. Anonymously if you want.
Here is Tyrone’s obituary: