BERKELEY, Calif.–During the day, the northern end of Telegraph Avenue is filled with students, street vendors, and panhandlers. Stay out late enough and the homeless among them are the only ones that remain. At 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, I approached several men of varying ages in the hope that they'd tell me their stories. As best I could tell, they were schizophrenic. There would be no conversations.
As a last attempt, I approached a skinny kid sitting on the steps of a corner building a few blocks away from the UC Berkeley campus. He looked forlorn and agreed to talk in exchange for a light, which I didn't have. He chose to tell his story anyway. If you've ever wondered how a straight white male without mental health issues might end up homeless on the streets of Berkeley at 21, or what he's thinking as people walk past without making eye contact, here's a lightly edited version of the story that one such young man told me: