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Homelessness Myth #24: They All Frequent Bars

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We're all aware that the United States economy is going through some hard times. A number of businesses are experiencing financial down turns. Some housed people believe that all homeless people spend a great deal of time hanging out in bars and, by their very presence in those bars, negatively impact those businesses.

But do all homeless people really hang out in bars? To answer this question, I asked a number of people who have experienced homelessness whether they frequent bars and, if so, what have their experiences in bars been. I am grateful to them for their answers that follow.

Anonymous, a 49-year-old man who lives in his van: "I don't go into bars. In fact, I don't even like to go into stores so why would I go into a bar?

"Years ago I did go into two bars, but I was asked to leave both bars because I was homeless. I had never been in those bars before. I was asked to leave and I hadn't done anything. I wasn't drunk."

Ami, a 18-year-old woman who is homeless: "I don't drink [alcohol]. I can't. I would if I could, but I can't. I don't drink because I might be pregnant."

Dani, a 25-year-old man who has been housed for two years: "I was homeless right after I got out of the military when I left my wife. I was homeless for 1 ½ years.

"When I was homeless, I went to bars -- all the time. I pretty much lived at the Noodle House.

"I tried to take my friend who is homeless, autistic and of age into a bar. Because he was homeless, the owner sent a waiter to tell us that my friend had to leave. So we all left. We went to another bar.

"Now that I'm housed, I go to bars. It was my birthday yesterday and I think I hit all of them."

Ray-Ray, a 28-year-old man who is homeless: "I was asked to leave a bar because I am homeless. The rich have everything. [They think,] 'the hell with us kids!'

"I'm old enough to do anything, but I can't because I'm homeless. I have a lot of limitations, but I don't give up on anyone."

Joker, a 18-year-old man who is homeless: "Hell yes, I go to bars. I go all day whenever I want to.

"I've never been asked to leave. Once or twice I've seen another homeless person denied service in a bar.

"I've been denied service because I was too drunk when I got to that bar.

"Business is great when a homeless person goes into a bar. There are a lot of kinds of drunks. I'm a funny drunk. I'm one of those drunks that everybody likes."

Scott, a 32-year-old man who is homeless: "I don't go to bars. I haven't been in a bar since Easter Sunday. Before that I would go to bars.

"In San Diego I was asked to leave a bar because I didn't have any money.

"Several times I've seen homeless people asked to leave a bar because they were homeless."

Ronald, a 46-year-old man who is "in-between homes:" "I go to bars, but I don't drink. I go for the music and nightlife. I've been clean of alcohol for 15 years because I didn't want my four sons to be around that.

"I've never been kicked out of a bar for being homeless.

"It's how you dress. And if you don't buy something, they kick you out.

"[By the way,] do they really occupy 2,500 square feet and they don't have a restroom? But, then you still have to buy something. See this bottle of water? I bought it for $2 just so I could use the bathroom.

"I have seen people get kicked out of bars because they're homeless. That's why bars have cover charges -- to keep the homeless out.

"If you have a backpack, you're frowned upon [by the management of bars]."

Justin, a 25-year-old homeless man: "I don't know about homeless people and bars. I don't go to bars. I don't drink."

Terrance, a 36-year-old, self-employed man, homeless three years ago, currently housed: "I don't go to bars. I don't like bars because it's a set up. I can't remember the last time I was in a bar -- maybe 15 years ago.

"I don't even like to drink at ball games because of the kids. It's a mixed signal. Adults drink and the kids are right there seeing it."

Thomas, a 22-year-old, "very homeless" man: "I go to bars now and then. It's a good social place."

Boston James, a 52-year-old homeless man: "I can't afford to drink in bars. I've been homeless since 2000. I've been 86'd from every bar I've tried to get into -- not because I've done something stupid, but because when I became homeless, they no longer wanted my patronage."

Logan, a 50-year-old homeless man: "When I was rich, I used to go to the bars with a $1,000 in one pocket and $800 in the other. I would buy drinks for the house. I was very happy and everyone else was a 'hanger-on.'

"Now [that I am homeless], I don't go to bars anymore."

Grace, a 53-year-old woman who lives in her van: "I don't go to bars. I stay as far away from bars as I can.

"I have seen homeless people being kicked out of coffee shops and restaurants. There's a local coffee shop that opened with the premise that they were going to be a cultural center for Ocean Beach. So they have 'open mic nights' and full-moon drum circles.

"In the beginning homeless people could come in because they're real musicians and could use the open mic.

"But then the coffee shop had complaints and thought that it might lose business of how the homeless people looked.

"So, the store said that the homeless people had to be paying customers.

"Later, even if they were paying customers, homeless people weren't allowed to stay. They were told that they couldn't be there anymore -- they weren't welcome.

"[For example, I know] one young homeless man who is developmentally disabled, homeless, very nice, appears to be very young, and doesn't drink alcohol. Yet, they banned him because he talks to other people and distracts the staff.

"The coffee shop now has a retired police officer to sit in front and keep out the 'trolls,' as he refers to homeless people.

"Most homeless people don't drink in bars. [If they buy alcohol,] they get it from the corner liquor store and then get ticketed for public intoxication."

I look forward to your comments.