Just looking for a wave and a smile

Jason, right, and his 56-year-old street pal, Mark, take an early morning break before heading out to seek aid and comfort from passing motorists. Mark is a former painter and welder from Idaho. The two have been hanging out together since meeting 18 months ago at a local shelter.
Jason, right, and his 56-year-old street pal, Mark, take an early morning break before heading out to seek aid and comfort from passing motorists. Mark is a former painter and welder from Idaho. The two have been hanging out together since meeting 18 months ago at a local shelter.

I’m Jason. And I’m homeless.

My story is, I worked hard all my life. A few years ago, things changed. They went bad, both mentally and physically.

I thought it was just back and rib pain. About five months ago, I almost died in the parking structure where a friend and I spend our nights. It turned out I was suffering from liver disease — the final stage of failure, in fact. It messed up my mind and abilities, but I see a doc regularly.

Anyway, I have been homeless two years or more now. But I have never stolen or robbed.

I buy food with food stamps. I don’t know if it’s prejudice or discrimination, but I’ve been told I can’t eat inside, that I have to go outside. When my friend and I sit down to eat with our gear, we get run off.

I can’t get a job because of my liver problem. So I wave a sign while waiting for disability.

My friend does, too. We are trying to better ourselves the best we can.

We buy stuff to help us out these cold nights. But my friend has had his stuff stolen from leaving it a few minutes, so we keep our stuff close to us at all times now.

Recently, we went into a local store with our stuff in a shopping cart. We went in to get some things we needed, in the area where I also had to pick up a prescription. I get all my meds there.

They had security and a bunch of workers follow us everywhere we went. We heard a call over the intercom and then they were right there. I felt very uncomfortable.

My prescription wasn’t ready, so we paid for our stuff and went outside to wait on a bench. It took about 20 minutes, and they kept coming out and eyeing us. I figured the police were going to come, so as soon as I could get my meds, we left.

I just don’t understand why we are such outcasts. I am a sick man just trying to get back on my feet.

Yes, I have made some bad choices in my life. But I’ve never taken anything I couldn’t buy.

Everyone steers clear of me when I am holding a sign or packing my stuff around. People like me, we don’t deserve how we are treated this way.

I know there are some homeless who only want their drugs and alcohol, and they screw each other over for it. But I am an individual. I am honest, generous and friendly.

We are human beings. We are Americans. We are homeless, but not criminals or animals.

When I hold a sign, I flash a smile. I never pressure or tap windows to make people feel guilty, like I see a lot of others do.

Fortunately, there are some good people who don’t judge. Thanks to them, I’ve been able to buy sleeping gear and eat healthier.

One place my friend and I had been going for two years, with no complaints or problems, we got banned due to a lady that didn’t like us being around. She had her gang or posse try to intimidate us, park behind us and taunt us. We just ignored it, but then the cops showed up and it went nuts.

They said we were drinking beer and tapping on windows and a bunch of things. We never did that, and the cops didn’t find any beer. But we still got kicked off.

Some people liked us out there. They always helped us. They would even see us in other parts of town, ask us why we hadn’t been out there and help us.

I’m happy if I just get a wave or a smile. I feel like I belong, that I’m a human, not the plague.

I don’t have much life left now. I’m trying to be as healthy as I can, to maybe get a couple more years, as I need to fix some wrongs if I can.

I don’t hang with the bad ones, but I don’t judge or put them down. They are who they are.

I try to stay out of harm’s way. I just want people to treat me like a person, as a man with feelings and love.

My sign says:

Waves and smiles help this very sick man lots.

Don’t judge. Walk a mile in my shoes.

Need love and prayer. Anything helps.

Thank you. God bless.


Jason grew up in an abusive and alcoholic home in the small town of Mosier. He became a dropout at 13, a runaway at 14, a husband at 19 and a homeowner at 23. He worked in trucking, auto repair and construction until drink and divorce dumped on Mac streets. Now dying of liver disease at 45, he wants you to know one thing: He's a human being with feelings and values.



Maybe he could sleep at the Rescue Mission? He's just the person it's there for, as far as I can tell.


Yes, very true. However, he's tried the mission. He prefers the parking structure.

Not an acceptable choice for the community, I realize. But I suspect if he's run out there, he'll probably find a new outdoors spot somewhere. He'd rather be out on his own.

The issue is extremely complicated and difficult. I think this piece, hand-written on lined notebook paper, reflects that.



Get cleaned up and get a job.

Plenty around.

Get a room mate or two and move off the streets.

Use social services as a temporary bridge to something better.

Sacrifice, plan, save and do it.

Otherwise, just do what you’re doing but stop complaining about it.

Brad M

I have no idea what the opportunities out there to get cleaned up and go to work. If you're are homeless and have no family or friends, is there places to get your butt into gear with hard work? Clean clothes a shower and a job? But I've heard stories of people homeless getting help and eventually becoming successful and becoming home owners.
I feel for this guy but to answer this question.
"I just don’t understand why we are such outcasts. I am a sick man just trying to get back on my feet."

I've lived in mcminnville for 35 years. I use to give to the homeless money and food. Time and time again i would give them money and go into the store and see them buy booze. Also I have tried to give homeless food and have been told "what am i suppose to do with this?" Homeless with signs that say "anything will help" so no more. That's why. The bad ones have ruined it for the good ones like you.



It appears you missed a crucial element of the story. He is dying of liver disease. He doesn't have a lot of time left. His medical condition is severe enough at this point that it does not allow him to work.

He has applied for Social Security disability income. However, it would probably go primarily, if not entirely, toward child support obligations he has been unable to meet in recent years. That was not in the account, but perhaps helps explain what he's up against.

There are no easy answers. It's not as simple as just going out and getting a job. We all wish it were, but it's not.



Many homeless people dismiss places like the the rescue mission because staying there involves rules and a curfew and some shared responsibilities for the facility. They don't want to be told what to do and when to do it.
Obviously, some have burned all the bridges they could set on fire years ago, resulting in no ties, no families, no hope, no place at the dinner table. Maybe they left those behind because structure meant stricture.
As the song says, "You can't always get what you want."


I recognize that homelessness is a complex issue often affected by deeply personal details which make each situation unique -- some more heartbreaking than others. Still, a few constants might be assumed. If you're offered a bed with a few simple conditions attached, you're free to accept the bed (and its conditions) or reject it and live as you please. Beyond the mercy of soup kitchen meals, unconditional assistance is unrealistic for so many reasons.

The current mindset seems to be that everyone is entitled to everything. Kids today don't want to be discoverers of knowledge, titans of industry, explorers of the universe, leaders of nations or benefactors of humankind. No, they want to perform. But when everyone's a star, who will be the audience? Every night can't be Oscars night. It's interesting how a profession once just above that of the lowly whore has become the top spot for a generation's aspirations.

All very Roman. Doesn't give me a lot of hope for the future.



I appreciate your response and opinion.

But his choices are only two. To continue his current situation or try and improve it. One could logically assume due to his age and reported disease, that he has an alcohol and/or drug problem.

The fact is, the only way he can prolong his life, is to seek treatment and make some major lifestyle changes.

I hope he chooses life over addiction and homelessness.


I think he probably inflicted irrevocable damage on his liver with alcohol and is facing premature death as a result.

He admits to having been a heavy drinker for many years, but says that's all in the past. While that's impossible for me to verify, but I had several close contacts with him in different time frames, and detected no alcohol.

He is getting medical treatment through the county's Coordinated Care Organization, and is most grateful. However, according to him, the combination of the disease, the pain it causes and the drug regimen he's on is seriously disabling. And having only an eighth grade education, his employment options would all require manual labor.

He says he's doing everything he can, in the way of diet, medication and such, to treat his condition and prolong his life.

But I don't see him getting off the streets. I don't think that's in the cards.



And that is his right, and decision, to choose to not engage in numerous available resources and to continue to be homeless.

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