This post follows on from and should be read in conjunction with the recent article, Homeless Image and Stereotypes.
Every day, we walk past people in the streets without having the slightest clue that they are homeless because they do not fit the stereotypical image. Even of those that do fit the common-held image, you simply cannot tell by looking at them what past contribution to society they may have made or what contribution they may be capable of producing in the future. You never know what value or talent could be concealed behind the grubby faced facade.
The following persons have all experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. Some only briefly and some for many years. Some have risen to fame from poverty while others have declined from wealth to destitution. Some possess extreme intelligence, others artistic talent but all have made positive contribution.
This compilation is by no means exhaustive.
John Drew Barrymore
Actor; father of actress Drew Barrymore spent many years living on the streets and in shelters, becoming more and more reclusive and eventually disappearing into the wilderness maintaining very little contact with friends and family.
In an interview with magazine, US Weekly, Berry stated that she had stayed in a shelter for a time.
Actor, writer, producer and comedian lived out of a VW van in various locations across Canada with older brother John Carrey, older sister Rita Carrey, and parents Percy Carrey and Kathleen Carrey. Also camped in a tent with his family in the backyard of the home of his older married sister, Patricia.
Oscar-winning actor,writer,director and producer; British-born author; knighted. Lived on the streets of London during his childhood after his father died and his mother, Hannah suffered a mental breakdown. After Hannah Chaplin was again admitted to the Cane Hill Asylum, her son was left in the workhouse at Lambeth in south London, moving after several weeks to the Central London District School for paupers in Hanwell. Chaplin’s early years of desperate poverty were a great influence on his characters. Themes in his films in later years would re-visit the scenes of his childhood deprivation in Lambeth.
Grammy Award-winning singer; American Idol television talent show 1st-season winner 2002. Lived out of a car and in a shelter, with her female roommate after a major structural fire forced them out of a 71-unit apartment building in West Hollywood, California in March 2002. In an interview with Inside Edition television news magazine, September 5 2002, her roommate-fellow Texan, actress/singer Janet Harvick was quoted as saying, “It was really, really rough because we had just moved here, and we had just moved in the day of the fire. We knew nobody here—I mean nobody, so the night of the fire, the next day, and night, we stayed in our car.”
US Weekly magazine, September 23, 2002; print story: “‘My apartment [building] burned down; my car got towed twice,’ recalls Clarkson, who, with nowhere to go, lived in a homeless shelter for several days.”
Grammy Award-winning singer,songwriter, musician; lead vocalist of the band “Nirvana” camped under a bridge in Aberdeen, Washington USA and slept in a cardboard box on the porch of a drummer friend; hallway floor of an apartment building, hospital waiting room and old couch in a garage. (source: book, Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain, by Charles R. Cross, 2001).
Actor; James Bond in the 007 movies, is reported as having slept on a park bench in London while a struggling actor. (source: Daily Mail newspaper, October 14, 2005).
Oscar-winning actor (as child star); the original voice of Walt Disney’s 1953 Peter Pan animated movie died alone and destitute of a heart attack at age 31. The body was discovered by boys playing in a vacant tenement building in New York City and was buried in an unmarked grave, unidentified until several months later.
Actor; star of the television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation lived out of his car, in Los Angeles while a struggling actor.
American songwriter; wrote six number one hit songs. Albums featuring his songs have sold over 25 million copies. Became homeless twice in the 1970s after being discharged from military service in the Vietnam War.
Ella spent years as a struggling, homeless teenager before she was discovered in a singing competition. In 1932, her mother died from a heart attack. She was taken in by her aunt, Virginia. Shortly afterward her sister’s guardian also died of a heart attack and Frances joined Ella at Virginia’s home in New York City.
Following these traumas, Fitzgerald’s grades dropped dramatically, and she frequently skipped school. At one point, she worked as a lookout at a bordello and also with a Mafia-affiliated numbers runner. After getting into trouble with the police, she was taken into custody and sent to a reform school. Eventually she escaped from the reformatory, and became homeless.
Multimillionaire stockbroker (net worth $65million (2006)); American author; the 2006 movie the Pursuit of Happyness starring Wil Smith was based on his life. He slept in subway stations, trains, bathrooms, church-run shelter with his son in California.
Emmy Award-winning actor; star of the television series Frasier camped out the back of a theater behind his motorcycle (source: Entertainment Tonight, December 12, 2001, celebrity ‘Rags to Riches’ story segment.)
Oscar-winning actor slept rough on the streets of Southampton, England during a summer in his youth at the time of World War I. (source: book, Cary Grant: A Biography, by Marc Eliot, 2004, page 31: “Archie then volunteered for summer work as a messenger and gofer on the military docks, often sleeping in alleys at night if he didn’t make enough money to rent a cot in a flophouse.”).
Magician, escapologist and actor; Hungarian-born American author slept rough and in temporary shelters; left home at age 12 in search of work and traveled for two years on his own, making his way from Wisconsin to Missouri and settling finally in New York City.
West African-born (Beninese) Oscar-nominated actor and model slept on the streets and in subways near the Eiffel Tower for two years beginning at age 13 before being discovered and offered modelling contract.
She slept in subways and on the roofs of apartment buildings. “When I see the homeless now, I empathize,” she told Kaufman in the New York Times. “I know there but for the grace of God go I,” she continued.
Emmy Award-winning television writer, comedian, author and talk-show host of the television talk-show Late Show with David Letterman spent time living out of his Chevy pickup truck while struggling to establish his career.
In an interview with USA Today Weekend, she was quoted as stating at 8, she and her mom left Kim’s abusive father. “There was a time when my mother and I were living out of the trunk of her car”. “We slept in the back seat.”
Nobel Prize-winning Swedish author (abandoned by his mother at an early age along with his sisters when his father died; later as an adult, he traveled for a time on a “homeless tramp” as a vagrant and vagabond, experiences that provided the basis for some of his writings). Martinson was born in Jämshög, in the Swedish county of Blekinge in south-eastern Sweden. Having lost both his parents at a young age, he was put into foster care. At the age of sixteen, Martinson ran away, and enrolled on a ship where he spent the next years sailing around the world. A few years later, lung problems forced him to set ashore in Sweden. He proceeded to travel around Sweden without a steady employment, at times living as a vagabond on country roads. In the city of Malmö, he was arrested for vagrancy, at the age of 21.
Quoted in Interview Magazine in 1997: “I was homeless for a year. I teamed up with this other girl - I met her the first day I was on the streets - and we roamed all over Oregon and Washington.”
Singer, songwriter and poet; lead singer and lyricist for the 1960s rock band The Doors; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (with The Doors), slept on rooftops, in cars and under the pier at Venice Beach, California and ‘couch surfed’ at friends appartments.
British author stayed in homeless shelters either to research material for his work or (likely) necessity.
Charles Sanders Peirce
Harvard University educated genius scientist, mathemetician, logician, philospher and author; first psychologist elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Peirce spent much of his last two decades unable to afford heat in winter, and subsisting on old bread kindly donated by the local baker. Peirce died destitute in Milford, Pennsylvania.
Sally Jesse Raphael
It is written in her biography, ‘An Unconventional Success’ that she lived in her car for a time. For a while, her financial situation was so dire that she was on food stamps.
Wrote about having to literally live in her Cadillac for a while after divorcing Harry Karl.
Harland ‘Colonel’ Sanders
Businessman; founder-spokesperson of the Kentucky Fried Chicken fast-food restaurant chain. Became homeless at age 10 when his mother remarried and he left home due to altercations with his stepfather. As an adult he slept on the back seat of his car because he could not afford lodging as he traveled around the United States and Canada, sometimes with his wife Claudia, trying to sign up restaurants to use his special fried chicken recipe for a franchise licensing fee.
Actor and rap music star. Impoverished throughout most
of his childhood, with his mother and half-sister, he moved between homeless shelters and low grade accommodations in New York City.
Emmy Award-winning actor, director and best-selling Canadian-born American author. After the cancellation of the television series Star Trek, in which he starred, he travelled the east coast of the U.S. appearing in a play on the summer theater circuit and sleeping in a camper with his dog, a Doberman pinscher. “I now had three children and an ex-wife to support and I was just about broke,” he told the Daily Mail in May, 2008. “I lived out of the back of my truck, under a hard shell. It had a little stove, a toilet, and I’d drive from theater to theater. The only comfort came from my dog, who sat in the passenger seat and gave me perspective on everything.” (Details magazine, January 2008.) “I’d been a working actor for decades, I’d starred in three failed TV series [Star Trek the most recent] , and I was a divorced father of three children living in the back of a truck.” (Up Until Now: The Autobiography, by William Shatner with David Fisher, 2008, page 159. ) Also, earlier in his life, he hitchhiked across the U.S. with a male friend during a summer break after their freshman year in college. (From the same above autobiography, page 32) “We had no money, so we made signs reading ‘Two mcGill Freshman Seeing the U.S.’ and hit the road. We spent three months living in cars and sleeping on the grass and on the beach.”
Emmy Award-winning actor,director and producer; slept in New York City subway while a young struggling actor.
British-born director, documentary filmmaker and former model slept in subway tunnels in New York City for two years while making a documentary on the city’s homeless.
In 1989, when she was 15, Swank and her mom packed up their Oldsmobile Delta 88 and, with just $75, headed to Los Angeles. They lived in the car until a friend [evetually] gave them a place to stay. Swank’s mom used a pay phone to book her daughter for auditions. (Readers Digest)
Chinese-born film director (Mission Impossible 2, Broken Arrow, Windtalkers, etc.) Lived in a crude shelter having been made homeless for a year and losing everything at age seven, along with his family, after a major fire in Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1953 destroyed his home and those of 50,000 other residents.
All images were retrieved from Wikimedia under the following licenes: Public Domain (PD), Share Alike Attribution 2.0 (2.0), Attribution 2.5(2.5), Attribution 3.0 (3.0) and GNU Free Documentation Licence (GNU). Berry (Alexander Horn, 2.5), Carrey (Wiki user ‘ThrowingStick’, GNU), Chaplin (The Tramp, PD), Clarkson (Marcus Wong Wongm, 3.0), Cobain (PB Rage, 2.0), Craig (Caroline Bonarde Ucci, 3.0), Fitzgerald (Carl Van Vechten 1940, PD), Gardner (DB King, 2.0), Grammer (Christen R. Nicholas US Navy Lithographer 3rd Class, PD), Grant (Philadelphia Story 1940, PD), Houdini (McManus-Young Collection 1899, PD), Kitt (Carl Van Vechten 1952, PD), Letterman (SSGT Reynaldo Ramon USAF, PD), Martinson (Gunnar Lundh 1940, PD), Orwell (BNUJ, PD), Shatner (Salvatore Capalbi, 2.0), Sheen (U.S. Navy Chief Journalist Daniel Ross,PD), Swank (Copyright holder permits free usage for any purpose).