My Experience With Homelessness

How Art Has Helped Me Learn From My Mistakes

I am and always was a strange kid. It was fun and easy for the other kids to tease me. As I was being picked on I would cry and turn bright red. I had no idea how to handle all this. I felt like nothing. This depression and inability to connect with society, I believe, contributed to my homelessness.

Eric Lewis Basher is an artist residing in San Fransisco.

Basically I was this screwed up kid who was in and out of trouble constantly. I was never lazy. I was depressed and socially inept.

I lived in a small town, had a reputation, and everyone knew everyone. There were too many bad memories, and too few ways to forget about them.

I had to leave.

One day my dad bought me a train ticket to California. No plan, no money, no idea what I was going to do. I was scared of everything. That was back in 1984.

Eric’s Sketches

When I arrived in California I began sleeping outside, doing odd jobs and collecting cans to make a little bit of money. Finally after a year I entered Baker Places, a halfway house for individuals experiencing mental illness. It was okay, better than living on the streets after all.


The next three years were comprised of being in and out of four different halfway houses. Once I refused to take the pills they gave me, I was kicked to the curb. That’s how it worked. Back home I had three overdoses on prescription drugs, so needless to say me and pills were done. But my refusal of the medication was as good as saying “goodbye”.

Apples and Books by Eric Lewis Basher

I began sleeping in Golden Gate Park. I actually enjoyed that. It got dark, it got quiet, and I was able to see what few stars were in the sky.

Around this time I landed my first job in San Francisco as a bicycle messenger. I did that for 12 years. Then for some reason, I decided to become a Monk, shaved head and all that. I failed miserably and was rightfully booted.

In 1995 when I went back to Golden Gate Park. I learned how to make a shelter, panhandling all the while.

It wasn’t until 2008 that I entered the shelter system.

Throughout this time what has helped me the most has been Art.

Drawing. Chalk. Pastels. I am not the person I was. I am no longer the person sleeping in Golden Gate Park, no longer am I the one with a bad reputation. No longer do I feel like I am nothing. A person learns their lessons. That’s what life is all about.

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