Real life story: Hope Dead Winter

By Dustin LaPres

Vendor Dustin LaPres’s impassioned story, written for Speak Up Zine, conveys the loneliness and distance he feels as a homeless man battling addictions and a criminal history.

Hope Dead Winter as it featured in Speak Up

Violent awakening…someone’s shaking me. I hear the low guttural growl of the policeman’s voice

“Sir, sir, you okay? You can’t sleep here. You gotta move on or I’ll arrest you for…” That’s how I awakened so many times under the bridge, under overpasses, in alleyways—freezing under a makeshift cocoon during the bleak winter months of a barren existence. Arrest me—hell, you would be doing me a favor. If I wasn’t so proud, I’d let you; I’d give in to the inviting image of a warm place with a hot meal… but I can’t. I can’t let them dismiss me so easily, and so I get it together and move on. Time to move on. The sun is rising on the hope dead horizon, and I have certain tenets of my invisible existence I must adhere to. The intruding fight-or-flight spawned by the detachment of the policeman’s voice reverberates inside—the cold threats of the enforcers of this self-subservient society echoing inside my post-traumatic mind.

I am the filthy carbon visage of a legion of invisible persons. I am one of the mutant manifestations of a money- and materialcentric society. I am ugly to some; an eyesore to most, and invisible to all but a few. I walk and I walk, searching trash receptacles for bottles to return, and asking the occasional passerby for spare change. Even a hobo needs the cursed money to survive. I walk past open restaurants, mouth watering and stomach screaming; daydreaming of the veritable feast of delicious treats inside. I stumble down early morning avenues where families are exiting the comfort of their homes together, and I reminisce about the long lost days when I had a family, when I had a job and the comfort of a home. I keenly observe everything that I will never have, and I hurt.

I am cold and I am hungry and I hurt.

In hindsight, I’m not sure what was truly more painful: lack of everything that everyone else had and how that makes me feel, the loneliness, fear and hopelessness; or the sting of the resounding insults and threats—routine rejection because I have offended the sensibilities of their beautiful society? God helps those who help themselves, right? And those that he helps he must certainly love and so I believe that if he exists, he must hate me… if he exists.

These early morning walks and experiences take a drastic toll on my psyche and I feel the endless thirst rising from within. I desperately need the warm embrace of alcohol to fill the hole my plight has left behind.

Yes, I am an alcoholic. Many of us invisible citizens are. Does that offend your sensibilities, too? I hope that it does. I hope that everything about me and my kind sends chills through your entire being because here’s some brutal truth for you: It could’ve been you. You with your upper-middle class affectations and your comfortable self-righteous lifestyle…your automobile, home, white-picket-fence,

It could’ve been you.

I am not here trudging through the loveless streets conducting a tragic existence, ashamed and alone because of some moral failure. I am a human being. I was born a very gifted child with a beautiful mind… somewhere between, I was lost in translation in experience. I have no choice whether I drink or not because I am untreated. I am untreated because I’m unimportant. I am unimportant because I am unloved, and I am unloved because I have been pre-judged under stigma. I am the collateral damage of the disease of addiction, the manifestation of stigma, and the cold judgment of an egocentric socioeconomic culture. I live outdoors in brutal conditions; under bridges, in rail yards, beneath overpasses, and in bathrooms near you.

I am forgotten but not gone.

I am forgotten. But. Not. Gone. With a little love and encouragement I would one day ascend from this desolate vacuum of societal exile and once again walk into the spring sunshine of reconnection in your world. I long to be destigmatized, loved, valued, treated…a productive force within my community.

Perhaps one day I will be the change I would like to see in the world. I hope you are being the change you’d like to see.


One thought on “Real life story: Hope Dead Winter

  1. God has provided the love that you wished for! I am fortunate to be one of those that do! You are cherished by all that know you today! Your place on this planet is secure now and you have done just as you promised…..helping those that are unable to do so for themselves! We love you Dustin and are so lucky to have you!

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