Profiles of Extreme Poverty

We are excited to offer a series of entries collected by reporters at Groundcover News, a news organization that seeks to “empower low-income persons to make the transitions from homeless to housed, and from jobless to employed.”

Here is the first, a story of survival in Detroit. Thanks to La Shawn Courtwright for this powerful reporting.

 - Luke Shaefer & Kathy Edin


Surviving Without A Check

as told to La Shawn Courtwright

Groundcover Vendor #56

When I was homeless at the age of 32, I lived on Belle Isle with Frank, my best friend. We obtained two grocery carts that were in the grocery store parking lot after the store’s hours of operation. We had taken the things we needed to the island and stashed them not too far from the Turkey Grill Restaurant, an easy marker. 

We would go bottle and can hunting all day until we got as many as we could take at one time. We put the glass in the shopping cart and hung extra bags around the cart for cans.

We would, at times, be offered food by people at the park and gladly accepted what was palatable. We also ate plants that didn’t require cooking and ate at the mission or a restaurant.

We had a large sleeping bag and an abundance of blankets and warm clothing. We used the shelter of the racquetball courts and collected a bunch of twigs or old coals that could be burned to produce enough heat until we fell asleep. We slept in the same bag to maintain warmth throughout the night.

We used the locker rooms to shower. Frank would wait for me by the door once we knew that no one was lurking there. We used the lockers for our clean clothes. We did our laundry at the laundromat about 3 blocks away. That was our day, most of the time.

 - Reporting by La Shawn Courtwright