Chronically homeless: Joseph’s story

Chronically homeless: Joseph’s story

For hundreds of people in Spokane, homelessness is not a temporary condition. It’s something that can last for years.

In 2018, 249 people were counted as being chronically homeless. Chronic homelessness is defined as a person who has been homeless for at least a year, or someone who has a repeated history of homelessness.

One of those chronically homeless individuals is Joseph Sampson. Sampson says he’s been homeless for about a decade now.

“It’s been about ten years, off and on. More homeless than anything,” he said.

With frigid temperatures and more snow on the way, a friend is giving Sampson a temporary place to sleep.

“When the weather got kind of like this, you know got colder and stuff, I got a message on Facebook, you know, kind of balling me out for not coming and knocking at the door and asking to stay at her place,” he said.

But when the temperatures climb, Sampson will be back on the street looking for a place to stay each night.

He likes to hang out at places with wi-fi… Since that is his only form of communication. So, I met him at My Fresh Basket, where he told me his the things he says are keeping him homeless.

“When it comes down to finding like a place to live, my criminal background follows me around a lot,” Sampson said.

He says the biggest charge there is a felony drug conviction in 2005.

“It’s something that keeps following me to this day and I kind of have to deal with,” he told me.

He says, like many others, it stops him from being able to find stable housing. So, he and others are forced to live on the streets, looking for work. But, he says even looking for work is hard when your main goal each day is to survive.

“From the moment that you wake up, your sole purpose is to survive the day. Sometimes you are so caught up in the things you have to do to survive, like go into places at certain times to eat and stuff like that, that it’s kind of hard to find the time to go out and progress in your life,” said Sampson.

And not everyone survives.

“It’s hard to lose anybody. But to homelessness it’s even harder,” he said.

Sampson says until he can find a place to live with his criminal record, he’ll continue to be on the street and so will others. In the meantime he says the city is on the right track to helping the homeless, but more needs to be done.

“More shelter spaces definitely needed, a storage type facility is definitely needed for people out here and these warming centers,” said Sampson.

Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.