How a Tuxedoed Sommelier Wound Up Homeless in California

As life unraveled, a skilled wine steward joined the swelling ranks of homeless people in tents across the San Francisco Bay Area.

Comments: 275

  1. Such a thin line, it would be wonderful if we could find a way to leverage technology and social media to help people come back into society.

  2. @BD A great thought.... direct person to person assistance (“charity”) could perhaps be part of that technological assistance: connecting organizations, churches, temples, service organizations and individuals who want to help with folks who just need that few hundred a month extra.... maybe also paying a social worker to help them make the transition.... Anyway, I like your hopeful concept.

  3. @BD how about using tech & social media profits with a dividend as suggested by Yang? These folks need just a bit more in some cases. The mentally ill & addicted us another story....

  4. It is indeed sad to read or hear about once successful people, persons that contributed in some way to our society, find themselves at the bottom of the hierarchy of societal norms. Many do have the taste for substances that lead to abuse and in the end cost them their livelihoods, families and associates. The questions that arise is what do we, as a society, a population, do about the homeless issue, whether the homeless have substance addiction, mental health issues or prefer the homeless lifestyle. Trump, in his wisdom, blamed the government of California for the homeless problem. However, is government to blame? Does the government enable or encourage homelessness through aid programs, or, are their insufficient aid programs available to the homeless, and lastly, are many homeless willing to live again in a society that has its rules and regulations for behavior and living within the norm. Many studies have been conducted in my home state to determine the causes of homelessness and what can government do to alleviate the increasing population. Yet, there are no clear solutions. And Trump should help find the causes and viable solutions rather than blame government. Then perhaps Mr. Holys can find assistance that will help him for a lifetime.

  5. Does he realize there are far less expensive cities to live in, throughout the midwest?

  6. @GKSandiego, The homeless prefer the moderate weather of the Pacific coast to that of the midwest just like everyone else. And perhaps friendlier politics as well.

  7. @GKSanDiego yes, half of his $960/month would pay the rent in a lot of other places

  8. @GKSanDiego It sounds as though what family he has is in California. That might be what keeps him there. Also, he does not see his situation as permanent.

  9. This is to be expected in a capitalist system. That is something we are, generally, not allowed to question. We are all prey.

  10. @Eric Jensen Ahh , a sweeping generalization, conflating the disease of addiction to a particular economic system. Quite the stretch!

  11. @Ron B Yes, this particular story involves addiction, but I think you gloss over a major point here: capitalism, unchecked, will inherently produce winners and losers. The key is not to replace it, but to proactively balance it with effective regulation and programs for retaining, social assistance and shelter.

  12. In Canada, are there social safety nets that would help a man like him?

  13. Superb article—and a deeply sad story. Having worked in homeless social services, this is not an unfamiliar trajectory to me. What struck me is that M. Holys has $960 a month coming in. I know numerous people here in the Bay Area who—because they have Section 8 Housing Vouchers, which typically cap their housing costs to 30-40% of their total income, combined with Medicaid benefits, some food assistance (SNAP benefits, food pantries, and very importantly Meals on Wheels)—can live carefully on $1100-$1200 a month. Stable housing is the key. Mr. Holys, if he is staying sober, is so close to a sustainable recipe. I think of a man I know very well who lives very comfortably in a small studio in an upper middle class neighborhood on $900 a month: eating lunch everyday at Meals on Wheels, carefully budgeting for breakfast and dinner; receiving his medical care and medicines free via Medicaid/Medicare; not driving a car, but enjoying walking everyday, including to a coffeehouse where he socializes and to a senior center where he has the free lunch and socializes some more. Then I think of Mr. Holys in a tent with rats the size of footballs running around. I wish I could scoop him up—and everyone like him—and get them into the situation my friend enjoys.

  14. @Michael. Your idea of these people living “comfortably” on these extremely marginal incomes is not mine. In reality, you are describing lives of poverty within one of the richest societies the world has ever known. Put simply, it is disgraceful.

  15. @Hugh D Campbell You are right. No argument. Which is why I if I was king I’d start by cutting military spending by 2% per year for the next 20 years and use the money instead to provide a $2,000 per month income to every person in the USA. (My math needs to be checked of course—but you get the idea....) But please don’t overlook that my friend’s life is so many leaps and bounds better than Mr. Holys simply because he has some very basic elements in place: housing assistance, medical care, food assistance. My friend feels that he lives comfortably—that isn’t really my judgement.

  16. @Michael So what do you think. With Silicon Valley money so close by - how difficult could it be to get them involved to foot the bill on a build out for 4000 new housing units. I'm in construction and by my math (admittedly not knowing the full costs of building in California) a 500 sq. ft unit wood studded in a five story brick building shouldn't cost more than $150.00/sq.ft. Thats 75000 bucks per unit X 4000 units =$300 million (over many bldgs). Add 100 million in buying out dilapidated properties and 10% for the inevitable cost overruns and for less than 450 million the present housing crisis is solved. They have the money in spades. They need to look more involved in income inequality and how housing prices are so high in the area. And you have a Governor who could fast track this forward. This is doable.

  17. As the number of homeless swell, it is easy to dismiss this population as a monolith. No one wants to be homeless or to feel insignificant. Stories like this help everyone to understand there is a personal narrative to that brought each individual to this state. It's our empathy and desire to preserve the social safety net which will alleviate the frequency such hardship.

  18. Homelessness is a complex issue, but I can't help but notice its correlation with cuts to social services. To be sure, I am not making an argument for a cause and effect here, but if there is no social safety net (welfare, unemployment benefits, work place benefits such as pensions and medical insurance, training programs, living wages, etc) homelessness and other manifestations of social decay become more evident - and it's been this way since the relentless push to cut taxes (benefiting the already wealthy) and services across states and cities . . . something has to give.

  19. Interesting take. I’m stricken by the relationship to crack and meth use.

  20. @PS This gentleman receives almost $1000 a month in SS and Disability. My first suggestion would be that he move to a town, perhaps rural, where that amount could support him and get him out of the drug scene. What do you thnk he spends $30+ a day on in SF? I'll only add that SF has AlAnon and AA chapters and club houses. The programs exist, especially in SF, but you have to work the program.

  21. @PS it started with president Reagan cutting the costs for mental health facilities. Since then, they've been out on the streets and the police is forced to deal with that

  22. Stunning article about the face of the homeless and beautifully written. I hope Mr. Holys can open that bottle of sweet dessert wine and be on his way up and out of the streets.

  23. The article hints that he’s an alcoholic. He can do without the wine.

  24. @Jacquie the man is an addict, sadly. unless he gives up the dream of that one cekebratory galss he is done. the only way out forhim is to go ckean and sober. he is on the street mostly because he has been unable to make the choice to go sober.

  25. @Jacquie Seriously? You want the guy to start drinking alcohol?

  26. There but for the grace of God go you and I, my friend; each of us has foibles that can nip us in the end. Before we cast condemning eyes upon the homeless wreck, remember it is charity we all need, not high tech. God save me from the common hubris I am apt to feel when I am giving free advice or serving out a meal!

  27. @tim torkildson I so agree with you.

  28. @tim torkildson Hey Tim clean the blue goop out of your eyes and realize that while yes we all have foibles it is still our own personal responsibility to face them head on. As apposed to Mr Holys who wants to celebrate getting a place to live with buying a bottle of wine...the very thing that landed him on the streets in the first place, let alone doing eight years in prison. Mr Holys is the last person to be highlighted to depict our horrific homelessness epidemic. He is a junkie that needs to get clean...PERIOD.

  29. The height of elitism is thinking that someone who tastes wine should be a valued member of society. And the homeless crisis is simple. It is impossible to build new housing in a cost-effective manner in California due to restrictive building codes and ludicrous amounts of red tape. So housing is not built. Rent control only makes this worse, as landlords will not build units that they cannot profit off of. This is not a confounding crisis. It is confounding to California leaders only because they created this mess and do not want to admit that they were wrong.

  30. So your solution is to loosen building codes? That doesn’t seem smart to me.

  31. @Zejee building codes are necessary. But those in California are more extensive than necessary to ensure safe buildings. Overregulation is the issue, not regulation itself.

  32. @Jake I'm a builder in Los Angeles and you're 100% right. All the city and the unions and socially concerned activists and politicians come up with- is more restrictions that raise the costs of building. In my current project, a small apartment building, I estimate the unnecessary costs caused by regulations, at least at 50% of my overall costs. At the end the future tenants will have to pay for it

  33. I am struck by his eloquence and perspective (which really isn't surprising given his ability to contemplate wine). Wishing you the best, sir.

  34. Why can't the city or state build shelters to house the homeless? And provide the social services they desperately need? The past few years the economy has done well. Employment is low. There is no excuse for this, in the Bay area of all places. Some of those great minds at Google and Facebook should use their formidable intellects to help solve these problems (poverty, homelessness). There is just no excuse that human beings should have to live like this.

  35. @Eric Hey Eric, what are you doing to contribute to your proposed solution? Knowing that among Californians, including especially among the homeless, there are a great number who migrated to California from the northeast and other cold states to a climate where living outdoors is not fatal? Are you advocating for Federally funded programs to house the homeless, or are you just trying to assuage your conscience by believing it is someone else's problem to solve?

  36. @Eric Unfortunately, many of the homeless won't use a shelter because they can't do drugs and other antisocial or illegal activities while in a shelter.

  37. @Eric bc the 'city or state' or whoever does not have enough money to pay for that. Take a minute to think about how much those 'social services' you demand would cost for that many mentally disturbed ppl.

  38. Here in Minnesota we just saw a little glimmer of hope for the unemployed. For those of us looking for Engineering positions, it has been almost impossible to identify real job opportunities from hoaxes on the Internet. The State of Minnesota now seems to be enforcing MnStat 184.38 (2018), Subd 8 (1) which prohibits: "the advertisement of any job for which there is no bona fide oral or written job order and completed job order form in existence at the time the advertisement is placed;" As a consequence the quantity of job postings seems to have plummeted, but hopefully those we do see are real. Things have gotten worse on the telephone front. There are almost no payphones left in the City of Minneapolis, and the 'Obama free phone' programs are long gone. As a consequence, we are seeing increased numbers of beatings and thefts of cell phones from vulnerable people. The scarcity of payphones seems to have become a cause for physical assault.

  39. @W Physical assaults to get cell phones has been a problem on UI campus for years now. When services are cut more crime follows.

  40. @W As far as I know, the Lifeline phone program is functioning right now.

  41. there but for the grace of ... PS: California is a magnet for the homeless because of the weather. a lot easier for them there than in the northern states. their doing us a favor

  42. @Tenzin I find it hard to believe he cannot at least find a job as a laborer for a vineyard...Get his foot back into that field, and find some nurturing of himself as he helps to nurture future wines.

  43. The person in the article is a Bay Area Native.

  44. Mr. Mark-Steven Holys worked his way to the bottom and it is impossible to feel sorry for him in his descent into squalor. Lots of opportunities followed by lots of wrong decisions. Rather than writing about those addicts who are thrashing about in tent cities because they squandered their lives by their own volition, you should concentrate more on writing about the 50% of those tent inhabitants that are living in hopelessness. There is no agency in our US government which really cares about those with mental illness, nor who can provide aid or sustenance to these lost, helpless souls.

  45. @Joe Miksis The 'de-institutionalization' of the mentally ill closed countless mental hospitals. Patients who were often ill treated in those places were pushed out onto the streets. The small local support centers and group homes that were supposed to support them were never built. Yet most of those hospitals now sit empty, abandoned cluttered with equipment and records scattered on the floor. Instead of closing these places, couldn't they have been revamped to handle patients better? So many mentally ill end up in prison and then abandoned after their release now.

  46. @Joe Miksis Can't we care about them all? Does compassion have qualifiers? I have worked for the past 3 decades in public libraries where we have those who have fallen into homelessness because of addiction and those who are there because our mental health support system is hopeless. I don't usually know who is who, but I do know that if treated with dignity and courtesy, I prefer most of them to the average self-entitled snob who complains about these folks.

  47. @Joe Miksis I think you mean well, but you obviously have not worked with this population. Mental illness and drug addiction overwhelmingly walk hand in hand.

  48. Unless your life has been touched by addiction - your own or that of a someone close to you, it is difficult to understand how it can wrap its tentacles around your life and pull you down. It's not a simple matter of making a choice: vanilla or chocolate. This is a talented man who fell down a dangerous rabbit hole where he lies at the bottom. Nobody deserves to live like this. We don't treat our most vile criminals this way. I wish that our culture could show more compassion for addicts and the homeless. Nobody, not one of us is perfect, and many of us would be very close to falling down a similar hole if it were not for a few safety nets. I lost a person close to me from addiction - he'd won awards for teaching and had been highly sought after, yet when a tragedy in his own life led him to drink again, he lost everything and ended up homeless. He was beaten up and robbed, and his shame kept him from seeking help. I'll never completely understand why he didn't try to sober up knowing what resources had been available except to know that's part of the disease. It's just heartbreaking. This story hit close to home for me.

  49. @Amy The solution may involve offering people permanent shelter somewhere other than the most expensive real state in America. Additionally, homeless "advocates" should not be allowed to dictate that a stretch of public street "belongs" to a handful of people. There are rules to society. They need to be enforced.

  50. Mr. Holys' story is a perfect example of the multiple risks which stalk average Americans today. In the engineering world there is a concept of additive risks which grow with level of complexity of any system. If each level has less than 10% risk, presence of 5 layers may push your overall level of risk to 30 to 40%. Our modern life if full of layers of complexity and these layers just keep growing. Add to that further catalysts such as our dysfunctional healthcare and fragility of modern transient extended family and you have a perfect storm. More and more people are living with huge risks of a major failure in their life and absence of anyone around them willing or able to catch their fall. Sadly, this has become a political football for ideologues on both sides. Each offers recipes which are guaranteed to fail and there is no monetary upside for "disrupting" this problem for the private sector. We need a new effort lead by the government and supported by private sector which would attack this problem as one would attack an infectious epidemic. When one of us falls, there must be a way to hold them up, enforce structure in their lives and set them on well defined steps to recovery.

  51. @Yuri Vizitei You say homelessness has become a political football for ideologues on both sides, each offering recipes which are guaranteed to fail. Then you offer a new recipe like the guaranteed-to-fail ones offered by ideologues of the left. This is confusing. What is guaranteed is that the Right will fight any proposals that involve leadership or even activity by government, and as long as the Right retains the power of blocking and sabotage it will guarantee the failure of these proposals.

  52. @sdavidc9 - I think you made some hasty assumptions of my general proposal. Left ideologues offer basically a version of 'just give them more money" strategy. That has failed. Right wing ideologues stick with "let them burn, they made bad choices". I believe that when someone fails this far, the government and private sector must deal with it institutionally. Like we do with prisons and primary schools. It's no longer a question of free will or democratic choice of the failed person. They now have to be handled and rigidly moved along the recovery path, even if that means not having their consent. Would you seek consent from a two year old if they are being harmed? No. Then why would seek consent from a drug addict?

  53. Seems as if Mr. Holys has chosen in life to steeply discount the future in favor of the present. Now the future has arrived.

  54. There’s quite a bit of homeless people collecting social security disability. There’s also quite a few in trump’s left behind America. Why is that and why is ss disability being used that way?

  55. People have to survive some how

  56. @Brad What do you mean? SSD is for people who need assistance because of illness and poor health. If you don't think homeless people should get disability, then who do you think should?

  57. @Brad -- disability can be collected if a person is disabled. What's so difficult to understand about that?

  58. Every major city up and down the west coast is struggling with homelessness. A few weeks ago I was in Oakland for my nephews wedding. Took a LYFT from OAK to Rockeridge...one of the most exclusive enclaves in the Oakland. The traffic, as usual, proceeded at a snails pace. The freeway was lined with shacks, tarps, tents and litter. People were sitting, lying and standing between and around the structures. They looked beaten down, dirty and exhausted. This is the milieu that Mr. Holy's has existed in. He is lucky to have a way forward. Most don't. They are ravaged by the physical and mental degradation of their time on the streets, fear of being victimized, use of alcohol and drugs and just the passage of time. The more time that passes them by the less able they are to reconnect with any community. As such, the become permanently disenfranchised. It is time to put away the foolish notions i.e. , "were it not for the lack of affordable housing these people, lining the freeway wouldn't be there" and start to see the problem for what it is. A population that will be in need of permanent housing, built for them, with services for them. The notion that they will claw their way up and out eventually is a myth. Congratulations and good luck to Mr. Holy's but he is an outlier for sure.

  59. There are towns all over America that are just shriveling up and dying for want of residents. Given how many people there are like Mr. Holys on our streets and the cost of having a large homeless population, it would be worth it for cities like Oakland, San Francisco and LA to pay them to move to such towns. It could be a homesteading partnership. Struggling small towns could provide the houses and our wealthy cities could pay the towns to put people like Mr. Holys to work. This wouldn't work for hardcore drug addicts but it would save a lot of lives and would help maintain rural communities.

  60. @John F The towns are also shriveling up and dying for want of jobs and career paths. Investments there are risky; playing financial games is much safer, especially since Uncle Sam will bail out the players when the game goes bad. The Invisible Hand knows how to cut its losses on losers.

  61. @John F The drug epidemic is red hot in many rural areas as well.

  62. In the 90’s my parents invited a homeless man (on the streets of Los Angeles) to our house for a shower, and nap in our guest room; then dinner. My father discovered he was from out of state, had family there. Dad gave him better clothes, paid his bus fare, and put paper bills in his pocket, as he drove him to station. I’m not *virtue signaling* (my dad did this), rather, I’m bewildered at the numbers of homeless who now choose an even more expensive place to decamp than LA. My husband and I live in Bay Area... but as soon as we both retire ...it will be to a far far less expensive area. The weather’s not THAT mild in San Francisco... I wish we could encourage and help those struggling to relocate to cheaper areas of the state or country. Meanwhile, there are employed workers desperate and desperately needed in the Bay Area; so I do support taxing the corporations round here to build affordable homes...or we will have no nurses, teachers, chefs, servers, cafes, shop clerks, small book store owners, or artists anymore. Thank you for this story.

  63. It is hard to have sympathy for those who are doing well but do not have the self discipline to behave themselves. I am sure there are some sommeliers and head waiters who are homeless through no fault of their own; their restaurants went out of business in the Great Recession and there were no jobs to be had.

  64. @Burton The restaurant business is a pretty tough business. I think the late Anthony Bourdain said that after 20 or 30 years as a chef in high end restaurants he had $600 in the bank (a lot of his income otherwise went for crack cocaine and heroin unfortunately). Fortunately, he kicked his drug habits and could write books which saved his life (for a while).

  65. Thank you NYT for telling the stories of homeless people so that we can better understand their plight and their humanity. So much is left out here, however. Main points: the man had talent as an expensive wine server but California failed him, as he descended to the bottom because of drug addiction, crime, and prison. I think it is important to examine how he failed himself. He did not have to go down this path, but he chose to do so. He needed help long before his homelessness. His upbringing, social influences, belief system, mental health issues, and lack of community support all along the way should be examined as well.

  66. Yes, rents are way too high and houses cost way to much here in California. And homelessness that results from uncontrollable factors like lay-offs, medical bills, mental illness and the like is a sign of society's collective moral decay, but homelessness that results from drug use and the spiral downward through addiction and crime is homelessness due to bad choices made repeatedly every day over time. The situations are not equally tragic. The former is an unconscionable situation, the latter is something very different.

  67. @DMS Drug and alcohol abuse is the result of society's collective moral decay. A society disconnected from its humanity and empathy leads to people seeking something to soothe.

  68. @DMS Addiction is a medical issue, not a moral issue. We would be a much better country if we had more compassion for people suffering from addiction and debt.

  69. @CPAddiction is an issue of choice. It not a disease. It is self inflicted. Since I am an atheist I don't buy into the whole argument of moral vs unmoral. Its simply a self destructive choice. I don't believe the rest of society should have to pay for a persons self destructive choice and the consequences. Why do I take this position? When I was in my 20's I took any number of experiments with drugs available. I chose to not pursue those courses of action into addiction.

  70. Don't do drugs, folks

  71. Please come to Indianapolis. We have great food (don't tell anyone - we don't like crowds). We have wines from around the world. You will find a nice job as a sommelier here. And we welcome everyone, I'm not kidding, the Veep be dammed. Now I'm off to the Wine and Food festival here.

  72. I had just turned 23 when I found myself with nowhere to sleep for the first time, largely a consequence of my various addictions and then-undiagnosed mental illnesses. It was a terrifying situation to be in... the daily tension and anxiety building as the scramble to find shelter for the night accelerated, the added stress increasing my dependence on opioids, which meant spending $ I didn't have... eventually I wound up hospitalized with severe nutrient deficiencies, and was referred to a group-home-type setting for young adults, where I was able to begin putting my life back together and eventually help other street-entrenched young people. There are many facets of the homeless experience that are not intuitive for those who have not seen it firsthand. From a starting point of no resources at one's disposal, it is infinitely more challenging to reconstruct a single piece of one's livelihood, than it is for a person with even a meagre foundation already in place. Housing and health are pivotal elements, and I believe the key is creating plenty of modest, subsidized SRO-type housing, and making free addiction treatment available for anyone who needs it. Someone lacking the security of a home, whose psyche is dysfunctional, usually does not have the capacity to keep a job or be that productive in general; they are too emotionally busy with bigger problems. Homeless people generally want to do better, but without social assistance, breaking the cycle is not feasible.

  73. @Riley Ongoing, fully staffed and funded, non judgemental, social assistance with training for real doable jobs and real liveable housing with continuing assistance.

  74. The Battle to Save the Middle-Class, Even Before it Rather Becomes More of the Unwanted, a Comical One - What to say of the economy as a whole (macro) when the middle-class, in size, continues, without interruption, to be on a downward trajectory during a long duration of time so? Consumption less becomes the engine that drives the economy. And so a nation/country then commences to experience a multitude of unwanted problems, but first in fiscal terms, as it no longer finds itself capable of having sufficient of the taxpayers’ monies needed to pay for many of the important items of its public purse – addressing the corrosive, societal problem that homelessness has become is one of them. So the acceptable level of quality of life needed to continue to be a well-functioning society, as the nation/country faces a moment of great peril, sadly becomes a thing of the past.

  75. Regardless of the bad choices that this guy has made, it is a national disgrace that people are living like this. Step one is to help relocate Holys to somewhere where his grand/month will enable him to live like a human being. Holys made some terrible decisions but he did not raise his hand and volunteer to be a crack addict. I'm no socialist (retired CEO) but we need a better safety net. We seem to be very competent at creating billionaires and then rewarding them with ridiculous tax breaks. We don't seem to be very proficient at helping the lowest rungs of our society.

  76. @David Cary Hart You said it all.

  77. @David Cary Hart Well put David, surely there is somewhere in this huge nation where this gentleman can live on his thousand a month, why isn’t there an APP for that type of information. I gave up on SanFrancisco and closed a business that I had made my life for thirty five years; I just couldn’t take the inequality nor could I justify owning a successful small business that had me working to support my two landlords with nothing left over for myself, in fact I was drawing two thousand a month from my IRA for five years in an effort to keep my doors open and a roof over my head, it’s just an insanely expensive place to live and unfortunately just not attractive any more, the post card vistas only count for so much when you must contend with the daily squalor of essentially a third world city. This gentleman found shelter not so coincidentally with the timing of this article I would assume, congratulations but California is so far down the rabbit hole of a dysfunctional society it would take a miracle or a trillion or so to save it; with their agenda of being a sanctuary city that already has had these seemingly ingrained problems for years makes absolutely no sense to me. I have gone from being the most liberal fellow among all my peers to a pragmatist, California didn’t just shoot itself in the foot it blew its whole leg off, to go from being the most beautiful, welcoming place on earth a scant sixty years ago to the absolute nightmare it is today is beyond disgraceful.

  78. No, no, and no. No one forced drugs on his. Those were his decisions. Now he was to live with the results. It wasn’t like the outcome was any sort of mystery.

  79. They're homeless partially due to a lack of employment. So let's allow millions of illegal immigrants into the country to strain the system even more.

  80. @Dan Ryan He was employed, and very successful. The downward trajectory of his life was a mixture of bad luck, addiction, economic setbacks and the savagery of capitalism. If you've never been addicted to a drug (most addicts are upwardly mobile white people), you can't speak to this. I have a friend who had what might be termed a mild addiction to a drug - the drug is listed as causing "dependency" not addiction. It took her years to break her habit. She's a n upper middle class professional, married with two children. You just can't use such a wide brush to paint anyone, but let me use one here. You're older, white, Republican, and you think all problems can be solved with cruelty, judgment and a sense of outrage at the "other." Am I close?

  81. @Dan Ryan It's the greed of those making the rules that's straining "the system." And that system just isn't working, regardless of the origins of the people participating in it.

  82. In this case, if drug-free, it appears he could get a job in a high end place in a heartbeat. But that still may not be enough for decent housing, commuting, etc. (perhaps getting out of the Bay Area, once able is worth considering) Control borders and manage immigration, of course. But let's not conflate issues. His challenge seems to be substance abuse and stratospheric housing costs, not competition from immigrants.

  83. I wish him luck but maybe, just maybe, if he’s recovering from a substance abuse addiction, he might want to celebrate with a non-alcoholic beverage?

  84. “I was the type of guy who would break into your car and steal the change in your ashtray,” he said.” Are we supposed to feel sorry for this man?

  85. @Genevieve An explanation isn't an excuse.

  86. The homeless seem to be forgotten during Democratic presidencies. It's an important problem that should be a priority no matter who is president.

  87. We live in a capitalist society that considers people like Mr. Holys disposable. Most people who are making it in this country are terrified that they could end up like Mr. Holys, and this creates anxiety. Europeans who have vacationed in the USA routinely comment on the paranoia, anxiety, fear, anger and alienation that is pervasive throughout the culture, especially in the media. It’s common for Americans to direct their anger at the homeless themselves, since they all had to have made bad choices to have ended up homeless, and therefore they deserve whatever punishment they get. Our society is fueled by ruthlessness, because this is what a predator versus prey society produces. Canada manages to provide health care for all, education that doesn’t turn a student into a permanent indentured servant, and they don’t have an incarceration rate anywhere near the pathetic rate that we have in America. We have to bring to consciousness the vicious, life destroying values promoted by our government, politicians and the handful of wealthy people who control everything. The wealthy interests are incentivized to ratchet up the level of hatred in this country, but our only hope for survival is to have such a collective revulsion for the viciousness and the hatred destroying our society that we finally decide there must be a better way. For now, hatred is still winning. Good luck to Mr. Holys, and good luck to all of us trying to navigate a system of such savagery.

  88. So well said. Thank you.

  89. @Annie Gramson Hill You hit the nail on the head. Capitalism is the problem.

  90. @Annie Gramson Hill Brilliant, sane courageous post.

  91. As more and more people find themselves on the losing end of inequality and that of many other factors associated with so the number of men and women who today are deprived of their own flat can be expected to go upward, and with rapidity and regularity.

  92. As my mother would sometimes say "there but for the grace of God, go I." She sometimes lacked as a mother but I am grateful she taught me empathy. If many of us were to suffer a severe enough set-back - an illness where we could not work - we could be homeless too. Family and friends can only help so much.

  93. Countries with National Health Care that includes good mental health care don't have nearly as much of a problem with this as the US does. Countries that have ended the war on drugs, and who focus on rehabilitation, and treat addiction as a disease, have seen significant reductions in the use of illegal drugs. We need to do ALL of the above. And people come to California because of the weather: including a lot of drug addicted, chronically homeless people.

  94. I hope that some ski resort that hires students or foreigners with visas will take a chance on him. Age 61 is a rough time to start over!

  95. @Jean Sadly, it’s almost impossible to start over at age 61. He is another lost victim of the true America, the one that really doesn’t care.

  96. @Jean All the more reason to restrict h1b visas and encourage corniest to hire Americans.

  97. @Jean Without reference to homelessness or mental illness, but only to age: I know a lady age 65 who is going through a divorce and is therefore at serious risk of being destitute. It's a rough time to start over even if your record is spotlessly clean.

  98. It is appropriate to have sympathy for this man. But few discussions of the homeless ever mention the impending disaster of hundreds of thousands (maybe soon to be millions) of impoverished migrants entering the US. Under those circumstances the homeless problem in the United States will never be solved. It will only get worse. Mr. Trump is a lunatic but his harsh immigration policies make a valid point. If Trump makes it to the next election how can I vote for any Democratic candidate who either advocates open border policies or succeeds in never publicly mentioning the immigration issue at all?

  99. @sguknw -- Mr. Holy's is an American citizen. How many American citizens are living on the street? While I feel sympathy for the many people who want to come here it's imperative that we first take care of our own.

  100. @sguknw -- Mr. Holy's is an American citizen. How many American citizens are living on the street? While I feel sympathy for the many people who want to come here it's imperative that we first take care of our own.

  101. @sguknw If you actually studied this issue instead of just blindly accepting the fear mongering of those with a political agenda you would learn that immigrants as a group have the LOWEST rate of criminality. Much lower per capita than US citizens. And NO ONE is advocating totally open borders--just a more humane use of the totally sufficient laws already in place. Do a few bad apples slip into this country? Undoubtedly. But money would be better spent on more up to date technology to make sure when we deport someone that person stays on watch lists so they can stay gone. Or should we just take down that statue in New York harbor? And where would that have left your ancestors when they came here?

  102. Could there still be some doubt in people's minds that there is any upside to doing drugs? How many more millions of times does this "experiment" need to be repeated? Keep your nose clean, work hard, do the right thing and you'll probably be fine. There is no situation that can't be made immeasurably worse by doing drugs.

  103. I feel bad for Mr Holys, but I also feel bad for the glib people who are responding here with admonitions about “choice.” They have a very simplistic view of human nature. I hope Mr Holys’ new place to live will work out for him, and that we can all learn to have more compassion.

  104. Wow. Now I get why we don't have adequate policies to address poverty, homelessness and health care in this country. Most of the commentators think people "deserve" this fate. I guess that's what we get for underfunding education and letting religious fundamentalists guide our worldview and social policy.

  105. @Mrs B Good post. It is also a defence mechanism - it protects people from the truth that they are no better than this guy and could easily end up in his situation.

  106. My sympathies to this man, but after seeing the pic and headline of this story I skimmed to find where he started using crack. That’s the issue, all the other issues filter down from there, including his knowledge of fine wine. I’m not saying it’s all necessarily his fault, but his recovery from addiction is his responsibility first. Are there adequate resources to help people like him? I guess that’s a different, albeit very important, story.

  107. Thank you for profiling one of the too many homeless people. We make the homeless anonymous, don’t engage with them and believe that they are wholly responsible for their condition. We often believe that they are homeless because they lack will or aren’t willing to work. As this article makes clear, many of us could be homeless. A few mistakes, a divorce or two and a bout with substance abuse is all it takes. This man can be saved. I wish I owned a restaurant; I would give him a chance. When you see a homeless person today, please have some compassion.

  108. Interesting, tragic and so subtle it doesn't occur to him that the obsession of "celebrating" with yet another bottle of wine is what has been is undoing.

  109. @Seamus -- I must be missing something. I thought he had a crack cocaine habit, not a wine addiction. The expensive wines he served to his rich clients some of them probably had a wine addiction. Well, I better re-read the article myself to see whether in addition to a crack addiction, alcoholism was also mentioned. If it wasn't, then he has every right to celebrate.

  110. I heard from friends in the restaurant industry that hours can be insane, pay is low, and that employment is often changing, and that a lot of people working there are stressed out, take drugs, and suffer from burnout. Written contracts, paid vacations, limited hours and paid overtime, and healthcare and pensions would go a long way to make things easier. This stuff sounds Utopian in the US, but it should be normal.

  111. Is he sober now? Is he working a program? Instead of reminiscing about the fine wines of yesterday, maybe he should get to a meeting and see how he could be of service to other addicts. I guarantee you if he got into a program of recovery his life would turn around quickly. He can’t change the past but he has complete control over his destiny.

  112. @DB What "should" happen and what will happen maybe two different things. Self-diagnosis and willingness are a big part of it. Some of us are luckier than others in that way. I just realized that after reading your entry and seeing his story.

  113. Can happen to anyone. I sometimes wonder what becomes of those here in the US and around the world after devastating storms or raging fires etc. You see the media reporting and then it's forgotten as though everything returned to normal shortly for those enduring such a trauma.

  114. A year and a half ago, I invited a homeless person to share my home. The condition: that this person continue to get mental health treatment, attend AA (all of which are free in California), remain clean and sober. The truth of the Times story is in this sentence "His struggles with drugs, his failed marriages, his larceny when he needed money — they all contributed to his present straits." California has one of the better social welfare systems in the US, although it is overloaded and lines for housing assistance are literally years long. Nevertheless, a person in Mr. Holys position does have resources NAMI, AA, and a number of other organizations. As long as Mr. Holys is not actively seeking the medication that stabilizes his mental illness (if he has one) or his alcoholism, he will simply not be welcome anywhere. The LAST thing in the world Mr. Holys needs is a bottle of anything vaguely alcoholic to "celebrate" a life back in the mainstream. With respect to my own adventure with the "homeless:" my tenant has become my friend and after a year and a half of focusing on getting her mind and body to a place where it can function in a work environment, she started her first job on Monday. She has also been approved for Section 8, so eventually I'll get some rent for as long as she wishes to stay here. The single condition for her tenure: NO DRUGS or ALCOHOL.

  115. @TJHD I’m not a religious person, but still I’d like to say, “God Bless You.”

  116. @TJHD -- in Mr. Holy's case alcohol was not the problem, crack cocaine was. If you read the article in its entirety, he worked as a sommelier in fine restaurants, serving very expensive wine.

  117. @Michael thank you. Rereading my comment it occurs to me that it may read in some way as a boast or a pat on my own back. I just want to emphasize that recovery is something each person must seize themselves. WE cannot give it to anyone. Although it is unlikely that this story is being read by many homeless, NYTimes readers can bring this message to any homeless person: "Be WILLING to change your life. Change your relationship to yourself and to others, and a better life will come." We can help. Even if you're not homeless or have substance abuse issues, go to AA or NA or any of these free organizations and grab a handful of literature. Along with the dollar you give to someone who asks, give them a pamphlet. Let them know there is help. Just remember, in the end they have to make the choice themselves.

  118. This was a very nuanced article about a homeless person, not like many generic articles on "The Homeless Problem". Last month a homeless woman turned up on my porch and she quite articulately spoke proudly of the gifted magnets her children got into and then proceeded to speak in gibberish. Her mental illness was what drove her out of her comfortable middle-class lifestyle. Los Angeles and SF and other cities need to employ more social workers to be on the streets to deal with addicts and the mentally ill. In LA there are only 2 that cover my entire area.

  119. @Dee Aye, it's often underestimated how much mental disturbances contribute to the circumstances of homelessness. And to the condition of addiction, to be honest. As a Californian, think about this: at least $13 billion, probably much more, of the Federal taxes we pay each year go to other states because we are under-represented in the US Senate. It would probably take only 20% of that money, stolen from us, to ameliorate the physical and sociological difficulties of the homeless.

  120. @Pete Statewide, I think it would take double that (because of the inflated cost of land to build new housing, and because of the cost of vitally needed social workers to help guide these transitions) but your point still stands.

  121. @Dee I couldn't disagree with you more Dee. The article was about a alcoholic that refuses to take responsibility for his ailment and get some help. I mean he claims he will buy a bottle of wine to celebrate getting off the streets? And why do you think he was on the streets? Step out of your little blue bubble for a second a reread the article. And I'm not saying that getting sober isn't a struggle, but it's never really alluded to it in the article as his NUMBER ONE problem. Especially since our government has been inept at helping those that need it the most for a long time.

  122. I appreciated that this story tells a truthful story about homelessness. This man has a caring family, a marketable skill (surely he could get a job as a clerk in a wine shop if he could manage to put the pieces of his life together) and a small income from taxpayers, yet he lives in a homeless camp. Substance abuse and/or mental illness is what leads many to this situation as is outlined here. Everyone I know who ended up like this also had a similar trajectory. The puzzle is difficult to solve because sometimes the only way out is to actually circle the drain, the wreckage one person can cause on their journey to a homeless camp is usually heartbreaking for both family and society. “Petty” crimes can be overwhelming for the victims. Families usually have to say “no more” to the abuse and lock the door, society also before the person can turn things around if they are capable. The balance is so difficult, when do we enable vs. giving a helping hand? I’m annoyed by the homeless who harass me on my commute even though I have nothing but empathy for their situation.

  123. @DJM There's a homeless man that wanders my neighborhood and has occasionally broken into a back-yard or empty house. After his brother told friends that he had an income and home as long as he took medication for his mental illness and didn't take illegal drugs. He can't help his mental illness, but he can help the way he lives. Still it's hard for me to ignore. I make eye contact and occasionally provide food as no one should live this way.

  124. @DJM: No. Society saying "no more" to those in trouble is exactly the problem. We need to have about 10x as many slots for addiction treatment as we now have -- literally. (I worked for three years at a substance-abuse treatment center -- that's how I know.) We need to have far more mental-health treatment than we now have -- and all treatments need to be free. We need supportive temporary housing for people who are released from jail -- something akin to a dormitory, with a small, private space for every person and on-site staff who can help with job training, job acquisition, referrals to healthcare, and -- for those who need it -- training in the most basic life skills, such as managing money and cooking inexpensive, nourishing meals. Society creates these problems and then spurns those who are suffering; it's not only inhumane, it's profoundly illogical.

  125. @DJM It is sad that anyone this age cannot find housing, he is almost an old man. Old men live on the streets here in Seattle, it is heartbreaking. People cannot any longer find housing on disability - the federal system is broken. That said I also feel as a society we are losing the sense of responsibility to our own families, and too easily look to services to fulfill what used to be family obligation. This man has children and family - surely they could come together to pay rent for him, and if he has money management and addiction issues, to pay his rent directly so he has a room over his head and can get away from the rats. I see no evidence that his family cares, I see the opposite.

  126. Town Farm Road, Poor Farm Road, the abandoned asylums that dot the landscape, these were the solutions to the problems faced by the outliers of society in the past. Whether they were anybody’s idea of a good fix is hard to know because most of the people who populated or administered them are dead now. I have to wonder, though, if the idea of segregating the people unable or unwilling to basically survive was as barbaric as received wisdom would indicate. Just one example of how two birds could be killed with one stone would be a CCC-type program to plant trees. Of course, in our “freedom” loving society that would be considered cruel. But you know what’s also cruel? Going for a walk in a park, say, or on a sidewalk even, and having to see filth, including used needles, littered by our poor, homeless wretches. Leave no trace means nothing to them and that I cannot forgive.

  127. Those who're focused on Holys's mistakes seem to overlook one crucial fact: some have the means to recover from their bad decisions, others do not. Some have the luxury of screwing up, others don't. Pointing this out is neither political nor sentimental, it's just introducing some common sense and humanity to the discussion.

  128. Yes, rich addicts are in the media all the time, do they still go to the Betty Ford clinic? Really poor addicts go to jail.

  129. A life ruined by crack cocaine. How many more are there? And the liberals want to legalize marijuana, the most popular gateway drug to the hard stuff. I am glad I'm not a druggie. Thank you.

  130. @Southern Boy And so we infer that non-liberals like you want all marijuana users to become jailbirds with criminal records that get in the way of voting and other aspects of civil society. Yet you prefer that alcohol, a much bigger gateway drug and destroyer, to be legal because you like the taste and affects of Southern Comfort and refuse to learn the lessons of the Prohibition Era. I'm glad I'm not a hypocritical Southern boy.

  131. @Southern Boy Some conservatives want to legalize it too. You might not realize that John Boehner just joined a marijuana company.

  132. @Southern Boy ,Time and time again, those individuals as yourself , continually speak of marijuana as the gateway drug. You must have gone to the JeffSessions School. So, all those that have a beer are on their way to wine and onto “the hard stuff”, oh please. What about Moonshine? Believe it or not, many who had tried crack had never been a druggie but the addictive qualities of that insidious drug got hooked. How do I know?, I worked and researched this among other public health issues during the 80’s in NYC where the epidemic of crack took hold of many. Please do your research prior to labeling all who have tried pot and the like as addicts.

  133. Sadly Mr. Holys was never told that $$$$ reigns supreme, above all other human considerations. But, I am sure, there is a solution or rather a way as the fellow below states.

  134. I would think that at least one person who he served would remember Mt. Holys and offer him a job at this most desperate time of his life. It can't be that hard. Here's looking at you, Mr. Holys.

  135. @Jack -- I was thinking the same thing. Perhaps now, after this article, someone will.

  136. @Jack. It sounds like he’s not to be trusted.

  137. DId anyone read the title of this article and not immediately think "drugs"? And there you go.

  138. @Big Cow And, if the US government truly wanted to eradicate the drug problem, I believe it could do it. Sadly, drugs = big business, illicit, illegal, but big, very big and that is why no one truly wants to shut it down. Go after the dealers, the importers the traffickers. The result of allowing them to conduct business is that we have millions of people like Mr. Holys, living in squalor while the dealers buy expensive cars, houses, clothes, etc. Shameful on every level.

  139. @Big Cow It's unfortunate the article chose a subject who makes it so easy for authoritarians to close their hearts to. The reality is that his situation doesn't capture what the majority of people without a stable place to live go through. If you have any interest in understanding rather than judging, this article about Utah might be a good place to start: "Between 2005 and 2015, while the number of drug-addicted and mentally ill homeless people fell dramatically, the number of people sleeping in the city’s emergency shelter more than doubled. Since then, unsheltered homelessness has continued to rise. According to 2018 figures, the majority of unhoused families and single adults in Salt Lake City are experiencing homelessness for the first time." https://www.huffpost.com/entry/homeless-utah-end-america-salt-lake-city_n_5cd1cac0e4b04e275d511aba

  140. "Someone should do a CLEAN SWEEP and get these people outta here!!" "Wait, he used to be a sommelier?! Now I care!" - You

  141. Recovery and wine are incompatible. The author of this article doesn't seem to understand what sobriety is.

  142. @Anne -- wine consumption and crack addiction? You can't compare the two. There was never mention of alcohol addiction.

  143. @Don Juan Recovery for any addict is to avoid all drugs, including alcohol. The AA benchmark for staying clean and sober is 2 years. If an alcoholic or addict can get past that 2 yrs., the chances for success are good. The drug of choice is not relevant; the only choice is to stay clean. There are millions of people who can get drunk or high without becoming addicts. Addicts are wired differently.

  144. I've seen it happen -- I spent three years as an enlisted man in the army around 1970, when drugs were everywhere around me -- but I still just don't understand how anyone could allow themselves to be sucked into a life of drug addiction. I'm not being judgmental: I just don't understand how any rational person could voluntarily take the first step and even after having taken the first step not pull back before their life is consumed by addiction. Alcohol addiction is easier to understand: alcohol is legal and pervasive. But illegal drugs are beyond my comprehension. Don't you have to deliberately go out of your way to lay your hands on these substances? And there are so many object lessons warning against them. How does it happen? What are the circumstances? And what is the attraction? To repeat, I don't mean to be judgmental, either about addiction or about homelessness in general. But on a personal level, leaving aside the much larger social and economic problem of homelessness, the path to drug addiction is simply incomprehensible to me.

  145. @Bill W. "the path to drug addiction is simply incomprehensible to me." ____________________________ Addiction is a disease. If one thinks of addiction in these terms, it's becomes less bewildering...much like cancer.

  146. @Bill W. don't try and introduce the concept of personal responsibility. None of it is his fault, it's ours for not better subsidizing him with free housing

  147. Addiction may be a disease once it gets underway, but it's a disease that can't happen without a voluntary and deliberate first step, and even after that, there must be some period, however brief, when a rational individual is still able to say, "I don't want this to consume my life," and pull back. Maybe it's a want of imagination on my part, but I just can't comprehend how someone could allow themself to be pulled into that vortex. As I said, I've been in an environment where drugs were rife, and I've seen it happen myself, but I simply don't understand it.

  148. This guy is a bad man. We are supposed to fell sorry for him. If given the chance to steal and get away with it I am sure he would revert to past form.

  149. @Glenn -- he is not bad, per se. I can't imagine what it would be like to be addicted to crack cocaine but this is the sort to addiction that drives a person to commit crimes so he/she can continue with the drug habit. Don't be so high and mighty!

  150. He didn't kill anyone. Not bad, just troubled. After all, wouldn't you call all those billionaires who get tax breaks and steal all our money, bad men? Bankers who deliberately gave out predatory loans and made millions of people homeless, and never paid for their crimes? We bailed them out, as we bailed out rich "bankrupts" (poor bankrupts live on the streets). THEY are bad men. They (Trump, Mnuchin) run our country.

  151. @Glenn , first stone, etc.

  152. It is an interesting texture when a guy who graduated Palo Alto HS, rubbed shoulders with 1 Percenters and drank Petrus present a trading places scenario. His candidness coupled with his resume leave me to conclude that in his sorts of cases and the so many other down-n-out folks, CRACK COCAINE is a menace.

  153. What's confounding to state officials? The reasons for the homelessness are all cited in the article. The guy here is a drug addict. I don't understand the confusion.

  154. The rents are also sky high. Even someone making $50,000 a year would find it difficult to find an affordable apartment in a nice neighborhood to live in if rents even for studios are over $2,000 a month ($24,000 per year) plus you need a car. The places to live there in the very few cities that are walkable (San Francisco, part of LA, downtown San Diego, etc) are even more expensive with rents often starting over $2600 per month for a 450 sq foot 1 room apt.

  155. Thanks for the reality check. The situation here is getting as bad as San Francisco. Property taxes are so high you are basically paying rent on your own home (wish it covered repairs) and rents are through the roof.

  156. @LeighR is he chained to the Bay Area? He could go rent a studio in the midwest for $300/month

  157. Not everyone’s retirement plays out like in the Raymond James’ commercials as far as being well planned.

  158. The Seattle suburban high school that my sisters and I attended decades ago now has a 10% homeless population among the students. Some of the luckier kids live with relatives in a car. It is NOT an inner city school district. Shameful for the USA in non-Depression era, especially in such wealthy cities.

  159. @Jean The GOP has a solution for that. It's called the "free market miracle" - more tax cut for corporations and the "job makers".

  160. @Jean I echo your feelings. The number of homeless continues to grow and nothing is getting done. I cannot understand how in this land of plenty, so many (the number grows each day) have so little and so few have so much (the number also grows each day). When I started to drive my daughter to school, I noticed several children coming to school by taxi. My first thought....the parent of the child was a taxi driver. Then I learned each of those children were homeless; there was no school bus route to their shelter location. Yes, shameful for the USA in non-Depression era in such wealthy cities.

  161. @Jean: With respect, we shouldn't have homelessness or poverty at all -- "inner city" needs to become just a geographical descriptor, not a synonym for poverty and hopelessness. If we in the US wanted to, we could eliminate poverty -- it would take about a generation, and it would be hard and costly. But it can be done, and there is *almost* no reason for those who are at the bottom of the ladder to have nothing while those at the top have enough for 1000 affluent lifetimes. The reason? Human cruelty.

  162. Interesting article. It is good to get a glimpse of lives many of us seldom see. Reminds me of another glimpse I had. My next door neighbor of many years was the family matriarch. She had ten kids. Many of them had kids and grandkids. Some had steady if low wage jobs. Some struggled with unemployment, health, addiction, and jail. But all were welcome in her 2 bed, 1 bath home where she'd lived since forever. There was always a shifting collection of offspring living with her. Her home was the place they could count on to keep them from homelessness. It was some measure of stability and security. Needless to say, all the living that went on in that house took a toll, and there was no money for much in the way of upkeep. Things almost fell apart for the home and extended family because the roof got so bad it almost caved in. But a city program to assist low income homeowners with repairs replaced the roof. These city funds kept scores of people from falling into the pit of homelessness. Sometimes a small financial outlay can reap untold rewards. (You might think that I wished for very different next-door neighbors. And there were a few things I found irritating. But I could also plainly see that they were doing the best they could under far more difficult circumstances than I. On the whole I found this family to be far more neighborly than most.)

  163. @Katherine Thank you for sharing a very important story. And for being the kind of person people would want to call a neighbor. Know that your lack of derisive judgment and social stigma did make it easier for that family to keep it's tiny, if a bit ramshackle, boat a float and the lives it held buoyed from the worst that life might dole out. You're karma was most definitely felt by those folks and it aided them in maintaining their dignity through such challenges. And maintiaining dignity through travails helps retain the mental and spiritual resiliency to keep working the problems versus succumbing. That cannot be underestimated, though so many people are viscious in their judgement of anyone having struggle, vulnerability or need. Such people should be ashamed of the negative judgment they pass on people like your neighbors.

  164. I too graduated from Palo Alto High School and now live here in Oakland. I remember Maddalenas and how the titans of Silicon Valley and Stanford would dine there. This is not a cautionary tale for some but for all. Most of us live with a thin membrane between the working middle class and poverty. Yes, Mr. Holy's choices have led him where he is now, but not understanding that this could happen to any of us, keeps us at arms length from our fellow bothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors.

  165. Best wishes in your journey and recovery. May you accomplish your goals and enjoy great wines again. Life can hit us really hard, and no one is immune to times of trouble.

  166. After spending 8 months on the streets in SF, on and off, filming the Let’s Get Street Smart series, I learned 3 things which explain the situation. 1 - Homelessness is not complicated to solve and California knows how to do it expertly. Less than 20 hours after the Sonoma fires started, I witnessed the full disaster relief operation that was put into place for thousands of people, such that nobody was left without shelter, food, medical support, and mental support for one single night. Expert help to get neighbors in distress back into jobs and housing was readily available. 2 - Each person living on the street is there for the same reason. They are our neighbors who suffered a personal disaster that overwhelmed their life. Although they often received help, they did not receive the appropriate disaster relief help they needed to get back on their feet. 3 - Neuroscientists Susan Fiske (Princeton) and Lasana Harris (UCL) have demonstrated that people experiencing homelessness are the most dehumanized segment of society. This means that they receive the actions resulting from the persistent stereotypes people have of them: that they are particularly incompetent and untrustworthy. Appropriate disaster relief would ensure that when overwhelmed by personal disaster - like in the case of fire - none of our neighbors would have to experience homelessness. As to why corporations are not charged taxes - now that’s what I can’t understand . . .

  167. @Natasha. Seems like no one in his family wants to deal with him, so they’re leaving it up to the taxpayers.

  168. @Natasha Corporations pay very little or no taxes because the tax laws are written by lawyers who work for companies, and the companies pay money ("campaign contributions") to the politicians to pass those laws. Peoples votes are strongly influenced by expensive ad campaigns, so politician who don't seek these donations rarely get elected. It is not that complicated.

  169. @Natasha/// you're comparing apples to oranges. Both sets of victims could not be any more different.

  170. Anyone can slip into homelessness in today's USA but add in alcoholism, drug abuse leading to divorce (financial problems) equals rapid descent into living in a tent. This can happen anywhere. Bottom line; get help early and utilize every resource out there. California has good AA and better access to mental health than many states.

  171. I want people who are homeless for whatever reason to have a clean, private place that they can afford. That means casual housing, maybe with units as small as walk-in closets. As this comments section amply demonstrates, keeping poor people in public attracts moralizers and busybodies. The latter, more than addicts, are a real nuisance and we need strong measures to abate their presence.

  172. We are better than this? We won’t even allow homeless people a legal right to having a homeless encampment much less a legal right to a home of their own.

  173. @tony I lived in D.C. for five years; the only homeless encampment was in Anacostia, far from Chevy Chase, CT. Ave., or Georgetown. In fact, Georgetown successfully fought public transportation near its border. D.C. is the nation's capitol; it is a place where tourists, school children visitors, foreign dignitaries et al come. D.C. is a beautiful city with the Smithsonian, the Mall, the Potomac River, parks and bridges. What would a homeless encampment bring to D.C.?

  174. Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, and Jeff Bezos have a combined net worth of $177.1 Billion. 3 people have more wealth than the entire GDP of many Eastern European countries. If the city of San Francisco wants to solve its homeless problem, I’ve identified where to start.

  175. I agree that there’s a massive disparity of wealth. There’s also a disparity when it comes to addiction, illegal behavior and life choices. I’m all for assistance and support with rehab. Let’s create safe tent communities or barracks in the Central Valley where land is cheaper and there’s work.

  176. @Austin Ouellette. Another crucial starting point: heavily cut back short-term rentals (undercover hotels) that are a major factor in the housing crisis in the Bay Area and across the US.

  177. I hope you realize that their wealth is not all cash, and should they decide to liquidate their holdings would be a bit disruptive to their respective companies..

  178. Is this really the face of homelessness that is suppose to garner sympathy and a call to action? I am left wondering about this man’s character. Five children and not one is willing, ostensibly, to take him in? It sounds to me like a life of bad choices, squandered opportunities, and family relationships tossed to the side. Blaming it on addiction and failed social services is specious at best.

  179. @JP You wondered why none of his 5 kids want to take him in. Here’s why - You can’t take an addict into your home. They lie and steal. They will hock your belongings while you are at work. Families want to help but really are at a loss of what to do after numerous times of trying to help them, only to see them go back to drugs and destroy or hock everything that’s been given to them to help get them back on their back. It’s a complex issue that has ended many family relationships.

  180. @JP I guess you and I are among the vast minority here but I see a man who had a faux prestigious job over 30 years ago and became a felon and an addict. He sounds as though he has a grandiose idea of his past achievements - and I do not consider being essentially a server of high-priced wine a real skill - and is continuing to make poor decisions while he reminiscences over fermented grape juice.

  181. @ JP What “face of homelessness” would you consider worthy?

  182. This story illustrates what we already now - homelessness is a symptom of drug abuse and/or mental illness. Trying to deal with the symptom instead of the underlying problem is just throwing money away.

  183. Agreed. "Homeless" is an adjective, not a noun.

  184. This profile is built on the premise that "Many Americans are one medical emergency, one layoff, one family disaster away from bankruptcy or losing the roofs over their heads" but it uses the life of a man whose journey to homeless actually unfolded across decades and had many, many steps down on a long sad journey that ended in a tent on the streets of Oakland. Didn't somebody catch this obvious contradiction in the editing process? Even the article itself used the phrase "gradual unraveling"! It feels like a scare piece designed to push me politically, but it ended up having the opposite of that effect. This man's situation is sad and worthy of my attention, but it is absolutely not a profile of somebody who suddenly and unexpectedly became homeless.

  185. The article does make the point that he gets 900 income from various sources. That should be sufficient for someone to live on, if, that is, rents were affordable and not a business aimed at only the rich and famous. In Spain, for instance this mount would allow someone to have a dignified existence. That is changing to be sure, but it is still possible. Nowhere in the US is this possible. I myself make over 100 times that amount and I still cannot afford to buy property, and though I work and have for a long time, I am one step from being homeless were i to get sick and loose my job, my only source of income. I don’t see why this is so hard to understand, and see it is a grave social and economic problem that needs addressing, particularly as the productive class ages.

  186. @ Gramma-$900 isn’t enough for groceries in the Bay Area, or a car (which is illegal To sleep in, by the way). Things must be quite different in Newton.

  187. @Suzanne who says he has to live in the Bay Area?

  188. I believe the US prison system that is focused on punishment rather than resocialization also plays a role here. Prison time for these not-so-serious offenses that are often linked with poverty and substance abuse must be turned into get clean/sober-and-get-your-life-together coaching sessions with a reintegration plan on release. Adaption of the European system that pretty much only the police and the judicial system can see a persons criminal record and most employers may not even ask for it might also help.

  189. There is certainly a problem that is reaching crisis point in the Bay Area for affordable homes, but it's really a stretch to associate stories like these to the high cost of housing.

  190. Everyone individual has worth and importance no matter what their circumstances or their past- from those with stories like this to those without such an epic past - this article does well to highlight this

  191. "Many Americans are one medical emergency, one layoff, one family disaster away from bankruptcy or losing the roofs over their heads." Yes. That's me.

  192. @Susan- That’s all of us except, perhaps, for the very, very rich.

  193. @Susan At the risk of borrowing a hashtag used for an entirely different - and very serious - problem, me too! What does it say about our country that people can work their entire (professional) lives and have nothing to fall back on? Fifteen years ago, in my late 30s, I had over $500,000 in retirement savings, and a well-developed, responsible investment plan for my "later" years. ONE badly-timed illness destroyed that. I "planned poorly" (HA) when I was diagnosed with MS as the US invaded Kuwait and my portfolio lost 2/3 of its value. Rising income inequality, anti-middle class Republican policies, and the two-year lag before I was eligible for disability benefits under SSDI killed the last 1/3. No one walked up to me and said, "Welcome to the edge," but here I am, right with you. It is a large group.

  194. @Steve Singer I'm not rich, and no, I am not one disaster away from bankruptcy.

  195. I served for 6 years on the Board of Directors of a small homeless shelter in Vermont. I was not surprised to hear about Mr. Holys's special past and that he had once been successful and respected; at our shelter we had a guest for a month that had pitched a handful of games for the Phillies. An injury to his pitching arm elbow, hiding the pain with pills until the elbow was shot, left a lifelong addiction. Some fall from higher than others, but there is the same sound of broken lives hitting the sidewalk. Our intake sheets took an hour for the guest to fill out. We needed to see the trail that brought them to our doors so that we could figure out how to help them.When queried at a board meeting, What percentage of our clients/guests were abused along the way? His guess? 90% of the women and a significant amount of the men (who were reluctant to give up that type of information). So sad. It was especially sad when viewing homeless families with children. My personal best effort was writing an editorial in the local paper discussing how difficult it was for a young boy to get off the school bus at our shelter. It ended with: "You can make a difference between homeless and hopeless." The editorial raised $30,000 towards our renovation project. Our shelter's residents had to be sober and clean (drugs). Mr. Holys has an especially difficult task because of his continued interest in fine wines. To be blunt, that puts him into the 'service resistant' homeless population.

  196. Mr. Holys will never find real gratitude in a bottle.

  197. This is a public problem that requires a public solution. My grandparents worked all their lives, but the Great Depression hit them hard in their prime earning years. My carpenter grandpa was lucky to get a city job driving truck. But by the ‘70s, that city pension didn’t go far. They moved into a public housing project. His unit had a basement where he would do woodworking late into the evening. The post WWII projects were attractive homes, clean, and well maintained. We know the macro story; slavish devotion to the system that created the problem, capitalism, led to privatization and profiteering. And here we are. The solution is simple; build public housing and pass FDR’s Second Bill of Rights guaranteeing decent housing and a good job for everyone. It’s not that hard.

  198. @Todd. Explain how that solves drug addiction.

  199. @Jackson Explain how it wouldn't.

  200. I hope that some restaurant owner or manager will give this man a second chance. Everyone makes mistakes - sometimes more than one - but it sounds like this man has learned from his. I truly hope he gets a second chance.

  201. Really? Even though he plans to buy a bottle of wine?

  202. I’m sure he was fired from his jobs for theft. With margins razor thin, no owner is going to take that chance.

  203. Would you hire an addict and thief to work with exceptional bottles of wine in your restaurant? Would you truly take that leap of faith after someone had been to jail? Just wondering...

  204. Only confirms what I've heard from those involved with combatting homelessness: 99 times out a 100, it's drugs and/or mentally illness.

  205. California also has the nation’s highest poverty rate.

  206. It’s not out of the question that many former state psychiatric hospitals could be partially or fully reopened as safe havens for the homeless now living on the street. It was the mistaken closing of state hospitals around the country that have placed so many dual diagnosed people suffering from both drug addiction and mental illness as homeless. It was a tragedy that the hospitals were not simply redesigned to accommodate this new group of desperate individuals without the old fashioned and illegal court commitment. The new community mental health centers were never built that were promised. It’s time for someone reading this comment to take steps to remedy the homeless debacle. How about it Governor Newsome in Sacramento and other governors around the country?

  207. This article shows how little we understand about addiction. It looks like a liquor bottle on the table in his tent, and I suspect alcohol has everything to do with this. So the drugs are perhaps out of the picture and he used to pour fancy glasses of wine. Planning on celebrating with a nice bottle shows the delusion of alcoholism: drugs and alcohol got him here, and they will keep him here. We need treatment, but it has to be voluntary. It’s not that easy.

  208. @Law Student - just wait until they automate and outsource your legal work (of course, after you've locked into a huge mortgage, incurred credit card debt, have a car payment, and student loans). Then your wife leaves you and you have no healthcare or savings and are unemployable. You get foreclosed on the home. The car is repossessed. You can't get credit. What will you do?

  209. I have spent years living, working, and traveling throughout developing countries - particularly in Latin America. The homeless camp photo could easily have been taken in Lima or Sao Paulo. My feelings of American exceptionalism died a long time ago...

  210. 5 grown kids and the father is living in the streets. This is a fairly unique American problem. In most other countries, especially one as rich as the USA, somehow a family solution would have been found by now. But the social fabric is so weak here. Because the responsibility doesn’t get taken in by the family, it becomes the government’s responsibility. But then again, people don’t want to pay increased taxes to help pay for it all.

  211. @SP "5 grown kids and the father is living in the streets". Unless you have dealt with an addict, you have no idea what it means to let an addict into your home. They lie and steal, even from their own kids. They will hock all your belongings while you are out working, then cuss you out or hit you, when you won't give them more money. Please, by the time an addict has become homeless, the family has tried everything to help him or her and it hasn't worked.

  212. I have a friend whose son is homeless. He has had housing n the past, but his paranoia and inability to follow house rules make a life camping under a bridge more comfortable. Schizophrenia medicated by alcohol and whatever else is available on the street will keep him homeless probably forever. When djt rolls into town and declares that he has a simple solution to a problem that has bedeviled those who have actually worked with the homeless and are deeply aware of the complexity of this problem, he shows himself a fool (again). The real question is how we, as a society, will care for our mentally ill and addicts. It will not be inexpensive and will require taxpayer-provided housing in proximity to someone's backyard. I submit that the top 1% yielding 0.1% of their income in taxes would be an excellent start.

  213. @LaLa. Why doesn’t your governor have a plan?

  214. I struggle with understanding how personal choices become a public problem. Yes, we need affordable housing. Yes, we need more mental illness treatment. And yes, people need to understand that poor decision making leads to a host of probelms others are not equiped to solve for them.

  215. @Robbie In four sentences, I think you summarized how many commenters feel. As to your last point, I don’t feel it is necessarily a public responsibility to pay for the effects of alcoholism and additction, and yet who can travel through some of the Native American reservations without understanding that addiction has complex ingredients, including such factors as victimization, cultural destruction and alienation, genetic predisposition to a disease, child abuse and sexual abuse, economic hopelessness (real or imagined), lack of emotional preparation for adulthood, etc. I don’t know any comprehensive solutions. But I do wish more doors were open to a sober Mark-Steven Holys, if he can get and stay sober. I, for one, am willing to see the military budget shrunk and taxes on corporations and the top 10% increased, if those taxes revenues are put to affordable housing, mental health, addiction, and other social services. I’m not sure whose fault it is there are so many walking wounded, but I believe we should try to help.

  216. As a social worker, I disagree. The U.S.A. is the wealthiest country in the world. And we're brutal towards our most vulnerable. Let us be kinder, more gentle.

  217. There is no doubt a huge income disparity and affordable services and Medical care. However, in many homeless cases, the demon is the drug / alcohol addiction or mental health issue, or sometimes both. In LA, many people feel uncomfortable giving spare change to the homeless because there is this worry you are helping them buy more drugs. We give food. In LA, many homeless from other parts of the country come here for our beautiful weather, which can be deceptive in winter. Even with affordable housing, how does one solve the mental health and addiction and income inequality issues? Its not just finding a roof over their heads, they have no ability to sustain themselves. I think crack down on drugs and zero tolerance on experimenting on drugs, and drug education would be a great start.

  218. Not to sound cruel but why the emphasis on homelessness and not on the consequences of drug addiction and criminality? Seems a bit misleading given recent commentary on the very real problem of lack of affordable housing. Sure we need safety nets in place to assist people in need but this gentleman’s choices resulted for the most part in this outcome.

  219. I feel so sorry for this man; but addiction is not destiny, and 61 is not too late to start again: Who has this wealth of knowledge of wines? Very few. That is a great skill in the restaurant of the 1 %; do not forget it.

  220. @Dr. Ricardo Garres Valdez Very true. I was struck by his eloquence. If he is able to remain sober, I can imagine his knowledge of wine and poetic way of speaking, and thinking, carrying him back to a mainstream life, if that is what he wants.

  221. Sorry to say but the homelessness would have tapped to Mr Holys regardless California’s housing situation. His drug addiction and mental health issues make that inevitable. I don’t find that his story so the right example of preventable homelessness. I know several personal examples of this of people livinng paycheck to paycheck with minimal savings and lives upended by one event like divorce or a new health crisis and poor social safety net to catch them. This story of addiction is not same as their stories, which deserves telling, even if they are more mundane.

  222. @Sunnysandiegan if an addict can afford both drugs and housing they will obtain both. There is nothing intrinsically about addiction that makes one prone to homelessness, except that it’s a large expense. You might be surprised at how many people are put out by non-narcotic prescriptions. There’s only one bottom line in any budget whether or not you like what’s being bought. If not buying it makes a person sick they will choose it over keys, but no one wants to, and most addicts do live indoors.

  223. I'm not sure about the unique properties of the homeless population in Oakland. In Los Angeles, the most recent study of our unhoused neighbors found that 71% of them were neither mentally ill nor abusing substances. The big problem in their lives is something that happened to them -- housing grew unaffordable and they fell off altogether that last hard, metal rung that we're promised will take us to the land of upward mobility. I really wish we would get more stories about the families and singletons who were bumped off the ladder by a sudden layoff or a major unavoidable expense or a rent increase that, at last, could not be endured. Those are the majority of the homeless. Their stories are important. Through them we much more clearly see how fragile our own hold is on a workable life in the U.S. I guess it's natural to want to make people without a place to live "other," to outline their life mistakes in rough crayon that helps us breathe because *we* would never start up with crack. But the truth is many people without homes are very much like us, and they are part of the whole we also inhabit. They are our responsibility. We need to get to know them.

  224. @raph101 This deserves to be the top comment. I used to live in Sierra Madre, and over about six years, my rent went from $450 to $600 to $1000 a month for a studio apartment, after which I took a job across the country seeking more affordability. I found it doesn't exist - in places where rent is less, so are salaries. The real estate and development lobby work together now to keep housing prices high and rentals in short supply. Air BnB worsened the situation dramatically but has bought off politicians who think it will bring in tourism. Foreign cash buyers are the kicker in the housing market. We do need better reporting but those of us who are housing-unstable because of an illness or layoff or housing manipulations are often too afraid to be interviewed because we are busy trying to keep our jobs. American stigmatizes "losers" whose lives hang by a thread. Notice how many here think that this man's frayed family relations must be his fault! This is one reason so many live beyond their means. You can't show up to your corporate job or your legal office in shoes bought at Payless lest someone decide you don't "fit" and here comes the layoff. Staying housed is now a full-time job in America, even for those of us fortunate enough to be still working full-time.

  225. Such a complex heartbreaking problem. Perhaps a wealth tax can be put towards building a better safety net for those down on their luck.

  226. Read the infamous Gilded Age novel "Sister Carrie" about a character whose downard trajectory is similar to this. America really hasn't changed much in spirit in 100+ years. We could have solved these problems many times over but choose not to.

  227. This is the state that leads the "resistance” to President Trump in the name of “social justice.” How disgraceful.

  228. A recommendation for Mr. Holys 1st of all get sober. If you look at the photo of him there's a bottle of liquor on his nightstand. His decline was long and fraught with addiction. AA works if you work it. Start by getting sober. You'll be shocked how your life will start working for you.

  229. I've read some of the comments below. Where does it say this person has an alcohol problem? It clearly says he has a CRACK problem that he is trying to control. To the writer, you fail to explain how he got his crack problem. Was it due to opioids after his surgeries?

  230. Nobody turns to crack as a substitute for opioid addiction. They have little in common. I think you are thinking of heroine here.

  231. I expected this story to be about society's role in pushing this guy to the fringe. But it was his own bad choices---to do drugs, to do enough drugs to get addicted, to steal to support his habit---that ruined his life. If he's determined to reform his life and find his way back, that's fine. But does he deserve unquestioning sympathy for his current plight? I'm not so sure.

  232. Ok Zuckerberg, Google boys, etc. Step up. Whats 100 million to you guys. Zippo. Build and maintain 1. A mental hospital.2. Public housing for 100,000. Problem solved. It is outrageous that the lack of taxation has so starved the public coffers.

  233. @scientella. Lack of taxation? Where?

  234. @Jackson. Not on normal working people somewhere within range of the median income--who are taxed a lot. We're talking about corporations, hedge fund managers, billionaires, real estate moguls, etc. The tax breaks that allow the very wealthy to pay less than those considered "rich" but who are really working class, living in a big house.

  235. @Jackson - I don't think Amazon paid much tax last year. And as I remember, Amazon got all kinds of tax incentives to open in the first place. And, we don't have a state income tax which is probably why the two richest men on earth live here. In ain't the weather. Those two geeks won't even buy a bag of weed and pay the tax on that which goes to education in this state:)

  236. Five children (with at least one adult child) with three women and still homeless? There is a lot missing from this story regarding the sad state of affairs for the sommelier.

  237. Hopefully, someone in the restaurant or wine world make an effort to reach out to him, offer him a real job and change his circumstances. This is so sad and so American at the same time. Painful story....

  238. Mr. Holys needs help with his addiction and his mental health. He would still be homeless, even with more housing in the Bay Area. I have visited every homeless shelter in San Francisco and spoken with countless homeless. The pattern is the same...addiction and mental illness were the driving forces. NOT housing costs. Even in the article...there's a strained attempt to correlate housing costs with the plight of Mr. Holys. But that's false. He needs help. Homelessness is a crisis of addiction and mental health that requires a national solution.

  239. @Michael Further to your "what struck me" about his $960 monthly, I see similar situations here in Miami. The article quoted him as trying to control his substance abuse. That's fantasy and self-delusion. It controls you; you don't control it. He could have double or more of that money and still remain homeless or scrambling for the basics. Therefore, my guess is he's still on crack and there's no coming back. So, no amount of money, housing, other assistance or family/friends/samaritans will do the trick until....... until what?

  240. The sommelier could have been afforded treatment under a rational correctional system. Instead he did eight years hard time. That seldom benefits anyone. But liberal California, as elsewhere, can't bring itself to pay for such a system, now all the more vital since the resources to pay are so much more concentrated as they are vast. Even if some class traitor were to assume power, those tech companies would pack up and leave in a trice to some alternate headquarters elsewhere, established in a city willing to humbly provide generous tax breaks and labor waivers, as Cuomo and De Blasio enthusiastically did for the sake of the attempted Amazon HQ2 1/2 swindle here.

  241. We have known for a very long time that addiction to drugs can ruin lives. I have little sympathy for people who willingly start experimenting with these drugs when they know the consequences.

  242. I’ve done drugs frequently including cocaine and have never had a problem with addiction. Addiction is a mental illness that exists before the drug use starts. It’s just lying in wait for anything—disordered eating, workaholism, sex, substances—to trigger it. It’s this outdated and inaccurate understanding of mental illness that prevents this country from really dealing with it.

  243. So this guy has a guaranteed income of $960/month for the rest of his life. None of his kids have a spare bedroom for Dad, who can help substantially with expenses? Maybe he's burned those bridges. Well $960/month might not be survival-level in the Bay Area but how about Houston or Kansas? He gets that money wherever he lives in this country. Why battle it out in this increasingly-inhospitable place? A record and his age might cut him off from the job market indefinitely, no sense depending on that.

  244. @nerdrage If he moves from Houston or Kansas, he is not getting that $960/month.

  245. Where in the US can a fully formed adult live for $960 a month? Is La La Land accepting new tenants?

  246. @Brooklyn Dog Geek If you read my comment under “Readers Picks” I already tell about my friend who lives on $900 in the Bay Area. Yes—with Section 8 and other support. But actually I met a man in Elk Bend Idaho just this summer who lives in a trailer park on $1000 a month and seems very happy. He hunts and fishes for fun and food.

  247. NYC spends $3.2 billion per year on homeless programs including about $2 billion to shelter 60,000 per night, for a total cost of more than $50,000 per person (or $200,000 for a family of four). The cost of these programs is exacerbated by the fact that generous benefits attract more homeless people to the city. By the time people become homeless their problems are often extraordinarily difficult and expensive to solve. More spending to prevent and treat early stage addiction and mental health issues might be dollars well spent.

  248. @Brian As countless interviews and statistics with shelter workers have demonstrated, most people do not wind up homeless because of mental illness or addiction. They wind up homeless because the lose income, and get evicted from their homes. The welfare payment are not enough to keep people in a home and feed them, period. Once homeless, of course mental health problems emerge. How sane would you be if you didn't know where you next pair of clean underwear was going to come from? How sane would you be if you couldn't get 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night, and had to routinely fight bugs, drug addicts and people who try to rob you? People who insist on the mental health shtick have no idea what it's like to be homeless, and don't actually talk to homeless people. The vast majority of homeless people don't talk to journalists, and don't have their stories heard because it's not a story journalists want to tell. The obvious solution of giving people a place to live with that $50K/year, backed up homeless researchers for decades, is something that nobody wants to hear. Switzerland is the only country that has doubled their welfare payments to the poor and in a total coincidence, got rid of their homelessness problem.

  249. @Brian The last statistic I heard in SF was $250m per year. Much of that went to subsidize housing to keep people off the streets. With the cost of housing so high (because there isn’t enough), those dollars don’t go far. What we need to do is shut the NIMBYs down and build tens of thousands of apartments so those subsidies go farther.

  250. @LEM Developers don't want to build units for low or no income people.

  251. Very interesting and well written story. I am surprise that California has not built more affordable housing and created more addiction treatment centers.

  252. @Pryor Have you met a California NIMBY? They’re the best in the business.

  253. California's problem has many facets. There are no easy fixes. Drug/alcohol addiction and mental illness play a big part. High housing cost is another. We need to create tens of thousands of new jobs for social workers/probation officers so they have caseloads that are low enough they can provide the assistance needed. We need low income housing. Studies have shown that housing the homeless, even if they are drug addicted and mentally ill, is economically less than leaving them on the streets. Putting them in villages of mobile homes and converted container carriers is a disaster waiting to happen. There needs to be rational, well thought out planning for additional housing. Maybe a real Economic Opportunity Zone that is designed to help low income folks, rather than exist as a tax haven for the rich. NIMBY fears (which are justified in CA) need to be addressed. Fifty years of real estate developers excesses have left their mark. People see new development as automatic degradation of infrastructure.

  254. @Sharon/// 'Putting them in villages of mobile homes and converted container carriers is a disaster waiting to happen' - so living under a tarp or in a sewer tunnel is better?

  255. I love human interest stories such as this one. It helps to show how issues like homelessness are complicated. Should there be more affordable housing? Sure but if you have a drug problem or mental illness, it's going to be hard to maintain housing, no matter the cost.

  256. At the moment I have good healthcare coverage with a small retirement check. The healthcare is probably worth at least as much as the retirement checks in my case. If I had to give advice to a younger person I’d say get vested in a retirement system that has decent healthcare coverage. In this country no one but the very rich can afford to get sick. I can work a part-time job to supplement my small retirement, but I could never work enough to pay for my own healthcare.

  257. @meritocracy now In case you don't know, health care is one of the first benefits to be cut back, or entirely ended unless mandated by State law. Not sure if the figure still applies to health care, cut I recall the mandate did not kick in until a business employed 50 or more people.

  258. I work in LA with a first responder agency that has seen a huge increase in homeless related incidents. We don’t have a homeless crisis, we have a drug addiction crisis, a mental health crisis and a public safety crisis brought on by a lack of leadership and funding and an outrageous tolerance in the richest communities in America allowing people in crisis to have the “right” to sleep on the streets. It’s a giant disgrace.

  259. @HK....Thank you, well said. And thank you again for being on the front-line.

  260. My heart aches for this apparently accomplished man. One of my sisters faced similar consequences because of her addiction to cocaine, and lost everything she had, including a wildly successful business. She was never homeless but only for the grace and kindness of my mother who always provided shelter. Isn't there someone out there from Mr. Holys' sommelier past that would give this gentleman another chance? It's clear he would take the opportunity and run with it. Please, anyone?!!?

  261. Mr. Holy's story also has important warnings. Make wise choices. Be it whom to marry, to knowing the value of living within ones means, and below ones means, so that one socks away savings for down times. Even knowing how many children one can morally, ethically and legally afford on ones own sans ANY government program. As for the San Francisco bay area. From San Francisco, down to Silicon Valley and over to Oakland NOTHING is being done to tackle the affordable housing CRISIS. KQED FM's Forum show 9-11 am M-F have done so many segments on the issue I swear they could simply rebroadcast past shows since these places just talk talk talk, never do do do! My family has been in California since the 1950's Gold Rush and the hard fact is, throughout the country people have moved, migrated to where they could afford to live and where there were jobs. Thankfully our clan has always been rooted in the rough and ready hot in summer, snow up to the roof line in winter Sierra area where you have to have a rugged survival mindset and no desire to keep up with the Jones.

  262. While they may be linked, the article is about addiction, not homelessness. Housing an addict solves nothing.

  263. I grant you that some degree of mental illness contributed to this mans situation. But making that observation alone in this situation seems reductive - as if that explains the totality of this story. I would suggest it does not. Perhaps it helps our perspective to note that mental illness exists along a spectrum. Many people function in some environments and not in others. It is not really useful to simply say a situation is due to mental illness without considering the specifics of that situation. For example repeated water boarding might make me, a critical care physician used to high stress on a regular basis, into a nonfunctional person. While “mental illness” would not be a wrong label for part of the cause of my dysfunction it surely communicates very little useful about how to approach that situation. As the homeless problem grows it is surely reasonable to examine people who have been previously functional to see what can be done to help them. What should we as a society do about our mental heath problem? Do you really want to help address this issue or come up a with a reason not to engage?

  264. @Daniel B Addiction is a mental health issue. I am sorry you begrudge someone some relief from the pain and suffering of addiction. Housing is the first step to dealing with addiction issues. Suffering from an addiction is punishment enough.

  265. Housing an addict is a good start. Having a warm and dry place to lay your head gives one hope and that is what addicts need to seek recovery.

  266. It easy to blame mental illness, drugs, personal choices, etc. as reasons for homelessness.....and it makes for good copy. But the reality is that only a small percentage of homeless people fit that category. The truth is far too many working people are victims of the vile destructive and abusive Republican policies that promote income inequality and needless suffering. Adding insult to injury, they turn around and blame the poor themselves. I had a good life once too. Highly educated, succesful career, owned my own home, had financial security, donated to charities, etc. I have never been addicted to drugs, do not suffer from debilitating mental illness and have strong family support. And due to no fault of my own, but to the filthy greed of the GOP and their 1%ers backers, I lost everything. Being middle aged and facing pervasive and unconscionable age discrimination, I now work at the local college for 17k per year with no benefits. Like any hard working person, I am entitled to decent life including pay parity, health care, financial security and productive career opportunities. I don't care if the rich - individuals or corporations have to be taxed at 90%, if every single noxious tax loophole is permanently removed and we throw every foul mouthed GOP criminal behind bars....including the treasonous one in the White House. I want the life I deserve again along with every other deserving American. And at this point, I don't care what it takes to get it back.

  267. Where is our compassion? We progressives are eager to admit the foreign poor and the worlds’ refugees while our own citizens live on the streets. I know it’s difficult to manage peoples’ personal struggles but surely we can do better. These encampments are unhealthy and dangerous to those who resort to living there. At the very least it affects the quality of life of those of us who live in these cities while being lucky enough to have what we need.

  268. @treisja I am only interested in admitting the most brilliant, and those who absolutely, positively have no where else to go. I think we need to put a squeeze on the capitalists so they have to hire and even compete for American workers. Exporting jobs and/or importing workers needs to be made a lot more difficult. Charity begins at home as a matter of necessity, it's not just a saying.

  269. @SB Ironically, the US is one the best countries for protecting domestic worker rights against foreigners. Just imagine if American trade representatives abroad marketed America as the place for your business because labor is 40% cheaper yet the top tier educated. That's what Canada does now, and suffers no blow back in the legitimate press.

  270. One of those valley titans needs to get Mr. Holys into a place where he can do his unique work and apply his very rare skills to people who want good wine. Then, Mr. Holys needs to take a drug test EVERY single day and go to a meeting EVERY single day. We need him. But not just because he knows about pinot and Hungarian sweet wine, but because he's a human being who has fallen on hard times and needs help. Step up, titans.

  271. @MG I don’t want a lottery ticket for this one man. I want a 5% tax on those titans and on the financial transactions on Wall Street so we can help prevent more Mr. Holys’.

  272. Astonishing to see the view outside my window in the New York Times. What this photograph doesn't show, however, is how long the road lined with tents really is. It doesn't show the piles of garbage sprawling onto that road--the ongoing danger to resident and passerby alike. It doesn't address the fires that keep happening either. While this story is poignant, I wish the New York Times could also address how the Bay Area is/is NOT responding to this crisis. In the past two years, I've watched my entire neighborhood transform into tent cities, and it's only getting worse. If you don't see or live this reality everyday, it's far too easy to pretend it's not there. Something needs to be done, and the country's scrutinizing and compassionate eye on this very serious crisis would surely help those in need of housing and services.

  273. That’s the underbelly of free market capitalism. There are people, for one reason or another, that can’t sustain themselves in that system and need socialist solutions paid for by tax dollars. When you take those tax dollars and give them back to corporations and the wealthy, as was done by Trump, you are exacerbating the homeless problem and other social ills.

  274. I've stopped reading comments on US stories about the homeless after reading one too many cruel comment placing all the blame on the down and out for all their problems. As if we don't live in a country with essentially no safety net for anyone. But I'm poking my head in here to say I hope Mr. Holys is able to finally find a stable roof over his head and I wish him success.