In last week’s Seattle Weekly, Joe Bernstein, a homeless man who sleeps

In last week’s Seattle Weekly, Joe Bernstein, a homeless man who sleeps in the doorways of Seattle businesses, eloquently recounted the many thefts he has experienced since becoming homeless more than two years ago and the measures he has taken to protect his property. Some readers wanted to know a little more. Bernstein graciously answered their questions. (Letters and responses have been edited for length and clarity.)

But in the end, Joe, are you happy? I’m not asking as a condemnation of your lifestyle, but as a legitimate inquiry. Years ago I approached a homeless guy that routinely slept in the doorway of the building that housed my office. [ . . . ] I handed him $20 one day and said something to the effect that I felt sorry for him and for being homeless. He looked at me, smiled, and said thanks for the 20 bucks but what makes you think that I am unhappy? —Steve Hunter

Without going into voluminous confession, a summary: I’m used to thinking I need a fairly normal life to be happy, and I’m further than ever from that. Despite the insecurity, unemployed homelessness the way I do it, pretty much living in libraries, is quite low-stress, so my depression has been in hiding. Pretty soon I’ll have to go back to employed homelessness, though, which is much higher-stress. And though I love to research and write, I’ve never found unemployment productive for that, and don’t now; this article is a rare example of my finishing something these days. So I’m now not happy, not depressed, and not productive; I hope soon to be not happy, mildly depressed, and productive. Does that answer your question? —Joe Bernstein

Great piece—a night in the life of . . . Although I don’t know why you don’t go to a shelter or try to get into transitional housing where you would have a lockable room and a warm bed, but that’s your choice, I suppose. Another alternative is to get a spot in one of the tent cities. You’d have a safe, and presumably dry, tent to relax and sleep in, and to keep your stuff safe in even when you’re away. —Gadfly

The homelessness literature includes tons of anecdotal references to theft in shelters, going back to the “old homeless” and the jackrollers. I cited Emily Spence-Almaguer because her study is one of the few to address this statistically—and she basically confirmed the anecdotes, right up to the fact that in shelters, it’s clothing that gets stolen most.

Transitional housing, as far as I’ve ever learnt about it, is for people with incomes. I’ll consider it when I have one; it would certainly reduce the burden of employment. But I lived once in an apartment whose rooms were individually let, and it was a pretty miserable way to live. (Then again, we only got locks after a theft.) —Joe Bernstein E