A pencil drawing overlaid onto a picture of a street.
credit: Joshua Davis illustration & Anna Salinas background photo

Larry Michaels thought he would have a brief stay on the street. But a day turned into a week, and a week turned into months.

“I was downtown the first day he showed up,” said Steve Thomas in an interview with Street Sense. “He was clean, he was well-spoken and his fiancé had just thrown him out.”

But Michaels started drinking, and the months turned into years.  

Lawrence Michaels passed away in November 2016 while living near Pennsylvania Avenue’s Freedom Plaza. He was in his mid-40s.

“Larry was a fun guy,” said Michael Barnett, a member of the downtown homeless community in that area. “He was a sweet man.”

Thomas had witnessed a change in Michaels from the time he first met him after some time living without a permanent home.

“He lost all kinds of weight – everything had just changed,” said Thomas, who added that it’s easy to detect a shift in someone’s morale when living in the same homeless community. “He gave up. He just didn’t care.”

A change in someone’s morale is easy to detect when living in the same homeless community, according to Thomas. “If you deal with the same group of people long enough, you can see when the flame goes out in their eyes,” Thomas said.

Michaels’s fiancé was everything to him, but he made a fatal mistake that ended the relationship. Michaels started to experiment with alcohol and drugs, which led to addiction, according to Barnett.

“He literally just drank himself to death for the next four or five years,” Thomas said.

Michaels’s struggles on the street are ones Thomas has noticed in others on the street.

“Homelessness breeds complacency. And a lot of the times, the longer that you’re homeless, the more likely it is that you’re going to give up,” Thomas said.

Barnett will remember Michaels as a “funny dude” who “liked to box.”

While Michaels struggled with homelessness, Thomas said he should be remembered as the clean, well-spoken man he was when he first arrived downtown.