The Overnighters: Coming to a Neighborhood Near You
The collapse has come. It could be economic, geopolitical, a natural disaster, or any combination of the above. Suppose it has now been three weeks since your last trip to the grocery store. It has been two weeks since you lost power to your home. A week ago, two large families broke into, and are squatting in a vacant, foreclosed home down the street. Three days ago, you heard gunshots and loud shouting very close by. You wanted to call the police, but there is no longer any type of phone service, and the last you heard, the police had their hands full battling a large, violent group of Occupiers camped out at your local mall. Yesterday, you noticed five grubby men slowly stalking down the street. Two of them were pushing shopping carts heaped with canned goods, sleeping bags, wine jugs, bottled water and other items. One of them brandishes a large crowbar, another carries a knife, and the third pulls a pistol from inside his belt. The three armed men peel off from the others and knock at the security door of your neighbor across the street. The neighbor and his family had loaded up their large motor home a week ago and gotten out of Dodge. Now, the man with the crowbar is breaking through the front window, easily pulling away the French window panes to create a large hole. The man with the pistol peers inside, sweeping his gun to “clear” the room. He gets a boost from one of his buddies and hops inside.
You are getting edgy, very nervous. You have decided to “bug in” instead of “bugging out,” and are wondering if you made the right decision. You have a large stockpile of home-canned fruit, and many five-gallon containers full of beans, rice and grain. Now, what do you do? Do you pull out your own shotgun and confront the group? Or do you lay low and wait to defend your home, in case you turn out to be the next target? What if they knock at your door, and ask for a handout? What if they threaten to toss a “Molotov cocktail” through your window, unless you give them a lot of food?” What do you do? Who are these looters? Where do they come from? How far will they go in their desire to gain the goods they are used to receiving for free, via handouts, welfare and food stamps, which they no longer get?
How will the “homeless” react in a SHTF situation? I have been a volunteer at our local rescue mission for several years, and I am only now beginning to understand some of the motivations, thinking and possible future behavior of “homeless” people. In the past, I have donated food, clothing, and have also preached at the mission’s chapel, hoping that somehow my messages will make a difference. But, how effective are rescue missions, really? A lot of people have the impression that their local rescue mission is helping homeless people to get off the streets, get them cleaned up, sober from drugs and alcohol, gives them training to get a job, find housing, then finally move out and become an independent and productive member of society. Is this true? Well, yes, and no. You need to understand that rescue missions basically help two very different groups of people: People who are in “The Program,” and “The Overnighters.”
A person in “The Program” is typically referred to the rescue mission by court order. They’re forced to be there. Suppose a guy is arrested and convicted of possession of drugs. Whether he does jail time or not, upon his release, he is ordered by the judge to choose between several different drug treatment programs, and your local rescue mission is usually on the list. Once he is accepted into “The Program,” he is required to submit to drug testing, stay at the mission, and attend Christian-based classes and chapel service (most rescue missions are Christian-based). At the same time, those “residents” who stick with the program graduate and are moved from on-site dorm housing to “transitional housing,” get a job and hopefully, later on move to permanent housing. These are the success stories you hear about at rescue missions. However, there are some graduates, who unfortunately, do go back to their life of crime.
On the other hand, there is, simultaneously, an entirely different group at the average rescue mission: The “Overnighters.” The Overnighters are people, usually men, who show up in the late afternoon for a free meal and a bed. Some of these guys do have jobs, both permanent or temporary. They either walk, catch a bus for work, or get a ride from a friend. Many of them have cell phones. Now, you may ask, if they have a job, why on earth are they at the rescue mission? Good question. Some of these men have truly fallen on hard times and lost their apartment or home due to finances, divorce or other circumstances. A few, very few of these, do want to find permanent housing. However, the vast majority of the Overnighters prefer to roam the streets and “game the system.”
That’s right. In a normal economy, the non-working Overnighters could find work if they really tried. Most rescue missions will really help those who want to work, to find work. But as our economy continues to worsen, it makes it that much harder for the Overnighters to find work, if they wanted to find a job. And that’s a big "if". The working could get together with one or two others and split the rent on an inexpensive home or apartment, or even rent their own room, but they choose not to do so. Instead, they tend to drift from the rescue mission to a friend’s house, or to Aunt Edna’s, or Brother Joe’s, where they moan about how “horrible” it is over at the mission, all these “terrible” rules they have to follow, and that “boring” chapel service they’re required to attend, to get a meal and bed for the night. They sleep until noon on the sofa, lounge around and enjoy Brother Joe’s satellite television and Internet, and raid the refrigerator as long as they can, until they wear out their welcome, when Aunt Edna finally gets up the gumption to kick them out.
Then, Mr. Professional Overnighter goes back to the rescue mission for a few days, or a week or two, until he can find some other gullible sap who will fall for his sad story and let him in. “Someone jacked my wallet! Please, help me!” is just one of many tricks in their book. Some of the Overnighters even drift from a rescue mission in one city to another. They exchange information between themselves about the different rescue missions, the conditions and rules, which missions are “cool,” and which ones are “strict.” Many of those who are drug addicts only go to the rescue mission just to get free drugs, which are administered at the beginning of their “rehabilitation.” Then, as soon as they get a free fix, they leave. Many of the Overnighters have also been kicked out of certain rescue missions due to drunkenness, being high on drugs, fighting, stealing, and throwing psychotic tantrums. In such cases, the police are called and they are arrested. And remember, many of these same Overnighters have long criminal histories, including vagrancy, burglary, home invasion robbery, rape, assault, battery, and murder. A lot of the Overnighters are ex-cons, and many of them, after their release from jail or prison, started out under court order as residents in “The Program.” However, they were dropped from The Program after testing positive for drugs, fighting, stealing or some other offense. Once again, many of these are people who are not necessarily the downtrodden, oppressed, down-on-their-luck souls they would like us to think they are.
Now, you may ask, what do the Overnighters have to do with you? In a grid-down situation, they will have everything to do with you and anyone else that has food and other stuff they want. The Overnighters will be the ones pushing those grocery carts down your street, looting whatever they need, by whatever means necessary, including force. And remember, the Overnighters comprise just one of many looting groups, which will most probably include gangsters, hard-core criminals, radical Occupiers, and other assorted oddballs and juvenile punks who are wigged out, because they can no longer stuff their faces from mom’s fridge as they play video games or surf the internet. Now, all of these people will have to get off their rear ends and actually find something to eat and drink, and they will all be ravenously hungry, angry and utterly vicious. Not to mention the ones that are going through painful withdrawals from a lack of caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. Each of these groups will be competing intensely for any fat target, which is your home, with the potential promise of a tantalizing supply of stored food, water and other supplies.
In the case of the Overnighters, they didn’t work for their food before. What makes you think anything will change in a collapse situation? What’s interesting to me is that, whenever I preach at a chapel service full of Overnighters, I have noticed that many of them know their Bible. Several of them can quote chapter and verse. They know what is right and what is wrong. But when crunch time comes and food is scarce, all this learning, will for the most part, go out the window. In fact, I would say that their current choice of lifestyle shows they have little or no intention of living by the rules the rest of us live by. The Overnighters are, for the most part, lazy bums who want absolutely no responsibility, and they want to be accountable to no one. Most of them don’t want to work, and would not work if a job were offered to them. The rescue missions of the world are giving these leeches every opportunity to escape their squalid lifestyle, but they willingly and stubbornly refuse to change. Personally, I find this highly disturbing.
So, what should you do when faced with the Overnighters of the world? Know, first and foremost, that the Overnighters are quintessential con men. They know every trick of the trade to get you to open your door and give them a handout, including quoting the Bible. Ever notice the beggars on the street corner with the signs, “Need Food...God Bless!” These are people who could very easily get off the street, if they would simply enter The Program at their local rescue mission, instead of choosing the Overnighter lifestyle. These are the same people who, if you give them food, will sometimes throw it back at you and demand money. No matter what you give them, oftentimes it is never enough. Also, if you give to one homeless person who stops at your door, the buzz will quickly travel through the network about where the next big fat target is located, which is your house. And, before you know it, you could very well have a motley mob outside your house, shouting loudly that you are one of the “filthy rich one percent,” and that you need to “share the wealth” with them, the poor, oppressed 99 per cent. Am I saying that we should never help others in a time of need? No, I think there are certainly some people we should help. There are many poor families in and out of our church we have quietly helped over the years. And they usually are very meek, almost ashamed to accept help from someone else. They are also profusely thankful. I can’t tell you if and how to help others, but whatever you do, maintaining OPSEC is of utmost importance. I believe we need to show love and compassion to some, but we also need to protect our families from potential psychotic killers. Remember, the Overnighters and criminals of the world are right now, as you read this, making their rounds of naive victims, not only emptying Aunt Edna’s pantry, but doing home-invasion robberies where innocent people sometimes end up brutally murdered. And, in TEOTWAWKI, you will need a lot of wisdom and prayer, so you and your family won’t become the next victims.
[JWR Adds: It is important to be charitable, but my consistent advice has been to distribute charity through intermediaries, such as your local church or food bank. Do not hand out charity right on your doorstep! And make sure that your name and address never get mentioned by local charities.]