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"Buggrit! Millennium hand and shrimp!"

Foul Ole Ron, Discworld

In media, the homeless are portrayed generally as being alcoholics and drug addicts. They're usually terrible, immoral people, who would steal and kill anyone for the sake of a crusty old piece of bread. Some of them are so obnoxious they'll even refuse things like food in lieu of things like booze and drugs.

Interestingly, the key operating word here is not "homeless", but "people". Usually, when only a single homeless person (or married couple) gets at least half a dozen lines, the view is sympathetic. They're just a character who has fallen on hard times. It's even possible that the hero knows them from before the Big Bad broke the world.

A subset of Acceptable Hard Luck Targets. Also see Homeless Pigeon Person.

No real life examples, please; this is All The Tropes, not a blog. What homeless people are like in Real Life is not at concern here, only their portrayal in fiction.

Examples of Crazy Homeless People include:

Anime and Manga

  • Strongly subverted when Gin, Hana and Miyuki, the central three characters in Tokyo Godfathers, show us a side of Tokyo rarely seen in anime.
  • Hasegawa Taizou A.K.A. Madao (which stands for "totally useless middle-aged man" in Japanese) from Gintama is a perfect example of this trope.
    • There's also Musashi whose only response to anything is "Can you eat it?"
  • Arakawa Under the Bridge gives us a cast of homeless people with delusions of being Venusians, kappa, unable to walk out of a straight line, etc. They're played more for laughs than as a sinister threat.


  • Tony Stark spent several issues in the 80s on the streets constantly drunk after his company was bought, his personal accounts frozen, and his apartments taken away.
  • And of course, the Sub-Mariner wandered the Bowery as a homeless amnesiac for years before Johnny Storm found him.
  • Subverted by the homeless guy Anne meets in Why I Hate Saturn, with whom she has a conversation about the term "homeless."

"...did you ever wonder who decided to call bums 'homeless'? Why did that start? It seems that as 'bums,' we were individuals, but as 'the homeless,' we're an institution."

  • Justified by Ezrael in Vögelein, at least whenever he talks to Vogelein:

"Nobody'll see you. Everybody 'round here already thinks I'm a crazy old man, anyhow. They won't care if I talk to myself."

  • Being heavily based in New York, Minimum Wage (AKA Beg the Question) shows plenty of crazy homeless people.
  • Garth Ennis' Punisher had quite a few. One storyline revolved around a homeless guy who lived in the New York sewers and had people abducted, killed and kept in a huge pile under which he lay in order to remind him of his obese mother. Another story began with a splash page of a homeless guy on the street, being ignored, screaming, "I JUST WANT TO GO HOME!!"


  • John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. The Big Bad takes mental control of the homeless people around the church and uses them to prevent the protagonists from escaping.
  • C.H.U.D. was another exception. The subterranean-dwelling homeless were portrayed (mostly) as nice people, and one of the heroes ran a homeless shelter. Of course, then the homeless all started mutating, but that was mostly because so little was being done for them.
  • In The Pursuit of Happyness, there's one bum who thinks that the bone density scanner is a time machine. The main characters are aversions, however.
  • Robin Williams in The Fisher King.
  • The second Home Alone movie has Kevin eventually befriend a bird lady that turns out to be not so scary after all.
  • Mary Poppins sings a song about the Old Bird Woman, presenting her in a sympathetic light, and this eventually leads to an uproar at the bank his father works with because young Michael would rather spend his money feeding the birds.
  • Subverted by the local bum in UHF, who looks and speaks like a crazy bum. However, when he asks George for some change, he takes exactly $1 in coins and hands George a dollar bill in return. Later, when apparently trying to do the same thing to the villain, he receives only a single penny, which he instantly recognizes as being a valuable collector's item. He invests the money he makes on the penny wisely.
  • Played with in Dirty Work:

Mitch: Hey, homeless guys! I'll tell ya what. I'll give you a dollar each if you'll go into this building here and run around yellin' and screamin'.
Homeless Guy #1: Uh, that's very nice, but I think what you probably need are, like, some psycho, out-of-control homeless guys?
Homeless Guy #2: Yeah, we're more the broken, spiritless, I've-lost-the-will-to-live type homeless guys.
Mitch: How about for two dollars?
[Cut to the homeless people running into the building screaming]

  • Around the World in Eighty Days adaptation starring Jackie Chan has a crazy homeless man played by Rob Schneider.
  • The B-Movie Street Trash plays this trope straight and very harsh.
  • The killer in the slasher film Open House turns out to be a crazed vagrant who is killing realtors because he blames them for his homelessness.
  • One of these appears briefly in Anthropophagous 2000. He tells the main characters to turn back, then eats a pregnant woman's vomit.


  • The Baby Sitters Club. During the books when Stacey lived in New York, she talked about a homeless woman named Judy who talked to her sometimes. She is mildly mentally unstable but has her good days and bad days.
  • In the Discworld series, a number of Ankh-Morpork's beggars are like this, including:
    • Foul Ole Ron, a completely insane Talkative Loon with a sentient stench that outclasses him who employs Gaspode the Wonder Dog as a "thinking brain dog."
    • Duck Man, a perfectly normal "upper-class gentleman down on his luck" type, save that he cannot recognize that there is a duck on his head.
    • Altogether Andrews, who has seven personalities, none of whom are named Andrews. Terry speculates that the original Andrews was a medium with a mild personality who has been competely overtaken by ghosts or spirits.
      • Although it appears that most of his personalities are pretty sane, or at worst eccentric. (Most. It's implied that one, Burke, is Ax Crazy.)
  • In Terry Pratchett's non-Discworld novel Johnny & The Bomb the adventure is kick-started by the discovery of Mrs. Tachyon - the local bag lady (who is very much like Foul Ole' Ron) - lying unconscious in an alleyway.
  • In Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz, the antagonist has psychic powers and can create dangerous golems from his own mind. One takes the form of a disgusting, cruel vagrant to torment a man, who actually is homeless and is not bad or crazy at all.
  • The novel There is a Happy Land by Keith Waterhouse features "Uncle Mad," a mentally simple homeless man whom the ten-year-old (nameless) narrator becomes friendly with. The narrator finds Uncle Mad strange but does not see anything frightening or unwelcome about him, and they develop a genuine friendship of sorts. Eventually Uncle Mad is blamed for the murder and (implied) rape of a local girl, which in reality was committed by an older boy. The narrator doesn't really understand the implications of this, but helps Uncle Mad escape before he can be arrested.
  • In the Circle of Magic books - specifically, their sequels - Daja meets with a homeless man who seems crazy, but is surprisingly helpful. He returns in The Will of The Empress and catches Tris' eye. Together Tris and Briar conclude that he actually has the phenomenally rare ability to see and hear on the wind, which, combined with his attempts to repress it, and all the horrible treatments administered to try and make him stop it, and the constant treatment as if he is insane, have driven him half-mad already. They help him and it's suggested at the end that he's going to be able to function (relatively) normally in society from now on.

Live Action TV

  • The surprisingly good but short-lived American detective drama Raines did an episode that actually deconstructed this particular variation of the trope, where the deceased of the case Raines has taken on is a murdered homeless woman, who turns out to have had her identity stolen, among other tragic circumstances. When he talks to his therapist about the case, she notes after noticing his discomfort with the case that many times people aren't "comfortable" thinking of homeless people as real people who are worthy of normal respect and kindness, because they would rather think of themselves as naturally superior than admit that they too might possibly end up in similar dire straits. Noteworthy, in that the show managed to do it without seeming too much like a Very Special Episode... and in that the show still got canned anyway.
    • And sure enough, Raines eventually admits that he took against the victim because he was afraid that he may end up like her one day. His therapist cottons on to the fact that the reason for this fear is that he's worried he's going mad, and mental illness is one of the top causes of homelessness.
  • Tom Green once had a crazy bag lady in one of his skits. PONES
  • The Law and Order episode "Darwinian" has a take on the "human trash" concept. A homeless man is on trial for murdering another homeless man over an orange. The defense lawyer argues that his desperate situation caused him to kill just to survive (hence the title), which should excuse him of his crime. McCoy's counter-argument: saying that homeless people should not be judged by the same standards as the rest of us is basically saying they are less than human. And in this particular case, letting the murderer go free would further suggest the life of the homeless victim was worth less than that of someone more fortunate! (He wins.)
  • In the Monk episode "Mr Monk and the Miracle", three homeless men hire Adrian Monk to find out who killed their friend. They're portrayed pretty sympathetically, and Natalie gets on Adrian's case for his OCD-induced freakouts over their dirtiness.
  • Heroes did this with Claude, the Hobo. HRG shot him, but Claude survived, and then he stayed invisible to hide from the Company, becoming an incredibly misanthropic homeless man in the process. He steals everything and doesn't care, he hates everything and everyone, but he takes care of a flock of pigeons.
  • An episode of Small Wonder featured Foster Brooks as a homeless man who almost takes over the Lawson household.
  • Exidor, leader of the Friends of Venus and later a worshipper of O.J. Simpson, on Mork and Mindy.
  • A Seinfeld episode had Kramer try to recruit homeless people to pull rickshaws for a start-up business he and Newman were partnering on. The three candidates they rounded up fit this trope pretty well.
  • The Surprising Adventures of Sir Digby Chicken Caeser!
  • iCarly makes a few references to these early in the shows run. One example being Sam needing to bring a baseball bat to a corner shop because of a crazy hobo living in the alley next to it.
  • In an episode of Cop Rock, a homeless encampment was being cleared out. So, what does the homeless people do? They broke out in a song and dance number.
  • The West Wing had an episode dedicated to Toby arranging a military funeral for a homeless Korea veteran who happened to buy a coat which he donated to Goodwill, and then die in it on Christmas Eve. His brother fits the "crazy" trope nicely.
  • Averted in an episode of Saved by the Bell, in which the gang befriends and helps a homeless man (and his hot homeless daughter).
  • In the Bones episode "The Woman In The Tunnel," one of the guest characters is not only homeless, but also a Shell-Shocked Veteran. He is discovered in a tunnel hundreds of feet underneath the city near the body of the episode's victim, and when taken in for questioning, is very twitchy and uncommunicative. When they have him take them underground, however, he mellows out greatly. He is homeless as a choice, taking care of the other homeless people as atonement for accidentally killing a pregnant woman and her child on the battlefield.
  • The Babylon 5 episode "The Long Dark" had a homeless man on the station, a Shell-Shocked Veteran of the Earth Minbari War, who was constantly freaking out and declaring that the station was doomed and that an invisible enemy was coming to kill them. Turns out, he was crazy, but he was also right about the invisible enemy, which he ended up helping the station's security to defeat.

Newspaper Comics

  • Elmont in Doonesbury is quite deranged, but not dangerous to anyone (in fact he's quite sympathetic).
  • In Frank and Ernest, Frank and Ernest are often bums. (Genre Roulette means they can also hold a number of other positions.)

Tabletop Roleplaying Games

  • Unknown Armies had the canon NPC Jeeter. A partial subversion, as while he is insane, he's also a cosmic-level mystic.
    • It's not just Jeeter. A surprising number of Crazy Homeless People are also powerful wizards. The most likely reason for this is that you need to go crazy to become a magickal adept, and clinically insane people have difficulty maintaining homes and jobs. So when people on the street ask for change, give it to them, or they might trap you in some kind of dark alternate-reality Minneapolis.


  • One homeless person in Rent chastizes a main character for trying to help her by filming potential police brutality but not offering to give her money.
    • Um, she was actually mad at him because instead of helping her he chose to film her. And she was pissed that instead of helping the homeless he's instead just making a movie to make some cash off of showing off how much their lives suck.
  • Eliza's father in My Fair Lady has a whole musical number about how he refuses to work, takes money from his own daughter to spend on booze, and even tries to get money out of the professor when he finds out that she's been given lessons and board there.

Video Games

  • The Lost from City of Heroes are a villain group consisting of homeless people who are in varying stages of being mutated into Rikti. In the lower levels, they talk like the typical portrayal, ranting about "the Change", but as their levels and rank increase, the Lost start to bear a closer resemblance to them in powers, weaponry, and speech patterns, and at about Lv. 30, the transformation is complete and the Lost faction is completely replaced by them.
  • the Condemned games are all about beating up crazy homeless people.
  • Several in Grand Theft Auto IV - one of whom lives well within earshot of your apartment.
  • The hobos in Kingdom of Loathing.
  • Ollie the Bum from Tony Hawks Pro Skater.
  • Crazy Dave in Plants vs. Zombies. Maybe. He calls himself your neighbor, which suggests that he has a home, but he runs a shop out of his car, wears a pot on his head, and speaks in gibberish.

Web Comics

  • There's a recurring, homeless, black man in Polk Out. He's a murdering, drug-dealing rapist.
  • The late Doctor Hobo in VG Cats. His speech was an endless stream of word salad, and his behavior ranged from "erratic" to "incomprehensible". He refers to a dead rodent as his cell phone, and seems to have convinced himself that he was a doctor.
  • The Author Avatar of Least I Could Do's current artist is a fat homeless guy who draws for food.
  • Melody from Sounds Like a Melody is a rare webcomcis example of an aversion/sympatethic version.
  • Everyday Heroes has Scary Mary. She is definitely crazy, but has lately shown signs of being on to something.

Web Original

  • That Guy With The Glasses features Bum Reviews, starring Chester A. Bum, who talks extremely fast, goes off on bizarre tangents, and says of every movie (except Citizen Kane), "OH MY GOD THIS IS THE GREATEST MOVIE I'VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE!"
    • Because during the movie, he gets to be inside "a warm, warm building!"
    • The usual Unfortunate Implications are averted though, as he's both utterly adorable and a total woobie.
    • There is also Lester A. Bum and the late Spencer A. Bum.
  • Senor Cardgage from Homestar Runner, who lives in a shrub, carries a plastic grocery bag of half-melted candy bars around with him, and is prone to malapropisms and calling people weird names. "Alonzo Mourning to you, Myrtlebeth. Say hello to my tackle box!"
  • Michael Swaim of Agents of Cracked has not one, but two homeless wives.(One for the house, one for his car, you see) Both of them are appropriately nutty.
  • Chuck Sonnenburg of SF Debris re-interprets Captain Jonathan Archer of Star Trek: Enterprise as this. From his review of "Strange New World":

Chuck: [Archer] rants at the drop of a hat, listens to things that aren't there, talks to dogs, gives rambling speeches, and does things without thinking about whether people will live or die. In other words, someone found him sleeping under a pile of newspapers in an alley muttering about putting cameras in his eyeballs, took off his tinfoil hat, and put him in charge of a starship.


Western Animation

  • Hilariously parodied in an episode of South Park. At first, the sudden influx of homeless into the town is treated as a Zombie Apocalypse, though they moan for "change" rather than brains. Randy Marsh even kills one of his friends when it's revealed he lost his home, and is slowly turning into one of them. Later in the episode the boys go to a town that destroyed itself over the situation. You see, eventually some of them (somehow) amassed enough change to buy houses. The citizens of the town were freaked ("The person living right next door to you could be homeless and you wouldn't even know it!") and treating the homeless as something other than human, purged their town to devastation.
  • The Crazy Cat Lady from The Simpsons.
    • Homer pretends to be one of these for money and pulls it off surprisingly well.
  • Assuming that Adventure Time 's crazy old Royal Tart Toter is a homeless drifter who spends his days wandering around and hurting himself, he definitely qualifies as this trope.
  • Spongy from King of the Hill. Been on the streets "Since Reagan kicked me out of my mental hospital"
    • "Now, Spongy, you know he had a good reason for doing that."
      • His portrayal, oddly enough, is fairly sympathetic, as Hank and his friends sympathize with Spongy and help him when some "cool" teenagers bully him off of his panhandling so they can do it themselves.
  • The Spawn animated show featured the titular hero often conversing with, protecting, and living with the homeless. The portaryal of them varied. Often they were alcoholics and drug addicts, or at least mentally unhinged, but basically good people. The irony being that the homeless were often more morally grounded than the show's other characters who lived in relative wealth and were often Complete Monsters.
  • Invader Zim: "I want my slaw!" "You have your slaw, Sir!" "I want my slaw!" "You have your slaw, Sir!" "I want my slaw!" "You have your slaw, Sir!" And on it goes.