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And that observation led him to a conclusion: "Something bad happens in these people's lives, and they gave up," said Gilani. "That something wouldn't bother the average person, but these people can't go on. There is a misconception that they blame the government. They actually blame themselves. They know the steps out of homelessness, but they think they can't do it."
There is related stress in Gilani's life.
"My close friends have abandoned me," he said.
Gilani is also frustrated by excuses employers give before dismissing his applications: He's too old or too educated or too skilled. That rejection has caused him to occasionally fear "deep down darkness"—submitting to the belief that he, too, is hopelessly trapped. A doctor prescribed medication to treat depression, but he doesn't take it because he hates the way it takes the life out of him. Instead, to help him keep confidence, he has a ritual.
"Every morning, I remind myself who I am," Gilani said. "I can write. I can think. I'm educated. I'm a moral person. I like being around people. I'm adaptable, humble, and I love to laugh."
Ironically, that optimism prompts suspicions.
"One of my old friends asked me not too long ago, 'Bijan, maybe you like this life subconsciously?'" he recalled. "No, I know that someday this will change for me. I want to work; I'd be a huge asset to someone's business. All I need is a chance."
This column appeared in print as "Give This Incredible Man a Job: Meet Bijan Gilani, Orange County's most brilliant, classiest homeless person."