The old man clearly is very poor. He lives in a "shack"; the mast of his small boat is "nearly as long as the one room of (his) shack", the walls of which are made of "the tough budshields of the royal palm". In his humble dwelling are only "a bed, a table, one chair, and a place on the dirt floor to cook with charcoal". He owns only one other shirt beyond the one he is wearing, and the one he is wearing has "been patched so many times that it (is) like the sail (patched with flour sacks), and the patches (are) faded to many different shades by the sun". When the old man sleeps, he has only an "old army blanket" to keep away the cold.
Although the man and the boy talk about his "cast net" as if he still owns it, the boy knows that "there (is) no cast net and...remembers when they had sold it". The old man also tells the boy that he has "a pot of yellow rice with fish" to eat for supper, but the boy knows that there is no food in the house. The boy brings the man a meal which has been given to him by Martin, who is the owner of the Terrace. He tells the old man, "you'll not fish without eating while I'm alive".
The boy looks around the old man's shack and takes note of his extreme poverty, resolving to secure for him some of the basic necessities of life. The shack has no running water, and the man has no water for washing, nor soap nor a good towel. He also will need "another shirt and a jacket for the winter and some sort of shoes and another blanket".