This week’s Trash Can Bloggers writing prompt asks – What Would You Do If You Were Homeless? That is such a loaded question. I’ve never been put in that position and I can’t even begin to imagine what I would do if I were to find myself in that situation.
That said, I had never encountered anyone who was homeless until my late teens. There was this one gentleman who walked the streets in the city that I lived in – who was just that – homeless. People used to wonder why he chose that life because we had no other homeless people around. Everyone knew he got Social Security and public housing was plentiful. So why would he live that way – especially during the winter months when the weather was so horrid in New England? Why?
My second encounter was when I went to visit my sister in California in my mid-twenties. I was never so taken back by the people begging for money, the mothers who had their kids begging for money, and the homeless who would eat out of trash cans. I never thought about where they slept – that never really hit me because I didn’t see that part. And in all honesty, I didn’t know what to think of all those people. I was young, naive and really knew nothing about homeless people – we just didn’t have them in our area like we do today.
Here I am in my fifties now and I know of many homeless people. These people live on the river banks and under bridges – some in tents, some in cars, some on/in cardboard boxes. Many work but housing is too expensive to secure a place they can afford because they are disabled. Some can’t find work. Some choose to live the way they do because they can’t get out of the mindset they are in – addiction.
The latter set of individuals will never move on for the mere fact that they blow all the money they do have on drugs and alcohol. I learned through a dear friend whose husband chose to live that way when they split, that these addicts get their paychecks or Social Security checks and take turns purchasing the drugs and alcohol throughout the month.
Back this past spring of 2013, the city demanded these people move off the river banks. Where were they to go? The city didn’t help them find housing or offer them substance abuse rehab – nothing was offered to them.
I find it so hard that with today’s technology and today’s building structures that there aren’t more shelters and more assistance to help these individuals. I get angry that the USA supports so many other countries when our own people are living sub-standard. I find it hard that many don’t have the proper medical care or food for their bodies. It’s hard to take that if people don’t know where to ask for help – they are left in the dust.
Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were homeless? There are so many reasons as to why one could suddenly become homeless – it’s a loaded question though when you’re the one who’s being asked what you would do.
I worry that the increase in people begging make us immune to the true hardships and experience of the homeless
Agreed. I think that our state needs some workers to go visit these individuals to see how they can be helped.
I sometimes see a homeless person and think only by the grace of god this could be me. If can happen to many. A job loss can be catastrophic if you do not have savings in place. I think if I was homeless I would go to a shelter before I decide to sleep outdoors – It is a scary thought.
Shelters are an option, but unfortunately most shelters are over crowded in our area now. Katherine’s heart-breaking experience is only 70 miles from where I live, which is also in another state. Her story is a huge eye opener.
My son and I lived out of my car for a week when I was 18 because my mom kicked me out for not doing the dishes. I had $17 in my bank account, and just a few things I was able to grab on the way out. It was the worst, hardest week of my life. He was still on formula and I had that so he never went hungry but I didn’t have anything. I hope to never find myself in that position again.
Kayla – I’m sorry to learn of your story. I can’t imagine why a mom would kick their child and grand child out of the house simply for not doing the dishes. I am sure you were very scared and I am sure the experience has made you a stronger person.
It is not just addiction that the homeless struggle with. In fact it is estimated that at least 25% struggle with severe mental illness. This makes it very hard for them to make good decisions or be productive on their own. Additionally, about 33% of homeless males are veterans. Many of them have mental, emotional and physical issues that make it difficult for them to function in society. I feel that as a country, we fail our mentally ill and our wounded veterans and it is shameful.
April you are so right on our country failing the mentally ill and wounded veterans…it’s very shameful.
I have been homeless 2x in the past 5 years. I live in Boston and there are many shelters. However, there is a number of very limited beds for women. I generally stayed in a shelter located on one of the Boston Harbor Islands. They run buses from a different shelter in the city, last one leaving at 10pm for the Island as we all call it. The problem is that in the fall and winter women’s beds fill up by 4pm. You stand in a cage outside in a line to get into the first shelter to go through medal detectors and get a bus ticket to the other shelter. I stood in line in the cold on 2 different occasions just to be told at 3:45pm that there were no more beds for women. I then just hung around waiting for the possibility of a bed “opening” up. There was none. I was scared and cold. I ended up sleeping under a playground structure on some cardboard that I found nearby.
The first time I was homeless I stayed in the shelter and was completely shellshocked. It was my first time being homeless and I was scared and alone. The fact that I was new and drug free made me an easy target for men. They constantly hit on me and made me uncomfortable. Shelter staff does nothing to stop it and engage in the same behavior. I was surrounded by drug addicts, sex offenders and prostitutes. I befriended some of them women and learned a lot while still maintaining my values. I learned who to avoid and how to carry myself in a way that I was left alone. The food at that time was subpar. Mainly pasta or rice with tomato sauce or mystery stew. I have a lot of allergies and couldn’t eat it so I lost a ton of weight. There are day shelters where you can get warm, get medical services, and eat. Lots of drug deals and solicitation of prostitutes. I watched a man get murdered in there. I met a man who became my fiancee at the shelter I stayed at.
The 4 years that I was housed I dealt with his abuse and drug addictions. I was alone and scred so I dealt with it. The place I lived in was a BHA approved SRO where I was promised my section 8 voucher after a year. They always had excuses why their tenants were denied their voucher though. I was finally evicted due to his issues.The second time I became homeless I had a fiancee so I wasn’t alone. He however was abusive but he became “normal” since he had no where to abuse me in private. I had his protection from the others. This time it was a whole new ball game. They fixed the food issues due to a new law so I could finally eat. I attended all the “Town meetings” and complained about a few issues which they worked on fixing. They added 20 more female beds so it was a little easier to get a bed but not much. Still a lot of drug dealing and fights. I only got out of there because my now ex-fiancee assaulted me and my family allowed me to move in with them out of state to get away. However, there is always the chance I could get stuck there again.
Sorry this is so long.
Katherine – first – don’t be sorry that your comment is long – EVER! Sometimes we really need to tell our stories whether it be a personal need of ours, or it be that one that will be a teaching experience for others – regardless of what the reason – never feel that you can’t share here!
That said, your story is heartbreaking! Eye-opening! And one that needs to be told! You were not far from me during your time of desparation – about 70 miles and I just can’t imagine being in your shoes. It’s hard to fathom what you went through in today’s times. There are severe flaws in our system – you experienced one with the section 8 voucher. Your strength and courage are to be admired. I’m also extremely happy to hear that you would not tolerate the abuse and were able to get away. That says volumes as your self-esteem could have been brought down so badly that you would have figured this was just life – abusers do that to their victims.
get a job, or hope for the best if i cant.
There’s a homeless man who lives near my home. I have seen him often riding a bicycle around near the dollar store and the few gas stations in the area. My daughter asked one day why he didn’t have a house or apartment to live in. I explained to her that some people simply choose to live that way. But, others can’t (or won’t) work, or receive Social Security or have mental health issues that prevent them from being able to provide for themselves. I have spoken to him on a few occasions, just passing commentary like “Hi, how’s your day going, nice weather”, etc and he can answer and converse but sometimes you can hear him talking to himself kinda low and he doesn’t make much sense. So, I think he has mental health issues. So, it makes me sad for him that he doesn’t have anyone to care for him or help him. But, he’s always in a good mood and has a smile for everyone. And, recently, I saw him riding a moped around. I just grinned and thought, good for him, either he bought one or someone gave it to him but either way it’s gotta be easier than pedaling a bicycle around everywhere. :0)
I imagine you’re right on target when you say he has a mental illness. I often feel that many of those who are homeless, that are alcoholics, have a mental illness. They self-medicate to make the pain go away. I’m glad to hear that he has a better way of transportation – I’m sure he’s happier than pig in sh*t no matter how the moped was acquired.
Funny reading this post today. Last night I watched a movie called something like “Life Sucks”… a Mel Brooks movie about the homeless. It was a comedy, but more than anything else really invited the viewer to consider what life would be like without a roof over your head and nowhere to go for a meal but a dumpster or a local mission.
I can’t imagine being in such a situation. God has blessed me abundantly… meaning even if I lost what I have, I know I have people in my life who would lend me a hand until I got back on my feet. For those without that network of friends and family, or with an addiction or mental illness, the reality of possibly finding themselves homeless is very real.
I feel blessed too Wendy. The idea alone is enough to make me cringe and I hope that I never have family that will ever experience this. If I could, I would take in the homeless – but that’s simply not feasible.
NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT THIS–BUT IT WOULD SCARY–DONT KNOW IF I COULD LIVE LIKE THAT…
I’m not so sure I could either but when all options are exhausted…what is one left to do? 🙁
I don’t know what I would do if I were homeless. Even if we live in a not so great place, at least we’ve got a roof over our head. In fact, we knew someone who was about to be homeless so we invited them into our small apartment. The idea that anyone has to go through this is so sad to me. 🙁
wow that is really thought provoking. I have always been compassionate toward homeless people, but I never actually took the time to consider what if that was me. I’m going to have to use this as a writing prompt for my kids.
It truly is eye opening. What’s sad is that in our economy and the population that we have now – you just never know.
I agree with you. A lot of these homeless men are vets and they should be taken care of not left homeless. No one should be homeless.I live in Mtz. Ca and there’s hundreds of homeless people where I live.There’s an awesome guy who started up an organization for the homeless. He works 7 nights a wk with no pay. My family and I help by donating blankets,socks,beanies and hygiene travel size products.We have an awesome community who all help this organization. He got a grant which will help him do so much more for these wonderful people. I’ve came across some people are the kindest people you could meet. Anybody could end up homeless, it’s just one paycheck away. It makes me so sad that there isn’t enough shelters. If I were a millionare I’d be building some shelters and help these addicts. I pray for them daily. God loves them and doesn’t want them homeless.
Thanks for sharing Sue. I hope you are a millionaire some day – your kind heart would go far.
Oddly enough, I have often thought about my plan for if I ever become homeless, as a teen, as a young single adult and now as a mom of young ones! My husband and I have a heart for the homeless and try to hand out blankets, clothes and food to them when we can (we live in a small town with only 2 homeless people and have to drive aways to get to the large areas of homelessness). We are teaching our children compassion through them. It is so interesting and eye-opening to hear the stories of how many of these people bacmae homeless.
You certainly are teaching your children compassion…that’s a huge life lesson. I’m sure these people appreciate every bit that you have to offer. Karma comes back two-fold, so they say – some day you will be rewarded.
When I was a teenager and waitressing at a local diner I had an old man Pete who came in everyday in the winter to keep warm. He would never talk and obviously had no money but he had pride. I would purposely make a mistake on my food order and give it to him telling him I was going to throw it out. I often wonder what ever became of old man Pete 🙁
How heart-warming Michelle. You did a kind deed without making him feel awkward – I’m sure he never forgot that.