About eight years ago at Christmas time, I was homeless. In some ways, I was lucky. I didn’t have to sleep on an actual sidewalk in an actual cardboard box. I did see plenty of people that had no where else to go. I saw too many children that were homeless and hungry. There were a lot of people with mental illnesses that went beyond depression.
Recently, I moved into a house. I must have had my poker face on because my mom keeps asking me why I’m not more excited.
I didn’t think that I would ever move into a house. In my mind, I believed that my forever and ever housing arrangements would be rentals and subsidized apartments.
A house that my kids and I belonged to was too much to hope for. For a several weeks, I wake up and look around. I still cannot believe that I have been blessed. Is it a dream? Am I going to wake up in a rundown apartment?
I was about two days away from sleeping in my car. My car was also going to get repossessed at any moment. One traffic stop and it would have been gone.
At the time, it was not important to make friends. Of course, I didn’t want to make enemies either. Being homeless was scary. I was always afraid of getting mugged or kidnapped – not by the other homeless people but by the criminal element in the area. One teenager at the shelter had his coat stolen off of his body. The people were trying to kidnap him but he wiggled out of the jacket and ran. I don’t think the muggers were homeless. I just think that they were thieves.
Before I was homeless, I didn’t separate homeless from criminal. I didn’t even think about it. After I was homeless, I understood the difference because I talked to people at the shelter, who were just trying to stay off the streets.
It’s also damned near impossible to get a library card when you don’t have a home. I took a risk by taking a very long walk by myself to get to the library. I really wanted to get on the Internet. Check my email. Maybe send someone an email that could help me more than I could help me.
On my way back to the shelter, a man stopped me. He asked me if I was hungry. It was only a short time until I was going to be hungry. He gave me $10 to eat and wanted me to pay it forward when I could. He didn’t want anything from me in return, except to help somebody else.
Somehow, I managed to get a room at the inn. . . well, the local homeless shelter. I can tell you that I was out of place. I was the unicorn of all unicorns. . . a single, white, pregnant female unicorn.
I wasn’t totally alone on this adventure. I wished that I was. The abuser came along too.
Thankfully, he is long gone.
Those homeless days are gone too. The memories are still around, which is fine. The memories keep me moving forward.
Part of the reason that I keep doing this blog is that if I want bring a little bit of awareness to a few causes. Life isn’t all about rock concerts and glitter. There are people who still need a lot of help and compassion.
So if you take anything away today, remember that just because someone is homeless doesn’t make them a criminal. There are plenty of crooks in big fancy houses.
P.S. I still have to pay it forward.
This list of things to do to help the homeless is from the National Coalition for the Homeless – just in case you wanted to help.