Please don’t try to tell me about “the Homeless”
You who use facts and figures and websites to tell me how bad it is out there. You are outraged at the number of people who have jobs and are still living on the streets. God forbid anyone suggest that for some their own bad choices put them there.
I have been homeless.
I have been homeless a lot. When I was 16 I ran away and never went back. I was living in the bushes next to the highway off-ramp by the Hollywood bowl. There was a gas station not far from there that left the bathroom door open. I would go in there every morning, bathe and wash my clothes in their sink and wear them wet. Not once did I think that life was better before I left home.
I learned how to live on the streets as a child and if you want to know how to end homelessness you might start there. You see a huge percentage of the chronically homeless were foster kids that ran away or were dumped by the system. No one wants a problem teen. Once they learn to survive on the streets, there is no real fear of going back there.
They become adults and those skills are the only ones they have. They don’t know how to budget money or pay their bills. I worked at a Danny’s dogs in San Fernando, but it was a scary neighborhood and I hitchhiked in and out of the valley. I often lived in dumpy hotels that charged me by the week and had the bathroom down the hall.
I have worked with people who were trying to help me from the top down and could never get past the fact that they thought they could cure every problem by throwing money at it. Good people tried to help me get on my feet but I just couldn’t stay there. You see I was a bit crazy.
I don’t mean crazy in that good way. I mean crazy in the way that people look at you with fear in their eyes and move away. I used to look in the mirror and look for what it was they saw. What made me so frightening? I tried hard to be normal, it was all I ever wanted. There was a way out but I was stumbling around in the dark trying to find it. For me it was the same as if it didn’t exist at all.
More often than not I couldn’t find work. That didn’t stop me from supporting my children. I cleaned for people, and used my truck to haul wood and trash. When people couldn’t pay me I literally did work for food. I cleaned up a shed for one person who paid me in live chickens! I also worked for furniture and a vacuüm. Barter is a great system for getting what you need.
For months when the rent came due I paid what I could and worked off the rest until the landlord went through his church to find work for me. That taught me a good lesson. If people see you trying they will do everything they can to help but we don’t know each other anymore.
Once I hiked out away from town and cut berry vines away from an abandoned 6′ X 6′ shack; opened cans and nailed them over the holes in the floor to keep the animals out and moved us in. There was no power, I had to haul in all the water that we used. We nailed a toilet seat to a wooden crate and put it over a hole to use as an outhouse and used the showers at a campground a few miles down the hill.
One good laying hen will provide you with protein and feed herself. Sprouting seeds will give you much higher nutrition then eating plants, and they only take days to sprout. A tiny handful of seeds and nuts will make you feel full and sated. These things I know from having to get by on very little.
It was my fault we were there. I was a live in nanny for someone and was raped when I went out to a bar on my night off. Afterward I couldn’t tell anyone what happened, but I couldn’t stop crying. I was such a mess they felt they couldn’t leave me to care for their kids anymore.
I had to take my kids somewhere. So I moved them into that shack for months into fall until it got cold enough that a church got us housing. I asked my kids years later if that time in our lives was hard for them and my oldest was the only one who remembered it and he said they thought we were camping. ”It was the best time he ever had.”
I have known a lot of homeless people. There is no one “story” of why they are homeless or what that mean’s to them. They don’t necessarily see it as the problem you do. Some see it as the only real freedom there is to be had in this life. There are some who wouldn’t live any other way.
I have been poor. There is no shame in that. I have been hungry. No shame in that either. I have gotten food-stamps and welfare the whole process made me feel embarrassed, and degraded. Begging for handouts ate away at my self-worth. Working is the only way I know to build our self-respect and put ourselves in situations that don’t perpetuate our problems.
I will grant that maybe you know other ways, but don’t ever think that the self-respect part is less important, even to that homeless guy.