Your family starts getting behind on the rent. The landlord comes knocking at your door, wants to work with you on it, shows some compassion. Your family is grateful to hear it. So you get more time to work with. And after losing a family member you are spared with more time. You are given more extensions. But the pressure is still there. You lose your peace of mind after awhile. Then the court orders show up on your door.
You've lost all peace now. Every day you worry about hearing someone knock at your door, and it's not the million-dollar man like you hope. Your family can't fix the situation. You know you aren't able to. You want to but can't. And at this point you make peace with it. But still hope to jump ship with another plan, or find safe haven elsewhere.
Relatives agree to keep your most important possessions in storage with them. That's all they can do. That's all some of them are willing to do. There's nowhere else to go. You're left worrying through each day. Praying and hoping against the worst. And then it happens. It's so quick it stuns you, as does the new reality of your life now. So sudden. So abrupt. Forced to adapt to a new mindset. A new survival. One you've never had to experience in your life. A complete nightmare you so desperately wish to wake up from.
Shame washes over you for sleeping on the ground, and everyone seeing in the morning. The store clerks and restaurant staff know you're going to the restroom to clean up every morning. It's humiliating. You just sit through the hours. And then days. You appreciate some of the kind people who give you a meal or some money. You appreciate sitting in the bowling alley to escape the code red days during a heatwave. You wonder when your situation changes. You teeter between hope and hopelessness.
One day you feel optimistic, the next you're overwhelmed with the idea of how in the world do you get out of this. And if you ever will. You go through times of having people reach out to you and letting you stay at their place for awhile. Some feel compassion for you at first but eventually want you gone. Others expect money but didn't say that in the beginning. And then others put on an angelic front in the beginning but their true colors show over time and send you running.
Eventually a few improvements start happening. Your mom gets a job. You can eat better. You can stay in a hotel for awhile. You're able to get a car, and now you live in that. It's not great but it's better than the ground. Than the shame of being out in the open. You're able to shower now that you have a gym membership so you can keep your body in good condition. You can travel more. You're surprised to meet other people who have either been where you are, or are still in the same place but you wouldn't know it by looking at them.
They do the same thing you do. They work their hardest to appear as decent as possible just like you. And then other people offer you help with conditions and think you should be grateful or be more than happy to accept it. You choose the high road instead. Still not great, but better than their pressures and expectations.
Surprising blessings are given some days, and other days more of the worst happens that you either didn't expect or you did see coming but just didn't want it to happen now. Not today. Your mom loses her job. And other times something comes to rescue you. It's a cycle with seemingly no end. And the longer you deal with it the less and less you can bear it.
Spring and summer are a blessed breather. More sunshine. Plenty of warmth. More of a relaxed mind. But winter is a dread. The days are shorter. The panic attacks increase. The arctic temperatures make you spend the little money you have keeping gas in the car. The holidays are a nightmare because the world shuts down for 2 days. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. The churches aren't as kind as they portray. The shelters are not as available like everybody thinks.
And then repeat for the New Year. Every day is stressful. Every day you wonder when, when, when will it end. And then some help comes through. Your life doesn't change over into brand new sunshine in a snap like a lot of people think, or like the movies portray. It's a process. But still a blessing.
The reality of poverty...
Having experienced it in my life, I think homelessness may be one of the most misunderstood difficulties in life, if not the most. Most people tend to think it's your fault, and that most homeless people are drug addicts and alcoholics. That's actually false, and an idea I think more fortunate people choose to believe so they don't have to feel guilty about people on the streets. Often times homeless people fall into drinking and drugs after they've hit the bottom. Other people also cruelly seem to think homelessness and poorness is funny and worth making jokes about online and in all the cheesy, white, college-humor comedies.
And some people ignorantly think life is cheaper or easier for homeless people because they don't pay rent. I can't say enough how stupid of a concept that is. One thing I will say is that although you see people on the streets panhandling with cups, the average homeless person actually does not put themselves out there like that. I won't go as far as to say most panhandlers are scamming you, but quite a few of them really are not destitute. Some have even made thousands from people's unknowing kindness through the years.
Poverty is a topic that makes many, many people feel very awkward in a nation of plenty. It feels awkward to be in poverty, and seeing it or talking about it makes people with money and comfort feel awkward the most. They try to stay straight and composed when you talk about it with them, but their silence says they don't know what to say about it, and you can tell they're cringing inside at the subject. In some sense, it's understandable for people to be at a loss as to why there are people in poverty, especially in a nation of plenty, but not everyone has been fortune enough to stay afloat or make it to the top, and there are economic structures put in place to keep it that way for some groups.
The fact that homelessness has increased quite a lot in the last 10 years is an indication of the nation's economic status - despite what the White House and the media try to tell you - and the increased greed of people in positions of authority. All these groups will tell you rent, food, utilities, etc. have to be higher so they make their profit or because people even higher than them oppress them too with overhead costs, but if you're intelligent, you know better than that.
The nightmare of homelessness goes beyond just having nowhere to live or sleep, it even affects your ability to function and have things. When you have no address, you can get no mail, though some homeless people are fortunate enough to use a friend's address to get their mail. Having no address affects you in a lot of ways, especially since the Bush administration solidified the oppressive proof of identity and proof of address laws after 9/11 under the guise of fighting terrorism.
If you don't have enough documents and "at least a utility bill" to prove your address and who you are, you can't get a photo ID or even a driver's license, and in turn, without those things you can't open a bank account, can't get a home, can't have access to certain places, etc. Sometimes your Social Security number can be sufficient if you know it and have your SS card, but no employer, gym clerk, or landlord will accept that. Once upon a time you could use a P.O. box address for ID's and driver's licenses, but with the new laws in place, it has been made very difficult for homeless people to use addresses for their needs.
Being homeless is a frightening, stressful experience like no other I've ever faced in my life, and hope never will again. It's an experience that makes you extremely grateful for even the little things when you get them. I am surprised when I look back on my younger life and complained about places I was in and things I didn't like, not realizing how much worse it could've been.
There is a kind of simple-mindedness you can develop from having your comforts and ease. Taking your morning showers for granted. Wasting the last bit of food on your plate. Not wanting to get off your ass and do what needs to be done. Staying up late because for whatever reason you're empty inside and can't stand to go to bed at night. Getting down in the dumps over things not worth it, or things you can actually change but would rather wallow in some self-pity over. You realize how foolish it all was.
After you've experienced being homeless, it all changes. You develop more compassion. You rebuke your former ignorant self. And you embrace life with an all new, deeper appreciation.