I Am “Homeless”

I Am “Homeless!”
It’s stressful living from your suitcase in a car. In San Francisco, I saw many homeless people. Walking by each homeless person laying on the sidewalk, I thought there but for the grace of God go I. I have more in common with them than most think. I’m homeless; I have no place I can officially call home anymore. I will probably never own another home and will have difficulty finding a decent apartment.

I notice people sleeping on the sidewalks. I watch disheveled people pushing carts of junk in tattered clothes. I wonder about their lives. How did they become homeless? Will they die homeless?

Not everyone who is homeless lives on the streets. I’m not on the streets yet, but I suspect in the next five years I might be there unless my badass self finds a way to make money when most my age should be enjoying the fruits of their labor. Being without a home changed my lifestyle and that is an understatement. It’s also made me more curious and empathetic of those living on the streets.

I wear the same clothes. That’s what homeless people do. But here I am driving around with a back seat full of clothes. Why bother? Most can’t fit, too young for me or not hip anymore. Some I haven’t even worn and in all likelihood will never get the chance. Will I care when I’m living under a bridge?

Maybe I’ll add flair to being homeless by living in my Beamer instead of the streets. Redefine homeless for those unable to find accommodation or unwilling to be to fleeced by a greedy society because of hard times. Anyone can become homeless for a variety of reasons. Today drug addiction, mental illness and lack of affordable housing are the main reasons for homelessness.

Did you realize an excellent credit score most all your life can change almost overnight with an illness or a costly divorce? And a poor credit score can limit access to housing and financial help. After emerging from several calamities shellshocked but ready to take baby steps, a poor credit rating became a menacing hurdle to overcome. I’m a high credit risk though if you check carefully, you’ll find I paid my debt, and there were reasons and still are for any delays.

Does it make sense that a medical illness could shatter my credit score such that I am unable to get a loan or financial assistance at a time I most need help? Or I have to pay higher interest rates at a time I can least afford? Aren’t their more humane and sensible ways to protect one’s risk, make a profit and not exploit financially vulnerable people?

Not many things are more stressful than those that come from financial hardship and medical illness. It feels like everyone has their hands in your empty pockets. There have to be better ways for people like me to get help particularly when the stress of an insurance claim caused you to walk away from your home

  1. Could your past credit history of payment carry more weight?
  2. Should your ability to repay debt be important?
  3. Should medical illness or temporary hardship be extenuating factors?
  4. Should banks find ways to help people in financial need instead of using credit scores to deny help?

My goodness, I feel like a leper, undeserving and indebted to those who make out like bandits because of my hardship.

Being homeless means bills get paid late as finding simple items, like bills, becomes tricky and opening them emotionally painful. Late fees of $35 on a $19.99 charge add up and could explain why I live paycheck to paycheck. It’s funny how banks get away with eating your money? It’s all legal too! Where does a homeless person get mail?

I suspect homeless people have memory issues for a variety of reasons. My memory issues make me panic every time I’m forced to recall an item I misplaced. Somedays I wear unmatched socks or use my fingers as a comb. Where did those items go? I guess homeless people living on the streets are lucky to have socks much less a matching pair.

How do homeless people protect their possessions? What will happen to all my clothes on the streets? Could I really live in my car? Where do I park? Do I still pay bills when I live on the streets?

How will I wash my clothes? How will I wash up daily? I can’t stop the thoughts or questions. I’m bracing for a tough 2019.

Since my injury Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), I developed poor habits. I was just beginning to break some of those bad habits replacing them healthy habits. But now without a permanent base, I am challenged. Eating pre-packaged foods, eating on the go or eating to relieve stress adds to the list of unhealthy habits. However, I imagine homeless people sleeping on a sidewalk would be happy for any meal. Health takes a back seat to sustenance.

With poor memory, days run into each other with me in the same position all day. Often I will not have eaten or drunk any water for the day. I’m in a sort of catatonic state. I can move yet can’t seem to summon the energy. Lack of sleep does that coupled with other medical issues. The unpredictable nature of being homeless is unsettling. People living on the streets are in worse shape. I don’t know how they get good quality sleep? Do they feel rested in the morning? Quality sleep is paramount for good health but so is food, shelter, and safety.

Could chronic sleep disturbance contribute to ongoing homelessness? Could it contribute to the 30-year difference in longevity between the homeless and the general population?

In 2017, on any given night there were over a half a million homeless people in the US. Homeless people die 30 years younger than the general population. Over 25% of people who are homeless have a severe mental illness. Most homeless people with severe mental illness stay unsheltered, unlike the general homeless population who will seek out shelters. 
In 2017, about 1/4 of the homeless were chronically homeless defined as someone consistently homeless for a year or more.

Will most homeless people die homeless?

Mentioned earlier, most people became homeless because of poverty and lack of affordable living. I believe drug addiction and severe mental illness are often symptomatic of financial struggles of poverty. Then again either could lead to financial hardship that ends in poverty. Homeless families/people just can’t afford the rent especially in cities like Los Angeles or New York City even in an economy that we are told is thriving. Homelessness disproportionately affects the elderly and minorities. Why do you think? My homelessness is not on par with those people living on the streets. Nevertheless, I am homeless.

How many Ivy League-educated doctors ended up homeless? Is this a modern day phenomenon? Isn’t there something wrong with that picture? Some of you may be thinking: she is black, so she wasted her money. You may be right I did waste a fair amount but not because I’m black or a drug addict.

Maybe my Ivy League education will help me survive the streets. Or perhaps it’s helped me to have friends willing to give me their spare bedroom. In any event, 2019 is here, and I’m hoping for miracles not only for me but for also those with no choice but to call the streets their home.

Related Stories:


The Homeless: 39 Questions for Your Reflection


Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

20 thoughts on “I Am “Homeless”

  1. Hard to like be there Angela. May your troubles be minimized, and thanks for sharing your empathy…. and reminding me that homelessness could be one step away from any person, including myself. Please, keep speaking up for those who have no voice. In solidarity and peace – Bruce

    1. Happy New Year, Bruce! I’m hoping 2019 will be the beginning of a new book. Being homeless is no fun but am thankful I’m not yet living on the streets. It’s incredible that there are so many paths to homelessness and few safety nets to prevent or help people. I’m losing my home because an insurance claim left my home uninhabitable. It’s easier for me to walk away than endure the stress of a fight. That’s life!

  2. This is not good news. There must be a way to get you the help you need, whether through social security disability or another way. If you need to talk, just call or email me. Let’s sort this out.

    1. By the way, this is Xena. I’m signed into Word Press and don’t know why my comment is not showing my handle and gravatar.

    2. It’s not good news considering the somersaults I did to keep the house over the years. Now to be forced to walk away and end up homeless. That’s life! It’s a bitch and then you die.

      I’m tired of dealing with these people. They can have the house. I’ll find a way to survive “homelessness.” As for help with the house, I don’t think our system is set up to help people like me. The more I seek help the more hands enter my empty pockets or I get the sympathetic, too bad. 😒

      I appreciate your concern but I’m cool.

  3. Angela I’m sorry to hear about your dilemma. It sounds like you tried everything to keep your house. Have you ever considered borders? I can suggest you come to the Midwest I live in Omaha. Council Bluffs Iowa right across the river and also Des Moines Iowa relatively small cities about 500k or less. You can get a studio or 1 bedroom apt from $500-$800 a month. Omaha is a medical center. Check out the area online.

    1. Hi Rudy, thank you for caring. At this point it’s no longer a dilemma, it’s the only sensible thing for me to do and I’m okay with that path.

      Moving to the Midwest,…Iowa with all the racist rednecks I read about? I lived over 24 years in NH, different location similar mentality; I’d be as miserable there as I am here. How do you stand it? I want a place with diverse POC not diverse racists. (91% of Iowa is white)

      Being homeless doesn’t mean I’ll sleep under any bridge. 🙂

      1. It’s really not that bad. When was the last time you heard about a racist incident in NE or Iowa. There are about 50k Blacks in Omaha and half that in Des Moines. Chicago, Kansas City and Denver are drivable. Not talking a permanent residence a good area to get back on your feet. A lot of east coast people passed through here. Can live desent with out spending a lot of money. Well it’s up to you I wish you success in whatever you decide! I tell you what when the SHTF rather be here then a big city.

        1. Rudy most of last year I kept reading about racism in Iowa. I didn’t know Iowa was so racist until I started reading about how “they” treat POC.
          Iowa police department under fire racial profiling claimshttps://thegrio.com/2018/08/17/iowa-police-department-under-fire-racial-profiling-claims/

          I’m bored beyond repair in NE. If suicide weren’t a permanent solution and a pass that can only be used once, I ‘d try it just for excitement. That’s how bored I am here and why I need to go.

        2. Maybe a good area to get on my feet but I tell you I’m tired of being the only person of color in the room. I’d like the choice to socialize with people who look like me.

  4. I hope everything works out for you. Being homeless is traumatic, I know from experience. The South is a good place for Black people even though there is extreme racism there as well. You can network with other Black Brothers and Sisters.

    1. Hi Nini, Being homeless sucks! Fortunately, I am not yet sleeping in the cold — the things we do for food and shelter.

      Networking: Good point! I realized that when I was in Atlanta. Here I have no network. When I volunteered, I felt odd as if the honor was all mine in volunteering my time and services instead of the other way around. In a community of color, I could volunteer and not only feel appreciated and respected but the satisfaction of giving back.

  5. Angela, honey, the winter is here!

    On the 30th December, by a miracle, I was found at night by my neighbour collapsed in my garden, badly bruised and suffering from the first effects of hypothermia.

    At the hospital, I was also found to have bacterial pneumonia on my right lung, and probably via my chronic sinusitis, a serious bacterial inflammation on my brain stem.

    On awakening out of I think a coma, on January 1st, my balance, memory, cognitive ability and walking were seriously impeded. I couldn’t walk one step without the medics having to catch me from falling, I also had the indignity of nurses toileting/bathing me and still unable to get past my memory fugue starting around the 22nd of the month.

    After two weeks fantastic healthcare I was discharged, unfortunately into my home which again is without central heating and hot water for another winter. My recovery has been quite incredible, but I need many weeks/months of recuperation/rehabiltation until I am back to normal and able to earn a living. I’m desperate for money, presently not up-to-date with my home insurance to hopefully repair the boiler etc, so yesterday made a claim for 6 months welfare paid in advance.

    So what I’m trying to get through to you, Angela, is you now focus on getting yourself south to a warmer climate. I strongly suggest Atlanta, as there you had a network of many non-White people. Let them fund you, feed you and house you. Make that your priority for this winter and beyond. And after that, maybe return to wonderful Jamaica.

    Self-care, Angela, not martyrdom. Take care….

Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.