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
- Could your past credit history of payment carry more weight?
- Should your ability to repay debt be important?
- Should medical illness or temporary hardship be extenuating factors?
- 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.
HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA
The Homeless: 39 Questions for Your Reflection