This is a testimony we found in the archives from an anonymous resident circa 1990, on what it’s like to be homeless.
From the Inside Out
I am a 55 year old homeless male. This part of my life is not a fulfillment of a life-long dream, but it happened. I have, until two years ago, enjoyed the feeling of being totally independent. I was called, in today’s jargon, a part of the middle class. Owned a home in the suburbs, owned a new car and I had the world by the proverbial tail. Then one morning, I awakened to the fact that my wife of 33 years had filed for divorce. Two weeks later, I was fired from a job that I had successfully performed for over three years. In a period of three weeks, I found myself in a position of total depression. My world had crumbled. Thus, the beginning of a new era in my life.
Until this period of my rebirth into a new world, I held in contempt those who lived off the system. Welfare, food stamps and medical services paid by the government was contrary to my active conservative views. There is an adage that says, in effect, “If you don’t know the subject, don’t show your ignorance by judging, for some day, you may be the one being judged.” It happened to me.
How did I become homeless?
I, like many, was a victim of circumstance. Try finding employment weighed by problems that reflect, like the ocean waters, the pain you are experiencing. Try finding employment with an evident physical problem. The equation is: no job, no money, no home.
There is no stereotype definition for the homeless. I find my new circle of friends include an ex-con, a time study expert for a large corporation, a muscular dystrophy victim, some alcoholics and drug dependents trying to kick the habit, and some genuinely hard-luck people. Every category named finds that person fighting problems that seem insurmountable. If these are the cards dealt, how do I survive? These contemporary times are finding more and more victims with these problems, all with pain, all without an answer.
My first impression after realizing that I now would have to solicit help, was like a nightmare. What about my pride? I had to take a step back to understand totally just what my predicament was.
Steps from Homeless to Hope…
I reside now at a small shelter for homeless men called “The House of Refuge [Sunnyslope]”. This shelter is managed and largely funded by the Mennonite Church. For the record, I am not a Mennonite nor do I wish to become a Mennonite, for I have peace with my own religion. I am not alone when I do reveal what a dedicated small and beautifully simple philosophy this church espouses. HELP THOSE IN NEED. Feed, the hungry, house the homeless and clothe the needy. Who can argue with this? There are other denominations who assist in helping; the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and a host of other churches and organizations… all done in a spirit of giving and not recognition. They donate everything from food and clothing to money.
I have operated several businesses for profit. The problems in operating for profit and by donation are as different as daylight and dark. The psychology is different in this respect: you must solicit those agencies that support missions with more professional skills. You cannot portray the homeless as panhandlers in need, but people who desperately need that little ray of hope that moves them to want a little more out of life. Their dignity must be restored.
There is much to do…
There is much to do and many to educate before things turn around. The sad fact is that most politicians do not dare align themselves with the homeless. How can he or she defend spending money on a problem that has invaded the earth from the beginning of time. The Salvation Army has spent millions of dollars and billions of man hours trying to find an answer. The truth is that those agencies are treating the symptom and not the disease. Government must react to the disease.
I find myself still trying to sort out my life. It is a difficult process, but one that reveals to me a different slant on things. I am far from living in what I call my comfort zone. I find the more I understand about myself, the less it hurts, but it is still a painful process. I’m hopeful that someday I will be able to look upon this as a growing process and not a negative influence. I can’t change the past anymore than historians can change history. I can only address today, for that is the obstacle that presents itself. Tomorrow can wait.
Concerned for the Homeless
My true concern is what will happen to those homeless who are illiterate, emotionally disturbed and those who face the despair of facing problems they cannot solve? Should kids be forced to learn homelessness at the age of two? Should a mother with kids and lacking skills be forced to beg for food? The problem must be addressed. The truth is that no one has the answer and why should they? Millions of people are now one step ahead of being homeless. I hope that you are not one that faces this prospect as I did.
There is one glitter of hope that may help. You may be lucky enough to find someone who has been there and who can lead and direct you to much faster solutions. Let it be known that there is still a little love in this world.
“The poor you will always have with you…” ~Jesus, Matthew 26:11