Life can hit you hard and sometimes it can knock you out of having a home. It happened to me. My journey of being without a home has been an incredible learning experience. You can learn so much about the people around you, including how much they love you. In almost 2 years of not having a stable home, I have only slept in my car once. You learn how fragile our economic system is and how easy it is to fall through the cracks. It’s not as if you have to do something terrible to end up where I have. You learn that pride is not the most important thing and at the same time you learn that you have to be proud of what is important to you and not anyone else. I can’t measure myself by society’s expectations or I’ll get eaten alive. You learn to reach for the light. I won’t get swallowed by the dark.
I also learned that if homelessness had a class system that I would be in the richest. There are so many who face these challenges alone. Some don’t have youth on their side. Some just need to talk to a caring person in order to find their way. Some went through great loss besides just losing where they live. Some don’t have families that care. Some never had the opportunity to receive enough education to figure out how to move forward. The stigmas surrounding homelessness keep them from getting the help they need. You can walk into a job interview and not get hired because you don’t have a permanent address. Then you can sit on a corner and ask for money and people will yell “get a job”.
I have faced a lot of judgement. It was hard for me to not label myself as a failure, a mooch, a loser. There are often a lot of extra steps you have to take to get ahead that those with homes do not. No one seems to realize that this part of our population has to try so hard to get out of their circumstances. Some that do realize this think it is deserved. And why? Being homeless does not mean you’ve done something wrong, it means our system is failing. There are people who work a lot less hard and with a lot less moral character for so much excess beyond their basic needs. No one should go hungry or without shelter. The root of the insecurity around being without a home is that people in our world believe that you should live without basic needs, and often barely survive or not survive at all. It is so hard to overlook someone saying you don’t deserve what everyone needs to live. It’s hard to understand how humans can treat each other this way.
I also found that people who really took a good look at me don’t see my lack of home as a failure, they use words like brave, strong, even ballsy. I invite the rest of you to entertain the idea that homeless Americans are some of the bravest people in our country. Please learn more about them.