Homelessness is all around us, and often many of us choose to overlook it, ignore it, and blame the homeless person for being in this situation. We say they are not responsible, they drink, they do drugs—it is their own problem. I am writing this to share my personal experience as a homeless woman.
Credit Image: Neon Tommy on Flickr
Up to now my family and friends think I am staying in a hotel. I am not. I sleep in my car. I am homeless, and this is my personal experience.
I could have stayed with my parents and continued to exist in a lonely world. Watching television and not living. I moved so I could get medical care and start over. I had a long hill to climb and didn't realize the rocky path before me would include a time of living homeless.
See, I am disabled from a car wreck. I have fourteen fused vertebrae and white matter brain disease. My doctor believes the brain disease is a result of whiplash. I live with pain, numbness in my limbs and constant migraines. I wasn't getting good medical care where I was, and there were no jobs in my field. I took a big risk driving 218 miles to Durango, Colorado, so that I can start over. I have great medical care finally and my headaches are getting controlled for the first time in almost two years. I was advised of where the shelter was and tried to get a bed there, without any luck.
The shelter won't let me stay because I have my dogs. So I have pillows and blankets and make myself comfortable as I sleep in a Walmart parking lot. There are other places, but in the woods alone I am not comfortable. Somehow the RVs, lights and busy world of Walmart is a comfort.
They call this camping?! After 6:00, the familiar cars of other homeless people arrive. We park away from each other but we know the regulars. There's the bus, the lady who pees in the parking lot, the gray truck, and me in my blue Taurus. All of us making the best of our situation. Somehow I feel a comfort with these regulars; I am not alone. I cuddle up with my dogs, read, get on Facebook with my friends, and sleep the best I can.
My biggest struggle has been gas. I drive to the library, parks and soup kitchen. I have received help a couple of times from my church and the soup kitchen. What is surprising is other churches all send you to one place. They no longer help the homeless and refer you to Manta, the soup kitchen. There you get a $25 gas card once for the year. No other options. The social worker at the center says we need to be more responsible. Twenty-five dollars doesn't get you far, especially when it's once a year. But I am grateful for the help.
Manta, the Soup Kitchen
This is where we shower, eat, get assistance and charge our phones. There are people from all walks of life and ages. Many spend half their day there and others are like me: I do what I am there for and leave. I shower here, get my coffee and eat something. The meals are very good. Sometimes there are volunteers cooking and helping; they look at you with a fake smile. Sometimes they are not very nice. They do not realize we are not here because we want to be but because we have to be. It helps us survive.
When I shower, I dress like I am going to work. I look nice regularly, because I don't want to look homeless. I also am always trying to get a website sold. I have many leads, and they will come through. I have also had five interviews and three offers. My latest was for an agency—I got the job. I just don't start until later this month. I am surviving the best I can!
So what do I do in the meantime to survive?
I have asked friends for help and received it. I am not ashamed. Many do not know I am homeless at this moment and sleep in the Walmart parking lot. I balance my money for food and gas. I make it work the best I can. I eat at Manta when I can to save money. It's amazing how money goes so fast. Gas, food and no money for lodging. Lodging here starts at $70 and goes up.
I am not too proud to share this. I am an educated woman who is in a temporary situation. I keep a positive attitude and hold onto hope. I have faith in God and would be lost if I didn't. I have often sat at my church and prayed. Somehow I have gotten by this past month.
I see the light at the end of the tunnel for myself with my new job. I just have to get through to that first paycheck. I will have a home with that first check and be able to get my car repaired.
I learned that many homeless are stuck there. I choose not to be and am fighting my way out. Some days are harder than others. I have cried many times and wondered when it would end. I don't beg on a corner, nor do I complain to anyone about it. My therapists think I am doing wonderful considering my situation. I just realize that to feel sorry for myself doesn't do any good. I have to find the brightness in every day. I live my life a day at a time. Some days, the bright spot is the moments I have with my dogs.
I write this so next time you see someone homeless—take time to help them. They will be grateful. I know I am when someone helps out.
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