How I Became Homeless and What it’s Like to be Homeless in Cleveland

by Michael Boyd

My mother came to me one day back in the late 80’s and told me that she had cancer.  I was young working two jobs, one at a 5 star restaurant.  I started out as a dishwasher.  In a few short years the owner came to me and asked me if I wanted to cook.  I cooked for almost a year and the owner offered to send me to Culinary School and he would pay for it.

I had been moved out years prior to that.  My mother came to me and told me she wanted me to come back home. I did not

know what the word “cancer” really meant.  She told me she was dying.  Being the 6th child out of ten, for some reason she wanted me there to hold her hand.  It took her 8 months to pass away.  I told the manager that she wanted me out there every day.  I couldn’t work.  After she passed away I got real depressed and lost my job.  By that time I didn’t have a place to stay and I still was staying with my father at my mother’s house.  So then he put me out after 2 months.  I was still depressed, it was hard for me to get back on my feet, so he drove me to the shelter. 

The first night I was there I saw a guy get his shoes cut off of his feet.  The mentally ill wouldn’t go to sleep, it was really rough.  I worked for Minute Man for 42.00 a day for 8 hours doing back breaking work.  After taxes and paying for the ride to go to a back breaking job and back again I ended up with 32.00 and some changed.  The cheapest place that I could find was over 200.00 a month.  It took a long time just to save up that little bit of money.  I still had to buy food and clothes and I had to shake being extremely depressed.  I went to prison for drug abuse.  I don’t know what people might think that being locked up is better in the wintertime than being homeless in the winter.  The things that I have seen in prison are worse than I saw in the shelter.  I saw people get walked over like they were ghosts, so I got out of prison and said no more drugs. I still had to go to the shelter.

I started working again being a vendor with the paper, The Street Chronicle at the West side Market and I stayed sober.  I met my better half.  I got out of the shelter and we got a room together.  I had an opportunity to meet people, some I do not know their names but I had an opportunity to meet a lady named Ann who has a non-profit org called HOPE.  Now I am sober and blessed to be around so many good people.  Some days I still get depressed but when I see people that I know, like Ann, it brings up my spirits.  God is good to me today.  A lot of people don’t know that we are out here working, that this is a job for us selling the paper.  I don’t get a disability check or social security check, this is my only income.

I lost 2 brothers, one every year for the last 2 years and I want to add their names.  My brothers names are Eugene Boyd, he was homeless when he passed.  Vincent Boyd was my other brother, he was also homeless when he passed in 2014.   I also lost a dear friend of mine and I just lost him this year, his name was James Henfield.   After I lost these people, I realized that life was short and it helped me to appreciate life more.

By Michael Boyd

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle April 2016 Issue 23.2 Cleveland Ohio