Where did I live when I was homeless?
This is the most frequent question I am asked about my life as a homeless person. To begin back in 1999 when I became officially a resident of the homeless community, I was a follower and went to the shelters to spend my nights when the weather was too cold on winter nights.
This didn’t last too long because of the atmosphere in shelters at that time. Guys running around you all night asking for coffee and cigarettes. Guys snoring, guys stealing, guys that were not very hygienic. And guys not playing with a full deck. I immediately stopped going to the shelters for the next 15 years of being homeless.
When I started my homeless career on the streets, in the winter months, some of the places that I called home for those seasons have been quite numerous. My first several years were spent on a dock in the back of a factory on the west side of the Flats. As long as I made sure that no one abused the property, the person who owned the property and the security guards who patrolled the property didn’t mind. This lasted until the Flats started going under and they started building apartment buildings and remodeling the buildings I was living in the dock area.
So, while all this construction was going on, I stayed mainly in porta potties, bulldozers, makeshift shelters built out of wood and cardboard boxes to hold off the winds and snows of the harsh Cleveland winters. A few more places that I have been able to survive some of the harsh winters were in dumpsters in the Flats, before they became a ghost town; on the steam grates in downtown Cleveland, before Mayor White ran us (the homeless) off; and under certain bridges throughout the city. Although some of them you had to fight off the rats, opossums and raccoons if you wanted a good night’s sleep.
Some of the coldest places were in the parks, on or under the benches. If you had the proper bedding, it was doable. Some of the bedding was provided by various groups such as: Volunteers of America, Care Alliance, The Salvation Army, various church groups and just ordinary citizens who wanted to help someone during those cold winter days and nights.
That brings me to those citizens who did lend me a helping hand. Names need not be provided, but I will tell you about some of the Good Samaritans who found it within their hearts to help me on some of those harsh winter nights. Let’s start with the bus drivers who let me ride the bus all day or all night to get me out of the cold. Or the construction workers who found me sleeping in a port potty and collected $200 for me to get a room for the week at the Jay Hotel.
Or the men and women who took me home with them after they’d partied in the Flats, coming out of the bar and seeing me standing in the same spot panhandling, with several inches of snow piled on top of me. The most unusual and gracious one of these occasions was when this person took me to their home, let me use their car and credit card, and stay in their home until the weather broke a week later. Guess what? They didn’t want me to leave.
I consider myself one of the Lucky Ones! I didn’t get beat up, bitten or die during those bitter winters in Cleveland. I have lived to tell you about some of the places and exploits that accompanied my homeless winters on the streets of Cleveland. Then, there are the times that I walked all night, slept under some of the counters at the West Side Market, or behind the little gray house in the Market’s parking lot.
When you’re homeless, you have to be willing to adapt to your surroundings in and out of shelters or you die. There are a bunch of statistics to support what I have written. I’m just writing on my exploits.
I lived anywhere and everywhere during the harsh, severe, bitter cold winters here in Cleveland when I was homeless and living on the streets. I am truly grateful that I have been blessed with an apartment now that I can sometimes return some kindness by letting someone stay with me on some cold winter nights. Or I can stay with them in their environment for a night. I have heard that some of the homeless community use the casino as a place of refuge. As long as you don’t go to sleep at the slot machine, you’re welcome to stay. At least that’s one new place to, away from the cold nights. Another place that was quite convenient was the church property of St. Malachi; but until recently, they have opened the meeting room for the homeless during the winter months. Places to stay in the winter are getting harder and harder to find.
I’ve been off the streets for almost two years now, so I’m somewhat clueless about where homeless people rest their heads during the winter. I would like to thank all the people who helped me out with money, food, and lodging during my time on the streets, and a special THANKS to those who trusted me to come into their homes
I send my blessings to the homeless community, because I know during this past winter you had it bad, considering how cold the weather was. I hope you survived and are looking forward to the spring, summer and fall months. KEEP THE FAITH! GOD BLESS!
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle September 2015 in Cleveland Ohio All Rights Reserved