Housing After Homelessness – Taking It One Day At A Time

   by Joyce Robinson

Ecclesiastes 8:6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery (KJV)

I’m a recently housed, formerly homeless female veteran. I moved into my current, new apartment March 2015. My recent struggle with homelessness has ended, only to be replaced by the challenge of becoming self-sufficient again.

Eccleisiastes 3:1  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2013 was a very rough year for me: my mother lost her fight with lung and stomach cancer in January; I became homeless in December. I was unemployed and had been struggling with unemployment for three years. I applied for positions that I was qualified for, as well as those for which I was told I was overqualified.

Selling my furniture, jewelry, books and CDs, enabled me to keep a roof over my head for a while, but in spite of my efforts to keep my apartment, the bottom fell out and I ended up in a women’s homeless shelter. On December 31, 2013. Happy New Year!?!

Eccleisiastes 3:2  A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted: Out with the old year, in with the new. It’s been said that military veterans are teachable and adaptable, which is good considering the fact that while in the shelter, there were a lot of rules that I had to follow, and personal adjustments I had to make. My life as I’d known it, and the freedom I’d had, were no more.

The most difficult adjustment I had to make was having a 6 p.m. curfew. I was 55 years old, and had to be in, for the night, at 6 o’clock? Other rules included making sure that my room was inspection-ready on a daily basis; attending the mandatory weekly Employment Clinic meetings; completing my assigned chore every night; signing in and out of the building - listing the time out, where I was going and the time I’d return to the shelter. It was difficult, but I adjusted. Another major adjustment was being housed with about 14 other homeless women, their children and the noise that goes with all that!

Eccleisiastes 3:3  A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up:  I came to think of Westside Catholic as a great place to fall apart and begin to put the scattered puzzle pieces of my life back together. Having access to psychiatrists and counselors, talking with other female veterans who could understand and empathize with my traumatic military experiences, and developing friendships with these women helped me a lot in my healing process.

Participating in the Escort program at Stokes Veterans Administration Medical Center, and working at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, have helped me to re-acclimate to being employed, learn new skills that I can transfer to another agency, should I choose to leave NEOCH, and regain my self-confidence.

Eccleisiastes 3:4  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance:  After 14 months of tears, counseling sessions, employment workshops and employment interviews, I moved into a 1-bedroom apartment with a balcony! Because I’m a military veteran, I’d gotten rental assistance, furniture and a $475 voucher for necessities for my new home.

Just as I’d had to learn to share living space with a whole slew of other women and their children, in my own apartment, I had to readjust to being by myself. Just as I’d had to adjust to a 6 p.m. curfew, once I moved, it took a few weeks and several friends to remind me, that I no longer had the 6 o’clock curfew! Ironically, the quiet was unsettling, as well, after having spent over a year living in ‘chaos.’

At the shelter, I had my own room, which provided a small refuge from the chaos of the house. However, I now have so much room, I wonder how I’d be able to deal with or fill it. I look at decorating magazines, visit stores and online sites to get an idea of how I’d like my living space to be.  Just as I did at the shelter, I take it one day at a time.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle December 2015. All rights reserved