Local Woman Describes The Homeless Odyssey

 

Commentary by Name withheld upon Request

The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.  I will never forget this awful time as I grieve over my loss.  Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:  the unfailing love of the Lord never ends!  By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance therefore, I will hope in him.  For the Lord does not abandon anyone forever.  Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion according to the greatness of his unfailing love.  Foe he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow.  But I called on your name, Lord, from deep within my wells, and you heard me!  You listened to my pleading; you heard my weeping! Yes you came at my despairing cry and told me, “Do not fear.”  (Lamentations 3:19-24, 31-33, 55-57;NLT)

The third chapter of Lamentations has become sore to an anthem for me these days.  As I exited physical therapy, I was almost positive I would still have my job.  I arrived at the establishment of my employer thirty minutes later, sat down with two men whom I had never met (I had been on a three month medical leave), and was fired.  Almost fours years of service, four years of laughter and tears all came to an end at the blink of an eye, right along with my self worth.  I was a loyal, dedicated worker, who gave my all, even after I was injured while doing my job.  I went through constant scrutiny and harassment on a daily basis, but refused to throw in my white towel.  I had been under the impression that I would be allowed to heal from my back injury, get back to work, and life would just go on.  But this never happened.

Shortly after losing my job, I lost my apartment.  I wasn’t able to recuperate my lost wages in a timely manner to stay in my apartment another month.  So I was forced to move, bypassing any eviction procedures.  I moved in with a family member where I suffered even more emotional abuse, which led to a move down to Texas.  Moving to Texas was an easy decision to make.  In hindsight, all I was doing was running from problems instead of facing them:  Homelessness, joblessness, motherless ness, depression, anger, hatred, confusion, bitterness, as well as the physical pain from my back.  And on top of it all off, I was in debt.

For a while things looked promising in Texas until I suffered a breakdown.  I wanted to end my life, but couldn’t bring myself to do so, so I ended up calling some people for help, namely my best friend here in Cleveland.  If she hadn’t motivated me to leave the house, I would have taken over 800mg Motrin.  I thank God for her everyday.  But I was escorted in handcuffs to a facility in Dallas, Texas called Green Oaks Behavioral Hospital where I was put under a 24-hour suicide observation.  My body completely broke down; my blood pressure was reaching stroke level, I just didn’t even care anymore and I wanted to die.

“How could this be?  How can I be surrounded by all these crazy people?  I don’t belong here.”

I had no more fight in me and felt like I was losing the battle.  So I just remember praying to God in my head to stop the hurting and just let me die.  I was losing my mind, losing myself, and my identity; after years of mental, physical and sexual abuse trying to conform to what everybody wanted me to be or who they portrayed me to be.  I just wanted out, to be free of my personal hell, to end all suffering, and all existence.  But God had other plans for me.

November 2004, shortly before thanksgiving, I came back to Cleveland with nowhere to go.  My own mother had turned her back on me in favor of her husband (who is not my father) and put me in some seedy hotel the day before thanksgiving.  I left the hotel and ended up spending the holiday with my younger brother and his father, who was notorious for beating the crap out of our mother.  It just boggled my mind as to how a person who put my mom through so much pain could welcome me into his household as if I were his own child while the woman who gave birth to me wouldn’t even give me the time of day.

After leaving his place, I stayed with my best friend until New Year’s Day 2005, when I moved in with my “play mother.”  That didn’t work out so well, so back o my friend’s house where I stayed for about a six-week period prior to entering Angeline Christian Home.  I stayed at Angeline for 15 days which resulted in me becoming saved.  March 17, 2005, during evening chapel service, Zion Pentecostal Church of Christ came to speak. This was awesome for because I had not been to church in almost 20 years, even though my grandmother always begged me to go back.  The message was “God is a keeper of his word.”  I don’t remember the exact wording of the sermon, but it was so powerful I was baptized the very next day.

So it seemed that things might start getting better.  I was so wrong.  The Monday after Easter, I was notified that I wouldn’t be receiving the 15 day extension and had to leave.  So here I am stressed, depressed, jobless, and homeless, and newly saved with nowhere to go but the streets.  But the members of the church intervened and found me a place to stay at mother’s this was the worst thing ever, but it provided a temporary solution until I could get into this new Christian-based facility called Laura’s Home.

Saturday, April 16, 2005, I was finally accepted into Laura’s Home.  Laura’s Home proved to be a haven of rest and a beacon of hope.  I was safe; safe from society, safe from people hurting me.  I was able to reflect on God and myself.  As I studied the Bible, I got to re-learn myself – who I am, whit I like, what I dislike, and what I am capable of doing and what makes me happy.  The only thing I couldn’t come to terms with was how did I end up there?  I wasn’t a bad person.  I’m still a virgin, I’ve never been arrested or in any trouble with the law, I’ve never smoked, drank, or done any type of drug, never been to jail.  I truly believed that I was doing everything right and shouldn’t be in this situation.  I just knew that these choices were keeping me in good standings with God.

That was the problem.  Well, that was part of the problem.  I was living my life the way I should have (with a few snags), but at end, I wasn’t completely yielding to the Lord.  So upon entering LH, I was placed on a 30 day restriction away from family and friends, unable to call anyone or receive calls, no letters, no visitations, no leaving the premises, Some people may think that was a harsh thing, but for me and others who to endure this process, it was good.  Even though it got stressful not being able to communicate with loved ones, it helped to alleviate a lot of burdens and clear my head to think.  I was given the time to breath, relax and focus on me without the pressures of the outside world.

As I write this paper, I am currently coming out of my homeless situation.  I look back on my stay at Laura’s Home with bittersweet memories.  When I first went in, it was a program I would tell everybody about, but when I left, it became a place I couldn’t bear to mention.  It’s just not the same as when I went in a year ago.  With new “higher-ups” in position, it is more strict, more cold, and not as nurturing to the women come through the doors seeking refuge.  Women who are not long-term residents of the program are forced to vacate the premises from 9-4, regardless of whether or not they have somewhere to go or the means to get there.  People were told that they could choose to leave if they didn’t agree with how certain things were going.

When I first went in, we were able to voice our opinions on how things were running.  After all, it was our lives that were being affected by these rules.  Now those voices are no longer heard.  People are afraid to speak up in fear of being put out.  I couldn’t watch the events unfold.  I was also going through some of the same struggles with these changes of events and changes in rules (or laws as I sometimes refer to them these days), with the exception of the 9-4 rule.  But all in all, I would not trade in experiences at Laura’s Home for anything in the world.  Being there, I learned about god, I learned about myself, I made new friends (which I hadn’t done in ages), and I also learned to type a little.

 I AM CURRENTLY A STUDENT AT Cleveland State University.  I dropped out a little over six years ago, so it’s a refresher being back in school.  I still attend church.  Now that I’m not in the shelter anymore, I can resume going back to Bible Study.  I just thank God for not giving up on me when I had given up on myself.  And I thank Laura’s Home for allowing me to live there to get myself on my feet, because it really taught me how to treat others.  How not to treat others, and how people treat you when you are homeless and dependent upon them.  Even though I was never disrespectful to the people on the streets, I have an even greater sense of compassion for their struggle.  Nevertheless, I was homeless.

PLEASE NOTE

This articles are not intended to reflect the views of NEOCH, the NEOCH Board of Trustees or our member agencies or individuals, but to help homeless people and advocates express their opinions.  The Homeless grapevine attempts to provide uncensored space for homeless people to speak out.

 

Copyright NEOCH Homeless Grapevine June 2006 – Issue 76