By Rita Ramos
Cold, dirty and frightened and hungry, my children and I wandered the streets, searching for anyone to help us, but no one would acknowledge us, we were the Invisible Family.
The pain of poverty and the loneliness of rejection are hard to get over, no matter how many years have passed by. I can still remember the months of torment I experienced because I was poor. I lost much more than food, clothing, and a place to live. I lost all my dreams of ever having a future. My hope in tomorrow died and laid to rest. I lost my self-respect and my dignity. In many ways, when you are homeless, you lose your right to be a human being. While I was poor and living in the streets, I saw myself as someone of no worth or value, a nobody who just didn’t matter to anyone. It really hurt me to recognize those feelings. Yet when you eat out of a garbage can and live in a car, how else could you look at yourself but as a nobody – as an Invisible Woman.
However, my story is about people who help people. When my children and I were homeless with only the clothes on our backs and some blankets to keep us warm, we had NO place to go. I was scared and felt all alone because we were three people who just belonged nowhere. I knew that my family and I needed help if we were to make it off the streets. And yet it seemed so impossible from where I was. When you are down and out you have no friends.
And you just stop trusting and believing in people the longer you are separated from them. Because of the stubborn pride I had, I was afraid to ask for help, for fear that I would be rejected – that would of really hurt too much. I went to a shelter, and there I saw more homeless people like myself. I remember talking to a woman who was about forty years old. Her name was Sarah. She had terrible pain in her eyes. She told me she’d call her daughter and asked if she could live with her, but her daughter said no. I could see how hurt she was, and I put my arms around her and told her she was not alone. I had no place to go wither. Going to a shelter did not lift my spirits it was a place where it was heartache like I’d never seen before.
My first night in the shelter of the unwanted, I prayed all night, believing in God that He would listen and answer me. While I have a place to live now and a job, I still go to sleep at night with memories of poverty, and I wake up to the fear that it could happen to me again. It is very hard to erase the damage of poverty but I’m trying.
Knowing that there are people who really do care gives me the strength to go on. My life and our towns literally stopped the day homelessness took over out city. All kinds of thoughts run trough your mind, none of them good. And its times like this you know God can held.
Copyright Homeless Grapevine Summer 1993 Issue 2 Cleveland, Ohio