fliz0ntoast invited me to talk about homelessness. I've been homeless several times in my life.
The first time, I can't really remember how old I was. I want to say maybe 14 or 15, but I may have been younger. We were homeless for a summer while we waited for the house mom was going to buy, which was my stepdad's mom's house, to be vacated. We stayed at a nice little camp site, and it wasn't that bad.
When I returned from my one year of college, I initially tried to stay at home. My mom was having surgery (maybe on a hernia?) and said she could use my help. I tried to stick around, but once my stepdad started up his abusive behaviors again, I was now over 18 and refused to put up with it. So I packed my stuff and decided that I would rather stay under bridges and sleep on school buses.
It was nearing winter, and it was not a comfortable experience. The night on the school bus was particularly bad, and I only had one thin blanket. I slept there because it was across the street from where I worked, so I could be sure to get to work in the morning, but it was too cold for me to repeat that experience. I think my cousin let me stay a night or two with him, and he let me shower and do laundry at his house the whole time I was homeless, so I wouldn't have gotten by without his help.
I'd moved to a bridge a little farther away when Josh heard through friends. He was actually dating one of my good friends at the time, which is how we met despite going to different high schools. Well, when they heard where I was staying, Josh insisted that they come up and get me, and so I lived as their roommate for a year or so.
I was briefly homeless again when the aforementioned friend and I had a falling out, but I had my car back and was able to stay in that. It didn't last long, as I was eventually able to get a 'free if you move' trailer, although it was from like the 70s, didn't have electricity or water, and only had two rooms that I could really use (bedroom and living room). It was practically homeless, but it was a roof and I had a kerosene heater, so I was technically better off. I'd let a friend keep my dog until I had a place to stay, so at least it let me have Achaiah back again.
It was worse being homeless without a car, but it still sucked even when I did have one. I was pretty lucky in that each stint really only lasted a few weeks, but they were transformative weeks. Homelessness is a cause that is very dear to my heart, and I always tried to give back once I was in the position to. Even though the trailer wasn't much, I let Josh come and stay with me when he and his girlfriend broke up. He'd done the same for me. I used to put together care packages, but I'm glad to say that I haven't really seen a local homelessness problem where we moved to in MO. It's just too rural, and we don't have any local resources anyway. Those kinds of places are in the bigger cities.
I try to do what I can to raise awareness. Too often people assume you're a deadbeat drug addict if you're homeless, and the majority of people whom I've ever met are not. They are often vets with mental health issues or women and teens fleeing abuse. Then there are happily homeless nomads in the Rainbow tribe or who like to follow shows around, but they're usually not the folks who are in actual crisis. We need to do what we can for the people in crisis. In a civilized world, no one should be left out to freeze or starve.