We did not find a rental, nor did I qualify for a home loan. Well, I qualified……for a loan amount of $86,000. Not enough to actually buy anything. One lender told me not to contact him again. He said I’ll never qualify for enough on my own; I will always need a cosigner.
Five days before we had to be out of our home, some friends came down and pulled a used travel trailer to the yard of a woman I barely knew. I don’t have a truck to pull it myself. I had no where else to put the trailer. And, I’d run out of options. I barely got the trailer and was relieved to have it. I only got a loan on it because friends gave me a down payment for it. I was hopeful God was moving us in a new direction.
We’ve been here for almost four months now. At first it was kinda fun, like camping out. But, as the days grew shorter and colder (28 degrees at 9 this morning), and we have only a small Mr Buddy heater that we can’t run at night, any feeling of fun left. As the water hose froze and getting water became a daily struggle, any feeling of fun left. As I stand in the freezing air of the bathroom, turning cold water on just long enough to get my body wet, then turning it off to soap up, and turning it back on again just long enough to rinse off, any sense of fun has left. As it takes hours to cook a meal because there isn’t enough electricity to power more than one appliance at a time, any sense of fun has left. As all of the very few belongings we brought here have ruined from the incredible amount of condensation and its accompanying mold– clothes, pictures, appliances, books, bedding–, the fun has gotten up and run away. As we are unable to even sit outside because this woman and her kids watch our every move, it no longer feels fun.
I have given up so called friends who thought I should be thrilled and thankful for my situation. Friends who use $100 shampoo and takes trips and buy $1500 dogs and throw “puppy showers” for themselves. Friends who tell me I should be thankful. Or, call me with leads on more houses to clean….. because certainly the reason I’m poor must be that I just don’t work enough.
They disgust me.
The night we moved out, we were an hour late to leave. It was nearly impossible to find a place to stay, find an available storage facility, and pack up 18 1/2 years of living in 60 days all alone while continuing to work. So, I was an hour late getting out.
We weren’t eating but once a day during that time. There just weren’t enough hours in the day. It was no different that day. In fact, that particular day, we didn’t eat at all. By the time we were finally out at 1 a.m. we were exhausted, dirty, and famished. Off to an all night diner we went to at least deal with the hungry part.
After we finished our meal I took my young daughter to the restroom where we found a young woman washing her face in the sink. She jumped as we walked in and apologized for being in the way. We reassured her she was fine. When we exited the stall she’d moved on to applying make up, but she again apologized. This time she grabbed her make up and stepped into a stall to finish up. Within a few minutes she peaked her head around the corner nervously and confessed she was embarrassed to admit she’s living in her car and that’s why she was doing what she was doing. I reassured her there’d be no judgment from us, as we had just moved into a camp trailer that night. She seemed greatly relieved and began to chat. She talked for almost an hour before thanking us for listening and asking me for a hug. In fact, she gave me two hugs before we parted ways. She told me she had no one to talk to, no one to tell how she feels about things.
She broke my heart, and we connected.
It’s the holidays now, and everyone is so happy buying presents and decorating and meal planning. Some people are compelled to want to help those less fortunate this time of year and are publicly posting on Facebook how they want to help or, worse, when they have helped. They commend each other for being so full of Christian love and their holidays are just that much brighter knowing they did their part.
They disgust me.
I had just bought hand and foot warmers to give to my new friends I might meet, like the young woman in the diner, when my son shouted at me. Literally, we’d just left the store when he hollered, “Mom! There’s a homeless guy, and he doesn’t look good.” I could see the man was mouth breathing, and I made a quick U turn. The whole world seemed to be passing him by, busy with their self importance and oblivious to his suffering. He looked up scared. And, then coughed copious amounts of mucus into his bare hand. His good hand. The fingers on his other hand were a strange blackish color (I believe from frostbite). He wiped the mucus on the inside of his sleeping bag before taking the warmers. As we drove off we could see him set them down and bury his face in his hands, sobbing.
My heart broke, and I was filled with panic.
I drove to Walgreens for gloves, Mucinex, wet wipes, and kleenex. A pleasant manager asked to help me find anything, and I explained the situation to him. He seemed worried. Not that a very ill human being was on the concrete in sub freezing temps, but rather that a homeless person might be loitering in front of his store. I loudly snapped at him, “He is going to die! He is probably going to die!”
He disgusted me.
I quickly drove back to the sick man and told my son to tell him we’d be back with hot soup, not to leave. The nearby butcher shop was out of soup. I begged them for anything hot. They had a small amount of chunky, spicy chili. Not what I needed for a sick man with bad teeth. I sped to the grocery store. Aha! Hot chicken noodle soup from the deli!
I rushed back to my new friend with a bottle of water, his soup, a utensil, and napkins. I don’t have a home to take him to and I don’t have enough money to even get him a motel room for the night (which is what my kids begged me to do), but he had some things to keep him a bit warmer, some medicine to ease his suffering, and something to warm his belly from the inside. I’d done what little I could. This time, he shook as he took our small offering. I cried all evening. And, I’ve looked for that man every day since. I’m worried about him.
His situation broke my heart. And, we connected.
God created us for relationship with Him and each other. Yet, most people act like the purpose of our existence is to build status, have fun, and make ourselves feel good. They’ll even pursue those things in His name! Hypocrites!
The worst part about being without housing is not that EVERYTHING is hard, which it most definitely is, but rather it’s being unseen or only seen as a problem to be solved. I need a warm, dry place to live, but, more than that, I need to not feel so utterly alone. My new “friends” need medicine and a place to get clean, but, more than that, they needed someone to simply care that they’re sick or just listen to them and not be afraid to hug them.
Through this I’ve learned that there are worse things than being homeless. Like, being so self absorbed that we’re completely disconnected from those around us.
May your holidays be filled with lonely, broke, sick, wounded people. And, may you have the heart to see them, so that you may be blessed with genuine human connection.