#HERstory: The 'Homeless' Have Faces; My Face
The term "the homeless" makes my ass itch. The way people group them all together, as if they have no history, no stories, no lives...they're all just one small portion of the population that only matters in November and December when soup kitchens are full and coat drives are prevalent. But by the time people have forgotten their New Year's Resolutions, the people who need them the most are forgotten. It bothers me so much because I was one of them. And I have a story.
I was evicted from my house after being fired from a radio station and losing my income. I had managed to get another part time radio job, just in time to use my first check to pay for a storage for my furniture, and move into a motel. Not a hotel. A motel. With drug addicts, prostitutes, and God knows what else.
I was optimistic at first. Not only did I get another radio job after almost two years, but I was also working another job part time. But when you have give a motel $168.17 every Friday, and your regular-job check is $220 (at best) every Friday...and the part time radio job is part time...you realize rather quickly that it's going to be a long ride.
This part time radio job was two hours away, so the little I had left over was used for gas. The motel didn't have a stove, and the fridge barely worked. So I had to spend more money on food. There was a truck stop up the street; I would get a to-go container and fill it up to the brim, and eat off of it for a few days. But then I was fired from my regular part-time job. (I really suck at regular jobs, but that's another story.) All I thought to myself was, how am I gonna come up with $672.68 a month, have gas to get to the radio gig, and eat, when I only make about $740 a month?
I thought I had reached a low when all I had to eat for two days was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I ate at least seven of them. My two cats had food, and though it wasn't ideal, I wasn't hungry. Yet. I reached an entirely new low when I realized it was Wednesday and I wouldn't eat until Friday. One of my former friends ordered me a pizza from Baton Rouge one afternoon; it was the first thing I had eaten that day. You really find out who loves you when you're at the bottom. I'll always love Keithen for that.
Then it finally happened. I couldn't pay the "rent." I had paid that nasty, hot, dirty motel their $168.17 every Friday without fail, but just didn't have it this week. I would have it Monday, but they didn't care. You'll have to get your things and get out. Come back when you can pay. So, through sniffles and eventual sobs, I gathered my things and my cats, and I put everything back in my car. I drove to a truck stop not far from my radio job, and slept. I woke up that Saturday morning, did my shift, told everyone "have a super day!" as usual, then went back to my car, drove to that same truck stop, and slept some more.
I was officially homeless. The fact that I would be back in that nasty motel after the weekend did very little to calm my nerves. Here I was, in my mid-twenties, with nowhere to sleep except the back seat of my car. Have you ever had a period and couldn't afford tampons or pads, so you had to use toilet paper and paper towels for 4 days? I have. My parents told me I could come back home and start over, but I told them, "if I leave, I'll be out of radio again." You ever loved something so much that it made you believe if you stuck with it, life would get better? Yea.
I found the local food pantry, used the bathroom at the truck stop, and went to the laundromat or library just to get out my car and breathe. But when the sun went down, I retired to my car and just tried to sleep to forget what was happening. I saw other people like me, and that's when it hit me: I'm a part of "the homeless." I'm one of those people that they talk about feeding for Thanksgiving. I can't wash myself. I live in a car with two cats.
Monday couldn't come quick enough, and I was back in that nasty motel where the air conditioner barely worked and the fridge smelled like feet. Four months after moving into that motel, I got enough money to move into my new apartment in the same city as my radio job. $450 a month with all utilities paid for this studio apartment. I had a stove. A fridge that worked. My own bed, fresh out of storage. The only downside to living in this closet of an apartment was the unit being in an apartment building; I walked outside to a hallway with other apartments. Whenever I looked under my door, I could always see a light (the hallway light). I could hear whenever someone came home. I was on edge for the first several months, thinking about the drug addicts I lived next to in the motel.
"A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes." - Hugh Downs
I don't celebrate Thanksgiving because, genocide (stay woke), but I decided to spend that day at the Salvation Army, handing out plates, folding donated clothes, and anything else I could do to give back. I was in an apartment the size of my mother's living room and sitting room, but I "made it." It was mine. And when I looked each person in the eye and smiled at them as I handed them food or clothing, I hoped they could see that we were the same person. So I never use the term "the needy" or "the homeless." I rather despise it. People in between residences, or who may need a little more food....they...we have stories. We have faces. My face.