In my previous post, Transient in Trump’s America, I briefly gave you a glimpse into a few of my choices and my current circumstance. The feedback I received was generally positive except for some highly charged opinions about my choice of title. Apparently it is okay to write about being a transient as long as you don’t mention the current president’s name. My choice to use the “keyword” to “trend-jack” was a marketing decision made in conjunction with learning that technique in class. I was making reference to times and places, since I had listened to the radio news talk about the President’s (he who shall not be named?!) visit to the same county I was currently homeless in. It was included purely for perspective, not as a political statement.
Perceptions vs Reality
What does it mean to be looked at by others as homeless? Add physically AND mentally disabled, and what image does that conjure up in your mind?
Do you automatically think of someone or a place? Many people think of homeless camps or transients on the street. In Orlando, Florida, it appears to be commonplace for panhandlers to carry signs walking through 8 lanes of stopped traffic at each major intersection. When there is an accident ahead, they have a captive audience for their begging. But just because someone is panhandling doesn’t mean that they are homeless.
When you are homeless, others who have residences feel that it is their job to judge you. For example, many people have had much to say about my choice of medicine. The fact that it alone replaced 20 different medications doesn’t seem to faze the people who would call it a “drug” and say that if I wasn’t on “pot” maybe I would have a home. Considering the facts, that is not only painful to hear but frustrating to reiterate my justifications for my choices. Every choice I make is seemingly up for public scrutiny purely based on my un-housed status. The fact is, before I was using cannabis I didn’t have the energy or strength to get out of bed, let alone travel the country. It was the use of the herb that allowed me my freedom: Once I had conquered the need for physical comfort my options regarding my living circumstances opened up. Until I left that disability bed zoned out on narcotics, I had not travelled hardly at all. Making the choice to travel, to be homeless, allowed me to get out of my home state of Washington and visit the country from one end to the other!
I remember when I was travelling on a train for the first time in Florida. My Amtrak train incurred a “trespasser strike” right outside of Orlando, in Winter Park. When I heard the term “trespasser strike” I automatically thought there were pickets on the train track. Unfortunately that was a HUGE misperception. The train that I was on, which just picked up a load of children and their families from the Disney World area, had hit a person. He was killed. The only way he was ever identified in the news reports was as “a transient in his 40s.” Eventually the press added the descriptive, “hispanic,” but he was never identified publicly.
Being a bit of a sensitive person, I felt the energy. I felt the fear and confusion and frustration of all of the children around me. I felt the aggravation from their parents; they wanted to move on down the road, and the mandatory 3-hour investigation was delaying that from occurring. I also felt a kinship. “transient in his 40s” was too close to home for me. After all, the only difference in that description from him and me at the time was the pronoun.
The thought that I could be killed while travelling and it be described as “just another homeless person dead” was horrifying. Had I become a “non-person” just because I chose not to pay for a residence and travel?
Is “homeless” a dirty word? Perhaps not, but it seems to strike fear into the most compassionate. I suppose that it is the fear of knowing that every time they are late on their mortgage or rent payment, they are one step closer to being one of them. As I listened to the reactions to my first story “coming out as homeless” I observed many knee-jerk reactions telling me I should seek help at a homeless shelter without respecting my choice of having my dog with me and living in my car. I also found it interesting that others reacted with admiration. Why would anyone admire me?
I have HOPE. I live with faith. I know that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and watches over me. Using that hope and faith, I am working on bettering myself. When I realized that strangers would actually be interested in reading what I write, I took it upon myself to start a program at a college with an online presence, Southern New Hampshire University, to finish my Bachelor’s degree with a focus on nonfiction writing. It was time to learn how to use this gift God gave me.
My books, Standing Up to Live and Medical Marijuana for Mormons are well in the works. I fought for quite some time about “coming out” as homeless; I didn’t want to be known as homeless or transient. Then I prayed about it and the Holy Spirit witnessed to me that Jesus Christ Himself had been without a place to lay His head. Perhaps it was time to make others aware that being homeless does not mean we are scary or bad people. It means nothing except the fact we currently do not have a domicile to call our own. The person inside is still the same as if we did. That is why we can “hide” in plain sight.
The next time you see someone leaving church or a grocery store, don’t assume they are going to a home, the statistics are staggering: Over a half MILLION people in the United States are homeless. If it doesn’t include a family member or a close friend, perhaps that person you saw use the bathroom at McDonald’s was going out to sleep in their car. You don’t know because we don’t want you to. We, the homeless, hide from your judgements and your fears. Those fears used to be ours, now we not only live them, we are learning to conquer them.
I go to church at a Ward or Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whereever I am staying at the time. I have been blessed with Relief Society (women of LDS) Sisters offering me hot meals and even an overnight inside. The generosity has at times overwhelmed but humbled me. I long to be the one giving, I am so tired of needing to receive. I look forward to a time when I will be able to give. A time when I have achieved my goals of “working myself out of retirement.” My dreams are many, but they have one theme: To help my fellow person. If I can share my hope and faith with anyone that will be a start!