Fear of Homelessness
It is a sad state of afairs and it is only getting worse
Just recently, my picture was in the front page of Jacksonville Florida Newspaper, The Florida Times Union. It was not because of anything special I did or any crime I committed. It was because I have been fortunate enough to get back into stable housing after a bout of homelessness. I was interviewed mainly to get my view on what one has to do to survive on the street during the wintertime. In reality when I was out on the streets, I did not spend that much time exposed to severe weather. It is true, that I was on the streets between the months of December and January and yet, overall the weather was not all that bad. A few days slipped down below the thirties and even into the low twenties. On those nights, I was usually able to get into a homeless shelter.
During the interview, I revealed that I wrote online and I was asked if I ever wrote anything on being homeless. I had to admit that I had not and I suddenly realized that I was embarrassed about being homeless and in some ways; I was trying to pretend it never happened. When I realized this, it sadden me. For the truth is, I went though a lot of positive changes because of it. One thing that happened is that I came a lot closer to God during this hardship. I discovered a strong Christian church that has aided me greatly in my walk with God.
I came to grasp and take ownership of an important fact. That was that I have a fear of homelessness! I can understand how some people are offended or frightened by the homeless, for even when I was homeless some of the homeless offended and frightened me! I did what ever I could think to do to try to distance myself from the “typical” homeless types.
This changed somewhat when I became aware that lot of the men and women I knew went against the stereotypes of homelessness. I met men who were not habitual criminals or drug addicts or alcoholics. I met men who had a good education or work at high paying jobs at times in there lives and still ended up homeless. People like myself that fought long and hard to try to escape homelessness but lost that battle, at least for a short time in there lives. There are exceptions to the rules. Anyone can become homeless!
Take me for example; I went back to Collage to take courses in Marketing and TV Production, which included an intern-ship with a privately owned TV Station. I was not an alcoholic however; I have had drug abuse as part of my story. I have a clean Police Recorded not because I was always an up standing citizen; I just never got caught in any serious crimes.
As far as Mental Disorders, I have been diagnosed with Chronic Depression and Suicidal tendencies. This did not keep me from owning my own Video Production Business and working as Psychiatric Technician for five years at a state run mental hospital. This sort of thing does not supposed to happen to someone like myself. At least that is what I told myself, so what happened? Were did I go wrong?
The truth is there is a lot of reasons that this did happened to me, for looking back on my life I can see some costly mistakes I have made. I am going to examine the possible reason so I may help someone else from making similar mistakes. I have no desire to play the victim and say it is all the fault of a weak economy, even though that does have a lot to do with it! It is hard for me to say what the number one reason I became homeless was however, not building a strong savings and budgeting money had a lot to do with it. There was a time when I squandered my money on drugs and other unnecessary items. The fact that I had to live pay-check to pay-check most the time also prevented me from saving much money.
For the past few years, I had been working in construction work and when I first started working in construction, you could just about get a job any ware you wanted to and if you were not working, it was because you did not want to work. Then, the bottom dropped out. It did not happen overnight and yet, I remember going from working seventy hours a week to were, I was working only twenty-five hours a week. Then came the point that I could not find any work at all no mater how hard I tried.
At this time, I was living in Myrtle Beach South Carolina and I started looking at other possibilities of places to live. This was right after the Hurricane hit Galveston and Houston Texas. A lot of my friends decided that this was a good idea and headed to Texas. Instead, I had friends that convinced me that I should move to Jacksonville Florida. When I moved, I honestly thought it was the right choice and yet I found out fast that this was not the case. Unemployment was even worst than in Myrtle Beach. I ended up sleeping in bushes and free-way underpasses until I finally gotten into Sulzbacher Center were I stayed for six months.
Since I had a history of drug abuses and “Mental Illness,” I qualified for temporary housing with Volunteers of America (VOA). With out the help of this organisation I know I would probably still be out on the street! To give back to VOA I started writing a Newsletter for them.
From what I have witness with the way our society view the homeless there seems to be a trend to either criminalize or ignore the reality of this situation. Homelessness is not going away in fact it is becoming worse! I do not want to fill this hub with a lot of statistics because I feel that a high percentage of the statistics available are incorrect. The homeless situation is even worse than the media will lead us to believe.
I will use a few facts just to drive home my point. This problem cannot and should not be ignored. It is every ones problem! Here is a direct quote from the National Coalition for the Homeless; I will also provide a link to them for they are a great organisation. “On March 27, 2008, CBS News reported that 38 percent of foreclosures involved rental properties, affecting at least 168,000 households.The Sarasota, Florida, Herald Tribune noted that, by some estimates, more than 311,000 tenants nationwide have been evicted from homes this year after lenders took over the properties.In 2007, ten of the 23 cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported an increase in the number of households with children accessing shelters and transitional housing. Six of these 23 cities also reported an increase in the number of individuals accessing these services.”
That was back 2007 and just judging from what I seen with my own eyes in Jacksonville, Florida the circumstance has gotten much worse. So what is the solution to this problem and is there one? One step in the right direction would be for more people to take responsibility for this! For I have found that a lot of people are clueless to the real story behind the homeless population. Here is an example of what I mean taken from my own life experience. I should worn you, that what I have to say may seem controversial! The controversy comes from the fact that a lot of us have become comfortable with the way we perceive things to be and not the way they truly are!
When I was at the Sulzbacher Center, my Case Worker saw that I had a history of drug use so he “recommended” that I go to two AA or NA meetings twice a week even though I was clean and sober at the time I came into the shelter. One of the AA meetings I went to, a woman told me that as long as I stayed clean and sober I would not end up homeless ever again! I could not believe how naïve this woman was! For being clean and sober would not guarantee that I would not become homeless again!
I discovered that a lot of Government agencies love to label you and if you do not meet the statistics they either ignore you or try to make you fit into a category they can deal with! If you do not have a mental illness, they will try to give you one, just so you will look good on their paper work! Some people even tried to brand me as Bi-Polar even though I do not have any of the traits that people with condition have! I have never had a manic day in my life and I do not have illusions of grander! In fact, the opposite is true.
One of the problems I have seen with non-prophet organisations is that they can get over whelmed with some of the challenges they face and they will choose a solution that may not be the best or correct way to resolve the problem however, they will use those methods for they have become accustom to using them. I have seen this on a personal level when I was trying to obtain my Birth Certificate from California while I was living in Florida.
My Case Manager used a service on the Internet for acquiring my Birth Certificate that ended up being the wrong approach. This is because ever since the passing of the Patriot Act, you must go though Vital Statics Office in your state to obtain your Birth Certificate. Your application needs to be certified by a Notary of the Republic.
The service the shelter used ended up taking over four months before I received this document and cost more money than the certified copy cost. When I finely did get my certified copy, it only took one week and was much cheaper than the wrong way , go figure! The reason I bring this up is that I wish to help those who may end up in similar situation to avoid the frustration I went though.
I will not get to political bout this, except to say that it is now easier for an Illegal Alien to acquire a fake ID than an American Citizen to get a Certified Birth Certificate! Something is wrong with this picture! Even after I received my Birth Certificate, I found out the facility that I was at was still using the service that would issue you a Birth Certificate that was not official for ID purposes! So they still did not learn from this mistake!
I am very thankful for all the help that I had gotten while I was homeless it is just that we as nation should strive to do what we can to improve the condition of the homeless in this country. I also feel that until we eliminate greed we will never eliminate homelessness! For greed is one of the main reasons this economy is in the mess that it is!