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I Am the Homeless Housewife
The Homeless Housewife
I am The Homeless Housewife...and here’s my story...
There are dozens of nonprofit homeless outreach programs that are responsible for: researching, statistic collecting, fundraising, advocating, storytelling and promising....
...yet none of these advocates followed through with actual assisting? None were able to help my children and I get off the streets.
I was once a successful single parent with a regular life, and a real home, a brand new car, my own business, and a happy family. But, things change.
My family has been homeless for over one year now.....
Yet nobody can tell by looking at us...
We don’t act, dress, or smell the part of homelessness. You won’t find us panhandling, or flagging signs, or begging for your loose change at the nearest freeway off ramp. You won’t catch us squatting next to the 7-11 with several open containers.
Our problem is that we are too"normal". We are caucasian, with no mental instabilities, not minority, and not handicapped, or disabled in any way.
We don’t qualify to get a bed at the shelters /agencies that house 100s of homeless. It is local indigent folks with serious alcohol and drug habits that get a roof over their heads. These are the folks that get assistance. They may randomly get chosen to star on the cover of our local weekly paper as the article of the week. They get photographed and published locally, with a finger wedged up their nostrils, and a hand clutched to a 1/2 pint of $1.75 booze.
No, you will definitely not recognize my children or I, at the local homeless shelters. Not by choice, but because we are rejected.
No place to go, homeless children hurt the most.
In retrospect, we look for work, go to school, go to the grocery store, get gas, walk through the mall, and drive in cars....
...just like 98% of the population. We walk, talk and act just like everyone else. You may have walked right past us and not even known our secret. We are actors; invisible, like chameleons. We have the tendency to blend right in... not on purpose, or to trick or fool you. Simply because that is who we are. We hold onto every shred of our dignity and pride that we have left....
because essentially our pride is all that we have left....
That is.... our pride..... and an 8x12 foot storage locker that contains ethereal memories of our past. Memories of a three bedroom, two bath structure that we once lovingly referred to as ‘home’. Memories that tend to fade more and more each day, the longer and longer we go without a roof over our heads.
More than likely our storage locker is now double padlocked by the storage company due to nonpayment. The penalties and late fees have accumulated into astronomical amounts seemingly overnight. There appears to be no rhyme or reason for the enormous fees that are owed, thus making it nearly impossible to keep our stuff any longer.
We realize that we are on the verge of losing our stuff. These inaccessible storage lockers hold every last bit of our worldly possessions. And though these belongings were once taken for granted when they shared our home, they now represent everything in this world that we hold dearly. They hold memories & reminiscence of our own childhood, & of our children growing up, of our marriage, of our divorce, bittersweet memories, happy times, and trying times.
But then somehow we come to a realization. These items that remain holed up in that dark and dingy locker just don’t mean that much to us anymore. We begin to lose the urgent importance of hanging onto these material things, as the months go by. These things, our belongings that we once held most dear to us, start to seem like more of a burden. Their happy memories fade into the reality of what they once represented, that now no longer exists. And all of a sudden, the material things in our world become irrelevant.
We realize that we would rather fill our tummies, or pay for the comforts of a cheap motel room, than keep paying for that locker. So we start to sell off these items one at a time. First we sell the stupid old overstuffed armchair that nobody really sat on anyways, next the kitchenware, dishes, pots & pans, and finally our heirlooms, and jewelry from Grannie that we vowed to pass on to our children’s children one day.
We 'Estate Sale' our belongings. We 'Craigslist' them, we even 'EBay' and 'Amazon' our personal possessions.
Praying for a Miracle
And we do this in hopes of a miracle; a simple wish that remains ungranted...
... a wish to go ‘Home’.
By the Dozens
See, there are many homeless individuals like me... women with children.
We will remain invisible. Not because we choose to, but for a variety of reasons. We remain the unseen. Perhaps it is due to our pride, or ego. It could be because we haven’t shown up on television or radio shows with tales of our sad saga. You won’t find us on any 'Most Wanted' posters. We are not red-flagging ourselves, and we do everything in our power to remain under the radar.
Maybe it’s because we don’t speak up enough, or we are too timid or ashamed or frightened to speak up. It could be because we are not belligerent drunks who, like a neon sign, advertise their obnoxiousness for the entire world to view. We are not hooked on prescription pills, or booze. We don’t self-medicate with street drugs and we do not sling dope to all of our friends.
Though we have made every effort to seek assistance, we are unsuccessful. We apply at one, two, three...perhaps to every single agency that advocate their homeless services. The only result we get is rejection, denial and...
”Sorry, we can’t help you.”
“You don’t make enough money.”
“You make too much money.”
“You were too late in applying.”
“You need to come back again next month.”
“Well, you do have a car to sleep in, don’t you?”
“Oh, it’s warm enough to sleep outside.”
No Assistance Alternatives
So, essentially we get passed over by agencies and remain not helped, not assisted, but instead we get rejected by every '”homeless advocate” agency in town...We wonder why all of the so called nonprofit homeless outreach programs do so much research, statistic collecting, fundraising, advocating, storytelling and promising....yet nobody follows through with actual assisting ....
And these agencies do not offer alternative solutions for us. Instead, they allow us to walk out their door with utter defeat and no solution to this epidemic disease we refer to as indigence. After a while we become accustomed to their rejection, and simply start to accept the word ‘No’. And we shuffle away with our heads a little lower, with no argument, or defiance.
We start to believe that we are unworthy of public assistance and housing programs. We even get rejected by the shelters.
We hear, “Your children are too young to stay here. They will be influenced negatively by the older homeless men”.
Or on the other hand we hear, “Your children are too old. They will influence the younger children.”
Lost Soul: art by MissCue
It becomes so obvious that we seem to be 'too white' to obtain assistance. While the Hispanics, and Native Indians, mentally disabled, and handicapped people get fed, and housed nightly, my family remains parked on some dark side street. Outside is 30 degree winter weather and we cover ourselves with pillows and a blanket, shivering our asses off all night. We don’t really sleep while we are parked out there in your neighborhood. Believe it or not, we are more afraid of being seen & getting caught breaking the law, since it is illegal for people in California to sleep in their cars on streets.
We lay awake worrying about being harassed by people on the streets or ticketed by police. We lay awake wondering when this nightmare will end. Where will we get our next meal, and where will we go to the bathroom next. Where will we park unnoticed at day break, and where can we sneak into for our next shower without being recognized. We stay awake and worry about these things because in Santa Barbara the law states that if you sleep in your vehicle while parked on a public roadway or parking lot, the police can roust you. They can even nab you for vagrancy, & they will require an actual mailing address, proof of employment, and so on.
Heaven forbid we happen to get a citation for not wearing a seat belt, as a passenger. And though we send in a written testimony in defense, it gets rejected, and we are found guilty, and charged $450-. Then the citation turns into an added failure-to-appear and failure-to-pay infractions. The infractions go to warrant, simply because we did not have the means to pay for the original no-seat belt citation. Then that warrant gets reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and in turn, the DMV suspends our driver’s license for three whole years.
At this point, we really never fall asleep at night, because just by the simple action of sitting behind the wheel of our car, we have become lawbreakers and criminals. And when the police finally catch up with us, we get a real treat. Not only do they cite us…(again), but now they are mandated by law to impound our vehicle for no less than 30 days. We are left standing on the side of the road, after emptying the vehicle of our remaining closest personal possessions.
We stand there watching the vehicle get towed away, with a bewildered look of,
"Did that really just happen?!?”
And we question the fact that it is perfectly legal for the civil servants of our community to take away our car & only shelter and what is left of our personal possessions & the rest of our dignity.
We become accustomed to that dark cloud that refuses to dissipate from above our head.
We don’t want to be noticed, so...we remain the unseen homeless...
We are simply victims of circumstance, who damn well make sure we do not portrait anything but the quintessential perfect family to any unsuspecting onlooker. Because hell will freeze over before anyone discovers our dark, dirty little secret. We have been passed over repeatedly, without even a blink.
But we want you to know, we are right outside your door. And though you sit in your cozy little house with your cozy little cat, your Sunday paper, and your bunny slippers, we need you to realize that you may be next.
They say that the only thing that’s sure, is that nothing's for sure.
So, take heed, and don’t take your comfort for granted because in an instant, your world too, can change.
One more piece of advice…..
If you seek assistance from your local homeless service providers one thing is certain.........
You will REMAIN homeless.
The Homeless Housewife
Read how we became homeless here...
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America's Recession: I always balanced my job with caring for my children. Like a house of cards, today just the smallest breeze knocked down the whole structure...without any warning at all.
© 2011 Helen Kramer