You’re fifty-eight years old and you’ve been homeless for the most part of the last ten years. Surprisingly, you’re still strong and still have your mental faculties. But you know you can’t keep doing this.
Like most homeless people, your teeth are grotesquely ruined. But you’ve learned Obamacare can help you get replacements. You apply in February. Little do you know you won’t have your teeth until October. When you’re homeless, you’re last in line.
You also have a painful hernia, but you believe you can tough it out. You really didn’t know whether you would survive when you first hit the streets, but, somehow, you’ve found a way and learned to handle pain, at least the physical kind. For now, the hernia’s manageable.
No one knows better than you that finding work will be difficult. You’ve had good jobs in the past, especially in retail, but it will be hard to explain where you’ve been for the last decade.
You have to hope no one asks how you became homeless. Even now you have to catch the sobs in your throat when you think about the battering. You’ve never been able to explain why you took it for so long and why you couldn’t face anything, anything at all, for so many years. All you know now is you will never take it again.
You have no income. You have food stamps and what little you can scrounge from recycling. You can obtain clothing from the free clothing bins, but keeping it cleaned and pressed until you have money and a place to live is nearly impossible. The local shelters only allow what you can carry in and out; there’s no place to hang things. For work, you’ll have to pick clothes that are pretty much wrinkle-free, at least until you can get a place of your own.
You have no transportation. Bus fare is $1.50 one-way. Before you find work, you will have to save at least a few dollars and maybe more, depending on the pay schedule.
You are computer literate and search online for jobs at the library. You wish that you could just apply in person. In spite of everything, you are still well spoken and well-groomed and could maybe explain why your most recent work was ten years ago. As it is, things look bad on the computer screen. The human element is gone altogether.
Months pass. By the time you get your new teeth, the hernia has become unbearably painful. You opt for surgery. After surgery, you keeping walking and visiting the library, searching for work despite the pain. Your friends are worried. They tell you that the Modesto Gospel Mission has a daytime respite program for post-surgery people with nowhere to go. Finally, you go in and get some rest and relief from the pain.
You didn’t realize it was going to be this difficult. Just getting the new teeth took months and getting them properly fitted was time-consuming and painful. Then there was the pain from hernia surgery. You don’t recover like you used to.
You’re not giving up. You will never give up. You just hope you don’t have to explain all this. There’s already been more pain than enough, and this is another year.
John Lucas says
Thanks for the article. We need to keep working on making our society more compassionate. Especially today given the politics of some of the people who would be leaders of this country.