Post-Homelessness is a long journey that is rarely spoken of. Some feel ashamed to share their struggle and others just want to leave it behind them. Per recent statistics from the “National Alliance to End Homelessness” there are over half a Million people in the U.S.A. on any given night that experience homelessness (read full report www.EndHomelessness.org).
The causes can range from drug/alcohol abuse, job loss, family arguments, divorce, domestic violence to name a few.
My children and I went homeless after separating from my husband. After our family home was foreclosed on December 2006 I packed up whatever I could in to our minivan with my then 2 1/2 year old Daughter and 4 year old Son. It is the most heart breaking time of my life! Even though my children were very young there are remnants that continue to live in their memories. Our trials and tribulations continued through a rough start in finding childcare and employment then soon being hit with the recession fast on our heels. I was in the first round of lay offs that took place on February 2008. We again faced poverty with a system ill prepared for the tsunami of unemployment claims that hit hard that 1st and 2nd Quarter.
While still waiting for child support to be enforced by the courts my unemployment claim remained unanswered. I went to food banks, applied for programs and jumped through hoops for the little I was afforded. Every penny I had saved and the little help I could qualify for came up short no matter how I cut it – as welfare required a letter from my unemployment benefits to prove my “income” AKA the “Red Tape”. How did we make it through? I think back and can honestly say it was sheer will, great humans and living in the right community!
I rationed our food, toilet paper and soap. We lived in a bachelor apartment that thankfully included our water bill – I couldn’t afford utilities. Our neighbors were kind enough to supply us an electric line that I alternated between the refrigerator, microwave and an electric plate. I not only cooked on the electric plate, but it was our source of warm water to use to give the children baths. The “Ariel” powder soap I used to wash our bodies, hair, dishes and all the clothes I hand washed in the tub.
This is where the empty boxes come in. We had tile floors and the only piece of furniture we owned was a sofa. The children were small enough to sleep on the sofa and I piled the boxes to soften the cold floor for myself. My body hurt endlessly but I was happy to have a roof over our heads and walls for safety. I could finally have a full (and safe) night’s sleep.
In the trash bags was where I stored all our clothes and hid behind our sofa because our apartment had no closet. The floor was where we did everything from sleep, eat, read, play and watch the free DVD’s I was able to check out from the library. One thing we did learn is appreciate every little thing!
The children went to school and attended the after school program which helped in providing the food for the week days. I volunteered and shared our story with other Moms and Staff that provided canned goods to help for dinner and weekends. I set my pride aside and reached out through “Craigslist” asking for any gently used shoes, jackets, blankets and food for my children. Teachers and city workers gave us bus passes, a food cart, grocery gift cards and female hygiene items that are rarely available at the food pantry. Through my “Craigslist” post an executive from “Sketchers” shipped 6 pairs of new shoes for my children and included 2 more pairs for myself! Other Moms came together and delivered toys for my children. *Tears*
My landlord was also very patient with me as I showed him my numerous letters of my unemployment applications and the letter that finally came MONTHS later, informing me that my claim had been approved but the payments would be delayed due to the overwhelming amount of claims. Since my lay off I spent hours at the library applying to every job post near me, and received a handful of interviews through the 2 years of my unemployment.
On June 28th 2008 I received my FIRST unemployment check. It went straight to my landlord, as did many of the checks there after. I remember the exact “weekly” amount of $260 and my rent was $700 at the time. That left very little for us to survive on as you can well imagine.
Getting back on our feet from homelessness in December 2006 then through the recession of 2008 has taken years to finally get out from living hour to hour. I finally found a job (part-time) on September 2010! Buying mattresses for us was a luxury that we didn’t indulge on until years later (not counting the air beds I was lucky to buy). Our furniture of trash bags were slowly being transferred to rubber slide out drawers I purchased on “Craigslist”.
Post Homelessness has proven to be filled with hurdles that we barely broke through. I wouldn’t wish this journey on anyone, and am thankful for all that has presented itself on our path back to safety and health. My hope is that after reading this you will have an understanding of the years of recovery many face Post-Homelessness and how important it is to show support and kindness. Our story is lived by one too many families and if we take consistent action we can end homelessness.
YOU can HELP in many ways. There are non-profits near you that you can donate time or money to. If you’re in the Los Angeles and Long Beach area: you are welcome to join my children and I in passing out any food or items you may have. I also collect non-perishable food, gently used jackets/blankets, new socks and emergency blankets. YOU can make a world of difference to a family just like mine.
If you are facing homelessness and need information or resources please send me a message and I will do my best to help!
Please email me if you’d like to join my Homeless Camp Drop-Off Event notification: