Direct Message: A Return to Homelessness

Homeless woman sleeping on bench

When I created the Direct Messages category, I had originally meant it for personal and direct writings which do not fit my more editorial, AP style-guide formatted articles. I had no idea it would end up being the best category for letting everyone know that I’m still alive, after I had no other choice but to return to homelessness.

Homelessness is terrifying, but it’s nothing with which I’m unfamiliar. I slept on the waterfront and under a bridge in Seattle for more than a year, slept in the Downtown Emergency Services Center shelter and a housing facility there for another year, and had only started pulling myself out of the terror of being surrounded by addiction, system-manipulating survivalism, and identity impressed through diagnosis rather than personality through the last year and a half. But I failed. I tumbled out into the streets of a town ill-equipped to handle the number of homeless they have. But in doing so, I’ve been placed somewhere I think I am meant to be.

There has been one common thread in my homelessness, beyond the homelessness itself. I can’t help but witness the young men, the old men, and the veterans, all of whom find themselves unable to get assistance in comparison to other demographics. Even I am well-positioned by demographic and disability to receive considerable help, but there is no shelter for teenaged boys, and there are scarcely any beds available for men who have no other choice than to sleep rough in the forested flatlands of the Midwest, or break into the abandoned houses of this dying midpoint between two large cities.

I want to help. I need to help. As it has been said to me by other homeless women in the shelter, it seems to be my calling, a gift I have to give to the world. I have an insight into the complex and otherwise impenetrable system of homeless services; I understand how Catholic and Presbyterian outreach groups interact with State and Federal programs to provide new shelters and new programs in a town or city, and I understand what they need to accomplish what they’re able to accomplish. I watched it in Pittsburgh, I lived it in Seattle and Tampa, and it indelibly left its mark upon me. I genuinely think it’s time for me to leave my mark upon the world in that way.

But I have to save myself first. It’s as they always say, put your oxygen mask on first before putting it on your child; otherwise, you might pass out and neither of you will survive the decompression. Homelessness is a terrifying decompression; it sucks the air right out of your lungs and places you in a position where you want so badly to cry but know that showing that weakness will only damage you further. To be able to put the oxygen mask of loving care on those who need it, will require me to go against my own instincts of resisting State and Federal assistance programs. But as I learn the systems, I can impart understanding onto others, and help them avoid the pitfalls.

If you’d like to help me through this, please consider supporting me on Patreon. Right now I need to get a mobile phone, so I don’t have to spend $4-$5 per day to use the WiFi at the coffee shop, and I need to be able to feed myself. If you can’t do that, please consider sharing this story, and the stories I will be writing in the coming weeks, with those that you know. I’m down, but I’m not out. There’s so much I can do, if I just humble myself to a system that I hate; and if I do it, I could see dozens, if not hundreds more elevated as well. Self-sufficience is a long way off yet, but by doing this work, not giving up, I can make a difference for a lot more than just myself. That’s my goal at least. And it certainly seems to be my calling.

Help me touch some lives, if you can. But if you can’t… then in the very least, enjoy the stories I will have to share from the dregs of society, because there is a lot of beauty to be seen down here, if you just know how to look for it.