I invite everyone to join the campaign – #RealityCheque – how many missed pay cheques until I am homeless, to share their number.
Here I will share a little more than my number – lived experience.
Last year at this time, I must confess I did not participate in No Fixed Address by sleeping in my car – the first time since it’s inception. Why, well at that time in my life, it was a little too close to the reality I actually found myself living.
After 17 years in a relationship, I found myself leaving – yes it was my choice – and yes I had a good job at the YW and very supportive family – but my reality was at that time, I did not have a place to live anymore – I had No Fixed Address.
I Had No Fixed Address
Moms are great, and mine took me in while I sorted out my next steps.…her dog’s reaction could be it’s own blog post, let’s just say I eventually wore him down to actually liking me during my stay – which took six long months.
During that time, I shared this information with very few people. Work was my only remaining “normal” and I didn’t want to change that – especially, since everything else had changed so drastically. There were days I clung to that small piece of normal. So I went to work every day, attended meetings, composed reports and minutes, going about my daily duties. After work I would return to my Mom’s small one bedroom apartment, sleeping on an air mattress in her living room each night. Waking up to the dog…..with that you still here look in his eyes – or was it me thinking that, projecting my feelings of self-judgement onto him. Pretty sure it was a little of both.
My apartment search, which took four months, in all honesty was depressing. I viewed apartments that when I left, I felt sorry for the people living in them – the places were derelict and shockingly expensive. Worse was the process of applying – I had no rental history, I had lived in a house! Even with a twenty year work history at the YW, I wasn’t considered a good candidate at a few places.
Trying to remain the same person on the “outside” took its toll emotionally and physically – when I was in fact a very different person on the “inside”.
Add to the apartment search the fact that I was living out of a suitcase during this time, I was really aware that my wardrobe consisted of only a few pieces – would people notice? Saving for first and last month’s rent took a bit of time too, so there were a few work lunches and social events I passed on – telling people I was busy. Trying to remain the same person on the “outside” took its toll emotionally and physically – when I was in fact a very different person on the “inside”. It was hard to believe that I would ever find a new “normal” – or a place to call home.
I understood firsthand when the women staying at our shelter would state in exasperation – “I just want my own place”. I could relate to their feelings of defeat, at yet another unsuccessful apartment viewing. Like them, my self-esteem began to suffer as I saw the beginning of yet another month start and still no apartment to call my own – no matter what the circumstances, you still feel there is something wrong with you while in a situation like this. As shallow as it may sound – I missed my favourite coffee mug, fuzzy slippers and a place to land at the end of the day – that was mine. Most ironic moment came when I was leaving work one night and a client told me to have a good night, and to her friend I heard her say “at least she has a home to go to”. Judged, yet again.
The judgement was my own – I learned being homeless is a LOT more than not having a place to live.
During this time, I also learned I am resourceful, my family loves and supports me, that I can leave a relationship and still remain friends, and that when I did share what I was going through with a few people at work I was offered unconditional support and absolutely no judgement. The judgement was my own – I learned being homeless is a LOT more than not having a place to live.
Today, I have a lovely apartment, my independence, stronger family ties, and a deeper appreciation of my fellow workers. Most importantly, I understand intimately the thought process and feelings of being homeless and a deeper understanding of the work we do here at the YWCA in supporting women and their families addressing their homelessness.
This August I will be participating in No Fixed Address – I hope to see you there. I may even bring my Mom’s dog along, I am pretty sure he misses me!