One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that being homeless is not about money. There is usually one major event, life circumstance, addiction, or loss, that’s holding someone back. Sometimes of course, like the man I met this morning, (a former car mechanic) it’s the cause of this economic situation and a job loss, but chronic homelessness and a lifestyle of living on the street is more about not having the tools to overcome adversity. There’s a fine line, between the life you are living, and that one.
Individuals who have lived on the street for a long time usually aren’t equipped with the things the rest of us have like supportive families, business networks, or other relationship networks to draw from.
Life on the street involves navigating the system, to get a meal. It means understanding that if you’re not at a shelter by the curfew you have no bed and you’ll be sleeping under a bridge. If you end up under the bridge, it means survival of the fittest in order to stay strong, sleep with one eye open, and keep your valuables nearby. Life on the street is about survival.
This morning in the parking lot with 300 of my friends, one of the guys walked up and handed me a rope. At the end of it was a cute puppy. “Her name is Goldie,” he said. “What do you want me to do with it?”
“I need to go to work Monday! I can’t do anything. She’s been sleeping under the bridge with me.” I shook my head and took Goldie to suburbia in the backseat of the Hummer. She already dug out of the yard, twice, and I had to literally pick her up and force her into the house. The house was something she probably had never seen, nor been in. Running wild, is her element. Negotiating humans and city streets and underpasses, is her comfort zone. She was not comfortable in the house. Right now she’s out back, playing in the yard with our house dog, a black lab name Nicky. They seem to have settled in together so far, despite their different worlds and upbringings – the best of friends.