HOMELESSNESS and DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
PERSPECTIVE from a MOM
Once upon a time, my daughter, Megan Ellen, and I stayed in a shelter as we were officially homeless. I, as a protective parent at the time, was coping with life on life’s terms. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) was part of Megan’s life and mine. The shelter was decent. I was grateful for a place where Megan and I could sleep and be. The staff was compassionate. Yet, it was a hard living situation for us and for others. It was not “home”.
Megan and I were staying safe. I was protecting my daughter from the person who abused her – her father. Fortunately, Megan was in school and doing well in spite of her life circumstances.
October is the month set aside for domestic violence awareness. Domestic violence (DV) is a huge societal problem. (See: http://roadtofreedomandpeace.com/domestic-violence-spousal-sexual-abuse-partner-abuse-intimate-partner-violence-dating-violence/ or my other blog posts on the subject.)
Many mothers and children experience homelessness after leaving a domestic violence situation.
“There is more than one “official” definition of homelessness. Health centers funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) use the following:
A homeless individual is defined in section 330(h)(5)(A) as “an individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that provides temporary living accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing.” A homeless person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter, mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other unstable or non-permanent situation. [Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C., 254b)]
An individual may be considered to be homeless if that person is “doubled up,” a term that refers to a situation where individuals are unable to maintain their housing situation and are forced to stay with a series of friends and/or extended family members. In addition, previously homeless individuals who are to be released from a prison or a hospital may be considered homeless if they do not have a stable housing situation to which they can return. A recognition of the instability of an individual’s living arrangements is critical to the definition of homelessness. (HRSA/Bureau of Primary Health Care, Program Assistance Letter 99-12, Health Care for the Homeless Principles of Practice)”
– National Health Care for the Homeless Council
Once I wrote a few thoughts regarding homelessness. These were written during a segment of the actual time period of being without a home in 2007. Megan and I were in a shelter for a short time. There were many blessings during this period. I share these somewhat raw thoughts with you, my readers, to shed light on the emotional toll homelessness causes at the time. In 2007, I wrote:
You know you are homeless when (or you know the reality of your homelessness has sunk in when):
- You sit in a bus stall and you are not waiting for a bus
- You ride buses to do something.
- You ditch phone calls from a woman willing to give your daughter a ride to school because you cannot bear the shame at that moment.
- You cannot give your uncomplaining child the one thing she tearfully wants which is a clean bowl of cereal with milk to eat (not at a shelter).
- You cannot take your child to a dentist when she tells you her gums hurt.
- You look at houses and apartments and doubt you’ll ever live in one again.
- You look at houses and apartments and hope one day your child will live in one with or without you.
- You see other homeless folks and want to speak with them because you find a common bond.
- You see cars and count how many months it has been since you drove a car and wonder if you will ever own one again.
- You are grateful to have money for coffee.
- You are grateful you have a place to brush your teeth and shower.
- You evade questions regarding where you live and what you do.
- You do not answer phone calls because you are crying due to your situation.
- You are crying in coffee shops, bus stops, buses, streets, anywhere.
- You wish for a box of Kleenex Kleenexes.
- You take extra Kleenexes or toilet tissue from public bathrooms to wipe your eyes.
- You child worries about lice in her hair.
- You understand why homeless people live on the streets.
- You understand why homeless people self-medicate with alcohol and tobacco.
- You don’t care if the homeless person you give change to uses it for food or coffee or alcohol.
- You wear winter boots in the summer and it is not a fashion statement.
- You think of getting your hair cut short as possible in case you get lice.
- You crave a cup of tea at odd moments.
- You lie sick in bed and cannot get a cup of tea or a bowl of soup.
- You know you cannot get sick and need a doctor or dentist.
- You begin to not care about “normal” things.
- You wear your clothes the maximum times possible so you don’t have to wash clothes.
- You see all the material objects people own and stores sell.
- You see the old food restaurants and civilians give that has expired.
- You see people’s judgment in their eyes or the pity in their eyes or voices.
- You see and hear people’s fear of you as a homeless person.
- You see whatever little worth you cling to falling through your fingers.
- You feel worthless, a nobody, a bother, a burden, an unwanted reminder to others of the darker side.
- You see and feel your child’s shame.
Much personal healing has ensued since I wrote the above statements. I am grateful for the gratitude I began cultivating beginning in 2002. Gratitude lists (as my readers know) are quite important to me. (See: http://roadtofreedomandpeace.com/gratitude/ and http://roadtofreedomandpeace.com/gratitude-challenge/).
My gratitude today includes:
- Cup of hot tea when desired
- Loving connection with my daughter, Megan Ellen
- Deep compassion for homeless people
- Depth of understanding and compassion for victims and survivors of domestic violence and all types of abuse
- Those who keep my daughter and I in their thoughts and prayers
Many more reasons for gratitude reside in my heart and mind.