I became homeless last week. Burned out, not evicted. And I’ll get back into my home some day. So I wouldn’t claim to know half of what the people we refer to as “homeless” experience. But I’ve learned some things.
- Being uprooted from one’s home is profoundly destabilizing. Suddenly, there’s no space of one’s own, no center to withdraw to, no comfort from the order one has made. We who advocate for more affordable housing often use the word “stability,” but I never understood what it means as I do now.
- Being without one’s possessions is also destabilizing. Even the simplest things one counted on aren’t there any more. The simplest matters have to be improvised. And we are deeply attached to some of our things. What those are for me has been a surprise.
- Creating a new living situation is very complex. So many things to remember. So many arrangements to make. We all know this because we’ve moved from one place to another–across the street or across the country. But having to cope with it all with no lead time or warning is uniquely challenging–and stressful.
- People rally round. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is how caring and compassionate even strangers can be. As I stood in the street watching the smoke pour out, passersby stopped to hug me and say they’d remember me in their prayers. Neighbors I’d never met invited me and my husband to make use of their homes, even to stay with them until we found another place.
We’ve been reading about the rising tide of homeless families–people who thought they were secure and doing fine. I know I’m better off than they–let alone than all those for whom homelessness is a long-term face of life.
But I don’t read their stories the way I did when I was sitting in my living room. I’ve got a better gut-level understanding of their pain and greater admiration for the strength they tap to keep on keepin’ on.