Most of the pieces I've written on homelessness have been about success stories. People overcoming their circumstances and escaping homelessness. They've made a better life for themselves. Everyone doesn't get there. Here's a story from the upcoming play, "The Homeless Monologues", that is still in progress.
There are a lot of homeless stories of recovery, hope and redemption. They aren't all like that. Far from it. That's not my story. I want to get there. At this point, I'm not anywhere close.
I'm a California girl. Born and raised in San Diego. Sounds nicer than it really is. We all don't live at the beach. I'm not complaining. My childhood was fine. Normal. Lots of good moments. I was raised by a single mom. I never knew my dad. There was one time I had a chance to meet him. It didn't happen. I'm good with that. My mom was enough of a parent for me.
My mom worked as a civil servant. She had a good job with the government. We didn't have a ton of money, but we had enough. Every so often we hit a snag or had an emergency. Things would be tight for a bit, but we'd get by. Nothing unusual. Nothing different than most people. A lot of you can probably tell the same story.
I left school and got a job. Things went okay for quite some time. Just living life day to day. Then, I got pregnant. Yes, I have a daughter. I only knew her father for a very short time. Having a child with him wasn't part of my plan, but it happens. I was okay raising a child on my own. My mom did it. I could do it, too.
My daughter's father had the same idea. He wanted to raise her on his own. Custody fight.
He had the money. He had the connections. It took all my time, energy and money to fight him. Court dates, delays, more court dates. He and his lawyers knew how to work the system better than me. After a few years, he won. He wore me down and wore me out. Not only did he win custody, he won the right to take her away....back to his home. My baby was going to be thousands of miles away.
I was tired. I was depressed. I couldn't work. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to be with my child. I had to be with her. I didn't know how to do it.
I was living in a small place in San Diego. I barely had enough money to pay my rent. Some months I didn't. It seemed like I was always making excuses to my landlord. Sometimes I just hid from him. At the same time, I was trying to figure out a way to get to Illinois. I needed to see and be with my baby.
I finally had a little money. I had to make a choice. I could pay my rent, keep my home and continue to live my somewhat less than stable life or I could buy a plane ticket and try to find my child.
I came to Illinois and it hasn't gone well. I lost my purse or it was stolen. It had whatever money I had left and all my papers...my id's. I had nowhere to go. I lived on the street for a while. I finally met a woman in a park. We talked for a long time. I told her my story. She said her and her boyfriend had an extra room and I could stay with them. I thought, this might be the break I need.
Her boyfriend raped me! Then she told me I couldn't stay there anymore. Back on the street again. I'm in worse shape than ever. Very little hope. I wish I could have called my mom. She would have helped. She would have taken me in. My mom died two years ago.
One day I ended up at a church. I needed whatever help they could offer. Anything at all would be great. Through them I ended up at a homeless shelter. There are so many stories about how the shelter has helped people turn their lives around. I'm hoping that will be the case for me...desperately hoping.
I've been there since November. I'm not sure I'm going to be one of their success stories. I can't picture it yet. At least, I'm being fed and have a place to sleep. I'm warm, clean and safe. There's a lot to be said for that.
I don't know how this is going to end...but that's no different than any of us, right? The last few years have taken their toll. I'm beat up, bruised and broken...especially emotionally. I need a lot of help to get past all of this. We're working on that, but there's a long way to go.
Oh yeah...my daughter. The reason I came here. She's six years old now. I still haven't seen her. I don't know what's going to happen with that....not a clue. All I can tell you is that little girl is always in my heart. If you can, please keep me and her in yours.
Related Post: This piece is part of the ongoing series Faces of Homelessness
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