After years of living on the street, I had to give myself a second chance

After years of living on the street, I had to give myself a second chance

When you’ve been living on the street for seventeen years, you need some help to overcome the cycle of homelessness. Here’s a story, from the upcoming play “The Homeless Monologues”, of someone who got that help and took advantage of it to turn his life around. 

My life is pretty good now. If I was telling you this story three years ago, I wouldn’t be able to say that. It’s all because of a chance meeting in a park. That’s where the turnaround began. That’s where I gave myself a second chance.

The corner of Lincoln, Fullerton and Halsted is where it began. There’s a little park there. It’s small but comfortable. A lot of homeless people hang out there. We talk, smoke cigarettes and drink. That’s one of the places where we pass the time. There’s a lot of time to fill when you’re living on the street. A lot of time to fill when you’re homeless.

One day, I’m sitting on a bench, minding my own business. A woman walks up and starts talking to me. “Are you homeless?” Those were the words that started the change in my life. She’s a case manager at a homeless shelter. She said those words on a Tuesday. By Friday, I had a bed in the shelter. It was the first time I had any kind of home in seventeen years.

Yes, I had been living on the street for seventeen years….if you want to call that living. I spent my time doing two things. It was either in a liquor store or in a jail. Quite a cycle. Back and forth, over and over and over.

Living on the street takes a toll on your body. The last winter was rough. I got frostbite on my feet. My toes were amputated.

Living at a shelter after being on the street isn’t easy. I’m not big at following rules. Imagine having to be inside for the night at 7:30…every night! Imagine being told to go to sleep at 10pm…every night! Imagine waking up at 6:30am…every day! Especially when you’ve been on your own for so many years. I never answered to anyone but myself. That’s the way I lived. That’s the way I wanted to live. But, if you want your life to change, you have to make changes in your life. You have to make adjustments.

I spent a couple of years at the shelter. It took that long to get my life in order. I set some goals. I went to detox. That was tough after a lifetime of drinking. I reunited with my sister after twenty-seven years. All these things are hard. At least, they were for me. They’re supposed to be hard. Changing your life is hard work….but it’s worth it.

I’m living with an old friend now. We’re way up north. I want to get back into the city but I can’t complain.

Life is great. And it all started because of a random meeting in a random park. A stranger took the time to ask about me….to care about me. It came at the perfect time. I had to change my life or die. I wasn’t ready to go just yet. I had more life I wanted to live. I had a better life I wanted to live. I had to give myself a second chance.

This is another piece in the ongoing series Faces of Homelessness

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    Every five years or so I decide to update this section. I can't believe I've been doing this for close to ten years. The last time I did this I was close to sixty years old. Now I'm just a few months away from the big 7-ZERO. Scary AF!!! I'm pretty sure I won't be doing an update when I hit 80, but you never know. But until then, lets just be grateful.

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