I’m homeless. Now before you start feeling sorry for me, know that I view everything as an opportunity from God. How I got here is a tiny bit important–house foreclosure plus bad credit which keeps me from renting—but if I were to abandon California and move to one of the red states where my relatives live, I’d be set. The reason I haven’t moved: I want to stay close to my church.
But this essay isn’t about that. It’s about seeing what the homeless go through.
For a bit, I lived in a relatively cheap hotel near my church: no TV, no coffee maker, nor any of the usual accoutrements, other than the twice-weekly cleaning. Not too bad. Then I stayed on the couches of a couple of friends. But when that became unworkable, I swallowed my pride and availed myself of the emergency shelter on LA’s skid row for three nights.
Now, before I say what that was like, let me tell you something uncomplimentary about me. Before now, I had never been homeless and I used to look down on them. There were plenty in my old South Central Los Angeles neighborhood and I felt that they were a part of why the “business” section in that area was such a wasteland. I would drive by some homeless camp and feel angry at them and a bit superior. I, the Black American Princess, was better than them.
Then, a few years ago, well before I found myself in my present state and even before my car was repossessed, something began to happen in me. When I would see a homeless person and have my usual feelings, those feelings would be accompanied by a horrible knot in the pit of my gut. Since I regularly read the Bible and pray, I didn’t have to ponder too long as to what that was about: I was no better than any of them in the sight of God.
So after that, whenever I would see a homeless person, I would pray for them and ask God to draw that person to Him. No more knots!
In hindsight, I think God was preparing me spiritually for the place I’m in now.
Skid Row is a tiny vision of Hell—encampments, drug entrepreneurs, gang-bangers, and the mentally ill all along the two sidewalks in one city block–and the emergency shelter is one step above that.
One lines up with one’s belongings to be taken in. Five o’clock PM is the deadline and you may not leave until 5 AM the next morning. Then you must leave. You room with one or more persons you don’t know and the rooms have no locks. Neither does the shower room. (Thank God that the ladies bathroom does.) You are fed: dinner not long after your entrance and a sack-breakfast on your way out the door.
During those three nights, I rediscovered something important: your attitude will get you through almost anything. Additionally, I felt no fear, even under this most seemingly insecure of circumstances.
Because I’m a veteran, there is much better, more private, and much more secure temporary housing available to me, and that’s where I am now. (More about that in another essay.)
God continues to watch over me, and lead me in the way He wants me to go, both physically and spiritually…as long as I keep listening, keep walking…and keep dreaming.