One of the features that sets Invisible People apart from others is we encourage people who have previously experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness to share their personal stories. We seek out these talented writers who graciously allow us a glimpse into their life. Thanks to generous support from people like you, we are able to pay these writers for their talents. In turn, we can show the world that every individual’s tragic experience is unique to them.
You cannot use a broad brush to paint the tragedy that is homelessness. Our writers are a testament to this fact. Through their experiences, our readers are privy to a variety of individual circumstances that lead to homelessness. Our goal is use our writers’ stories to help change the narrative of homelessness.
Today, we are highlighting the top 10 Lived Experience posts from 2019. We hope you will share these stories with others.
I couldn’t work that day – selling the paper, standing, smiling and waving. The heat was pretty bad, the temperature outside was 93. It felt like it was in the 100s. I could stand for only 10 minutes before I felt like I’d pass out. Sweat rolling off my brow … it seemed like the only logical thing to do was to get an ambulance.
Arriving at the ER, the nurse comes in and starts asking me questions about my medical history, most of which is at this hospital. She takes my blood pressure and temperature, then says, “The doctor will be right in” and leaves. I hear walking outside the door. Maybe 40 minutes later, I hear a familiar woman’s voice say, “She’s homeless and a frequent flyer.” I hear a man’s voice say, “drug shopping.” Read more.
Extending a lifeline. This is what social media did for me — during and after homelessness. I know it also does the same for the hundreds of homeless people who frequent, share, and seek comfort within our online support group. We Are Visible, or WAV, for short, is a Facebook group put into action by Invisible People. Before I found Mark, or Invisible People, the online world and social media was still very much a lifeline for me. Read more.
I’m homeless. I also live with a progressive, drug-resistant epilepsy. Because of this, I’m allowed a permanent lifetime pass to ride the expensive UTA transit system here in Utah. This includes all trains and busses, which saves me the usual $5 ticket.
The main problem with the tickets is they expire after two hours. That means that going to work and back can cost commuters up to $10 a day, every day. Having this pass also protects me from the $300 citations that the Utah Transit Police love to hit people with if their tickets are invalid or expired, or if they are just cheating. Anyone who has used the UTA transit system in Utah knows the transit police are fairly ubiquitous. They are also well-armed and absolutely ruthless. Read more.
My husband stood at the curb, exchanging harsh words and glares with our former landlord. As they inched closer, this man blurted out a half truth. He said, “you’ll never rent in this city again.”
This was nearly three years ago. He could have been right. If things were slightly different, we’d still be living in a homeless shelter or overpaying to live in someone’s illegal basement, far from any commutable train station. Even that would have been rare.
I only know this because I got rejected by someone trying to rent their illegal basement every week for nearly five months. As much as I was willing to take the risk of living in a questionable basement, there was always someone else willing to take it, too. Someone who could prove they made more money or had a higher credit score. More importantly, someone who wasn’t homeless. Read more.
I had been homeless for some time, had I but known. Nobody tells you that homelessness is like cancer – that you might not detect it in those early stages, that by the time you can feel it in your bones, chances are … you’re already too late.
I fiddled with the shiny silverware on the table. Thinking. I had been clever up until this point. Or popular. Perhaps the word I seek is lucky. Scratch that. Destined is the phrase I’m fumbling for. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in destiny. If you read my story in its entirety, you will too.
So, there I was in the crowded diner trying to hide my head between the flaps of a laminated menu. I was too humiliated to look up, afraid I’d catch sight of a mirror and not be able to recognize my own reflection. The only thing worse than being unrecognizable to myself was the possibility of being recognized by someone else. The kids at school used to fight over me. Read more.
A few months ago, I lost my ID. I retraced my steps to the stores where I took it out when fishing for store cards and cash in my pouch. No luck — it wasn’t at any of them. That meant I had to undergo the rigmarole of replacing my ID.
Without an ID issued by a local, state or federal agency, unhoused people can’t access public benefits or other services. When a person loses their ID with no replacement, they virtually disappear from society. It’s as if they don’t exist. Read more.
Editor’s note: This is part one of a six-part series.
I didn’t really talk much as a child. Our house was always filled with a dark sense of oppression … old, messy arguments mixed in with the anticipation of new, even messier ones, which always ended badly. So, in order to avoid saying or doing the wrong thing and getting drawn into the chaos caused by my parents, I made like a mouse and tried to keep quiet.
Then my dad died suddenly and overnight the house we lived in became a coffin for all of us … filled with this suffocating blackness that enveloped my mum, swirled around my brother and me, and never quite went away. I didn’t talk much then either, mainly because there was no one to talk back to me. We were all locked separately inside our own little worlds. And so, it was easier to just stay quiet. Read more.
The day started out quiet but the sunshine quickly warmed me and my dog, Faith, up. My cell phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number but for some reason I answered it. “Hello.” All I remember was “this is so and so from Hadley Park.” Hadley Park is an Metropolitan and Development Housing Agency in Nashville – I had filled out an application seven months ago for affordable housing.
I couldn’t speak … I couldn’t breathe or even think. This is the call.
My heart started beating again and then my mouth engaged. I asked her to hold on a minute because I wanted to write everything down so I wouldn’t forget anything. After compiling the list of what I’d need for the initial interview that Monday, we hung up. I was just in shock. Read more.
It’s true we should not play the game of “what if” because it prevents us from moving forward. And perhaps this game that I often play is the source of my bitterness, resentment and inability to move on with my life. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think about what could have been, perhaps what should have been if I was never homeless.
If I never stepped foot in those shelters, if I didn’t drop out of college, if I had spent these past few years of my life differently, who would I be? Would that version of me be better, happier, more successful? What about the lives of my children whom haven’t yet been born? Did I rewrite my destiny? Have I been changed forever? Will I take these memories with me for the rest of my life? Read more.
I closed the door behind me making sure to lock it and turned around looking at our 2001 PT Cruiser. This car would be our home for a short time. Our dog Faith, and both kids, Jason and Paul, were looking back at me with wonder and fear in their eyes. That’s when the tears started.
For 18 years, they looked to me for answers and this time I had none. I made my way to the car and opened the door to the driver’s seat. Together, we drove away from what was our home for over a year. But the eviction due to another lost job left us homeless once again. Read more.
And here’s a bonus Lived Experience post:
While living at the City of Refuge (COR), it took me three months just to get used to the routine. It wasn’t too bad. Up each morning at 4:45 am to take a shower and get ready before everyone else wakes. It’s funny because I use to get up at 5 am. But I’d still run into a few people. Sometimes I’d have to either choose a shower stall I didn’t like or wait on the one I’d grown accustomed to.
Yes, I admit it. I’m a creature of habit. There is a certain shower stall I choose to use each day. It seems cleaner with less mildew and mold. The actual shower head streams wider and harder and the water is a little hotter. At least I’ve convinced myself of this. Read more.