Lessons from the Sparrow: The Journey Back From Homelessness


Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series. To read part one, click here. Names have been changed to protect the author.

I spent hours at the library sending emails and waiting for replies only using my phone if I absolutely had to.

Finally in July of that year, my daughter and I landed in a two-bedroom apartment with the help of a charitable organization. It was with unbelievable joy and gratitude my youngest son, who has special needs, was able to join us. I had sent him to live in safety five years prior. My children were given the bedrooms, and I was more than happy to sleep on a donated couch.

Everything we had was donated to us by a dear friend I had only known previously online, and through charity. Other than a few precious items, I have nothing pre-2016 when we left. All we took was my car, a Tracfone, and the clothes on our backs.

The first spring in our apartment, a family of birds chose the light fixture on my patio to build a nest. How fun it was to watch these two birds raise not one but two sets of hatchlings from alien-looking creatures to freshly-feathered, beautiful birds ~ free to fly, and fully prepared with all-they-need-for-life birds. They made use of my patio that first summer. After the first eggs were secure in their home, I received a letter from management telling us to remove any nests. I couldn’t do it.

The next spring no birds returned to build a nest, but the third summer they were back.

During that time, I lost my car as my jailer sued me for it. Unable to afford an attorney, I had no choice but to relinquish it to his greedy hands. Like everything else I had ever known, now Leon had taken everything except the things that really mattered – my children.

Gone were my precious family photos preserved before digital technology on film. VHS tapes of my boys, mom and stepdad – the only memories outside of my head of birthdays, holidays – Gone.

Home furnishings, my mother’s personal belongings I had lovingly gathered after she passed away, my grandmother’s chest filled with hundreds of years of genealogy captured in her loving hand, and yellowing black and white photographs were all gone. My children’s little treasures brought home with proud little hands stored by the mom who loves them, my mom and stepdad’s urn were also gone. All I have left are memories tinged with such sadness, guilt (why did I marry him) and loss.

I had told myself if I never saw those things again, my daughter and our peace, freedom and safety were worth it.

The third spring what looked to be the very same birds were back.

Knowing that the apartment association frowned on nests, we tried disrupting their nest. We took the first twigs out of the light fixture, but back they came. Day after day, they appeared at our patio with twigs and string. And day after day, we guiltily took it down. We felt so bad for these tiny gatherers. We read what we could about deterring birds, and tried foil. That seemed to help, but one morning I woke up to find these birds had worked tirelessly all through the night. They won the bid for space due in part to their tenacity, but also to my soft heart.

Secure housing is hard to find.

How could I destroy their sweet little home? So once again, I dodged the bird poop and tried to respect their privacy, not wanting them to fear me. They raised their young and left. It was only after I was certain they were done that I took down the nest.

It’s autumn but feels like winter today in Illinois.

I’ve been very introspective lately. Thanks to Twitter, I’ve found many people like myself in various levels of homelessness and recently housed. We are all facing challenges. None of us are fully back from our ordeals.

We struggle and worry, and on any given day we go from the depths of despair to being full of grit and determination! It’s a hard road. Each day, many of us must hope for a miracle, only to solemnly realize that our best case scenario isn’t going to happen. Sometimes, in fact, we face the worst.

I joke sometimes that I have bad luck if I have any luck at all. Still, I’ve vowed never to give up. I will keep pushing to make our lives the best they can be – to teach my children perseverance and grace.

Instead of telling my daughter in hushed whispers “one day we will be safe and free from this room, free to live a normal life”, I now tell her “We’ve come so far and have so much.”

But the truth I try to hide is that I’m struggling. I’ve come far, but the journey back from homelessness requires strength. Being housed, I’ve learned, is only the first part of the long journey back. I’ve gone from working two jobs with low wages to building a cleaning business. It’s not glamorous, but I have lovely clients who believe in me. Writing is a passion of mine as well as inspiring people. So, I’m often working on inspirational messages in my head. I don’t have a working computer yet, and my eyes aren’t the best, so any writing I do is usually on my phone. Still, I’m determined.

This month one of my acquaintances went from living in an RV, with little to no income, to an apartment.

She’s also finally been granted her long-awaited disability. I’m so happy that after years, she’s home.

Yet another announced she lost her desperate fight to save a storage unit filled with belongings she purchased working part-time after already losing everything. This is her second devastating loss. My heart hurts for her as I know that feeling of complete defeat all too well. It’s a double blow for her and her young special needs son. Not only has she been online pleading for help with a GoFundMe page, but she advocates for others tirelessly. She tries to connect people with information and resources. She also works on vetting and promoting other GoFundMe accounts.

The sad truth is we all know that no one owes us anything. But we see “feel good” miraculous stories all the time, and in our hearts we hope it can happen to one if not all of us.

For many it isn’t that they are too lazy to help themselves, although certainly there are some. It’s that they’ve come to a brick wall, a road with no outlet. They literally run out of resources and ways to correct a situation, and the end result is tragic. I’ve seen people post with proof of upcoming calamity for days up to the final hours. Then, they’re gone.

From personal experience, I know some exhaust all hope, and the nightmare they’ve imagined becomes a cruel reality.

For certain I’ve been there, done that.

I’ve had my phone shut off, my internet cut. I’ve been a breath away from having my electric shut down. I have a feeling God is trying to teach me. No matter what, I can trust He will come through. I’ve been down to a negative balance with little recognizable food, but we’ve not been hungry. Like a modern day Job, I ask God what I’ve done to offend.

Still I never give up … not on my faith, or my quest to make it out of poverty and into a normal life. A life where a blown tire doesn’t devastate. Where my growing daughter in need of a new winter coat doesn’t cause my stomach to churn. A life where I don’t have to choose to pay a bill or buy food, garbage bags, or toilet paper. Things most people I know can’t understand no matter how hard they try.

As I think about everything this morning, my mind comes back to those little birds. The birds were determined to build their nest in my light fixture. No matter how many times I took down the beginnings of their little home, they came back and built another. Finally, I swear they figured we humans sleep at night and if they work really hard they can stake their claim, build their nest, end of story.

When I left Leon, all I had was faith.

Right now there are days it’s all I have. This has been a really rough three years, and by all appearances it may be rough a little longer. I trust whatever happens, my Lord and Savior has me in the palm of His hand. And I’m here to do whatever He would have me do. I know a sparrow can fall to the ground, and the Lord knows it … and I’m worth far more to him.

I know if I try something one day and it fails, if I persist, maybe I should come at it like the sparrow, and eventually I’ll succeed.

One of my favorite scripture verses is Matthew 10:36 “Fear ye not therefore: Ye are of more value than many sparrows”. Time after time, the Bible tells us how much more we mean to God. That he knows each hair on our head, and truly cares about our day-to-day concerns.

He makes it clear he has our backs. If we belong to Him, He tells us that like the lilies of the field or birds of the air, we shouldn’t worry about our daily cares. It’s hard of course, but still I lay it at his feet. Some days it’s so desperate I end up crying huge tears with incoherent words. I’ll never give up my faith! Some days it seems it all I have.

It wasn’t until I finished writing this that I realized something – he charitable organization that saved me, and continues to be a true blessing, is Home of the Sparrow.

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T.T. Leigh


T.T. Leigh is a freelance writer who’s passionate about her Faith, Social Justice, Plight of Homeless and Poverty Stricken People. She has Five amazing children, lives in Illinois and is working on her first novel “Homeless to Hopeful: One Woman’s Journey Out of Homelessness”

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