It is generally true that women who are homeless feel (and are) more vulnerable than most homeless men.
Women, for example cannot just pee anywhere as most men can. Men are less likely to have their possessions stolen as thieves seek what they perceive as weaker opponents.
As vulnerable as a homeless woman might be, a homeless woman who is disabled is even more vulnerable than one who is able-bodied.
Imagine, if you will, being a disabled homeless woman. What would you do? Most shelters are dirty, dangerous places. If you have social security, some shelters require you give them nearly all your check each month. This leaves you with perhaps $45 to survive the month, which makes keeping storage units or vehicles impossible.
Most shelters require you to leave in the morning at some early hour. You cannot return until the afternoon. For disabled people, it is often necessary to lie down frequently, especially if you suffer from chronic pain or chronic fatigue. So with no money, nowhere to go, and constant pain and fatigue, you will spend every day suffering even more than you would if you were homeless in your own vehicle.
For women who have a vehicle, staying in it seems like the far better and safer choice. It’s not an easy life by any means. It’s just better than the street or a shelter.
You might be surprised by the number of people who have never experienced homelessness or utter destitution, yet they say things to us like:
“You’re stronger than you think”
“The universe only gives us what we can handle”
And similar platitudes that ultimately dismiss the real horrors and unending hardships of our daily lives.
“Into every life, a little rain must fall”, right? How easy that is to embrace when your life is not akin to a 20-year, non-stop, torrential monsoon!
The fact is these expressions are designed to make people who are living a normal life, with normal problems feel better or more able to cope with those problems. They don’t apply to the extremes of homelessness.
I feel that the more you’ve lost, the more it impacts you to be homeless. The adjustment can be much harder.
For example, I was having a conversation with another homeless person about food. They said they find stuff to eat from dollar stores, fast food, soup kitchens, and so on. They told me they’d sort of always done this. Maybe not the soup kitchen part, but food pantries and dollar stores and fast food were normal for her life.
I said, “It’s a good thing for you that you have no special food sensitivities or allergies. I have a long list so I have very limited food option.” She said she did have very high blood pressure and admitted that most of what she eats is loaded with sodium, but didn’t seem very concerned about it.
Well, if you have certain food allergies or medical conditions, and ignore the dietary needs, you could find yourself much more ill than you can imagine. Without a kitchen, people like myself can forget about a hot meal. I’m no chef. I hate cooking and find no pleasure in the task at all. But it’s necessary to be able to prepare food that meets my special requirements. I’ve been told over the years that my cooking is very good, so I guess I am not a bad cook. I just do not enjoy the job.
If you live in a vehicle and have a cooler, you can keep some items on hand. But if space is limited and your cooler is tiny, you can’t just buy a huge bag of ice each day. You quickly see how even the most basic things in life become unimaginably complicated. And that’s just the issue of food!
What about finding bathrooms? Another thing everyday people take for granted. How about bathing?
The list goes on and that list of how to achieve even the most basic tasks is what leads to daily, chronic stress and high inflammation levels.
If you became homeless and moved into a sedan, forget it. If you moved into a van, consider yourself lucky. But a van gets very small, very fast when you are disabled and need a scooter that is stored in there with you and maybe a CPAP and a battery to run the CPAP and a cooler, and a kit for bathing in your van, etc. You get the idea.
Being homeless does present one huge opportunity, if you are able to grasp it. It’s a time to reevaluate and try to figure out what really matters in life and what truly does not.
Although I want to go back to my life, there are several parts of it that I don’t know if I could ever go back to. Or, if I did go back to, they would not be the same. I watch the social media accounts of people I knew in various circles and it’s hard to sympathize with some of the molehills they turn into mountains.
Many of those people weren’t true friends, I grant you. But they sure had no problem turning their backs on me, utterly unable to grasp the idea that somebody in their circle could become homeless (many of them still living in their parents’ house).
Many of them post photo after photo of collectible items and toys they collect and then stress over how they can make more room to display it all. Take it from me, much of this stuff is overproduced and will be worthless later on when they grow tired of whatever the current obsession is. I sell such stuff on ebay. It can take a year or more to sell these items and often for far less than you paid. As a homeless person, you can imagine what you could do with an extra $50 a month.
I’m not saying that you should never buy things to make your life more fun. However, you should remember that ANYONE can become homeless. I was raised by a middle class family and have a private school and college education. Yet the universe is cruel and due to becoming disabled, and not having lucrative skills or talent in any area, I ended up destitute, homeless and disabled.