I just renewed my lease on my affordable housing for the third year, which I dearly love.
My studio apartment is decorated with what I like to call early garage sale motif it with my taste. I have a bed, and I can shower whenever I want to. I no longer have to go to a park for a shower.
The cooking I do is wonderful, and when I’ve cooked all weekend, I can put the leftovers up in the freezer for a microwave meal. I have a dishwasher. Granted, it took me two days to figure out how to use it but, I’ve got one now.
Having heat and air conditioning is a blessing in itself. I’m now out of the elements that caused me a lot of illness in the past.
One of the best things about housing is the solid door I can walk through and lock behind me, giving me security and protection. I don’t have to answer it if someone knocks, and I don’t have to worry about anyone telling me I have to move.
After seven years and seven evictions, it was near impossible for me to find an apartment to rent, not to mention I had very little money. It was just something I accepted. I tried to get by as best as I could being homeless.
Shortly after moving into my new apartment, tornados came ripping through Nashville, and then the pandemic hit. Two days after Nashville put up the closed sign, I lost my balance in the kitchen and fell, breaking my hip. Thankfully everything was closed so my sons could help me out after the surgery to repair it.
Life has just been full of blessings. With my disability approved, which includes a check each month and health insurance, it seems nothing can go wrong. Right? Not so.
After two years in the community, I still face challenges, but they are very different from when I was homeless.
The housed community is very different than the homeless community. I’ve faced weekly verbal assaults from residents, mostly because they think my dog Faith is too big. One resident will scream the most vial things in the lobby, in front of my friends.
I noticed and have heard from several formerly homeless people that when you get into housing, it’s like they drop you off, and that’s it. You’re left to forge for yourself. You struggle at first to find out where local food pantries are and what buses go where.
In the homeless community, everyone helps each other, but I hear a lot of “I don’t know” in the housing community.
I had nightmares for the first month, but there was no one to talk to about it. I’d hear new noises, and they’d startle me. But I just got used to them after a while, as did Faith. Establishing a nightly ritual that prepared my body for sleep was the cure. Before, I would get ready for bed at night because I couldn’t afford the batteries to do things in the dark. It’s a huge difference when you have electricity all day, every day.
Management would leave monthly eviction warnings on all residents’ doors. For example, if your rent wasn’t paid by the fifth of the month, you’d be evicted.
The word evicted became like a trigger for a type of PTSD causing terror for me. I complied with everything, including paying the rent on time. But seeing the word “evicted” would overwhelm me, causing anxiety attacks over the next several days.
Balancing a budget where emergencies can and usually do come up is difficult. Going back to the community to ask for help is humiliating, but they always met me with love and kindness. I thought my days needing help were over now that I am in housing, but it’s not so. The struggles go on.
Being in housing is a great thing. And being in affordable housing is even better but, it doesn’t end there. Services such as food boxes, cash for medicines, ESA dog care, bus fare, and just someone to talk to who’s been through homelessness are critical to adjusting to housing.