‘For Many Homeless People, Suicide Is a Tempting Way Out.’ ~ Loki
Editor’s note: Invisible People published this lived experience piece to exhibit the desperation people who are experiencing homelessness feel. We must do everything we can to help lift this growing population out of homelessness. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit Crisis Text Line at https://crisistextline.org.
Depending on what statistics you read, the leading causes of death for homeless people change order. Most agree that cardiovascular disease is the number one leading cause. That’s easy to understand. Stress causes high levels of hormones to pump through your body constantly. Known as stress hormones, they increase levels of inflammation, which can lead to heart disease. Given the amount of stress I am under daily, it would be no surprise to anyone if I died tomorrow of a heart attack.
But what is the second leading cause? Well, that’s where it gets confusing. Some say the second leading cause is suicide. Others say unknown, covering everything from a nasty bout of pneumonia to dying of an undiagnosed illness. Others say drug overdose is the second leading cause.
The fact is, I don’t think we will ever really know. Most homeless people just die and end up who knows where. Not many get an autopsy to prove the cause of death.
Nobody cares what kills us. I bet plenty of people are just glad we died because we disgust them.
Back in 2020, I wrote about suicide being the second leading cause of death, based upon statistics I’d read at the time. I don’t think it would be possible to write too much about the subject. Either way, it’s a subject I am very knowledgeable about.
First, when people say things like, “They want to live that way,” they are implying homeless people are all lazy and don’t want to pay bills – therefore, we choose our housing status. They can’t imagine that those “happy” hobos are contemplating suicide. However, even those who have never suffered from chronic clinical depression often ruminate on suicide as a viable exit from this miserable life.
I don’t know who in their right mind would willfully choose this life if they had a choice. I know I wouldn’t. Society does not accommodate people who are different.
Being chronically ill, disabled, and autistic makes life a so much harder. Add homelessness to the mix, and life is utterly not worth living because there is no hope things will get better.
I am stuck in an infinite loop that people in poverty often find themselves in, especially if they are disabled. If you can’t get an appropriate housing situation, then you have no chance of getting on your feet. And, if you live as I do, the stress will erode your health day by day. You are like a block of wood, chiseled at until nothing is left but a pile of splinters and shavings.
If I had a dollar for every time somebody asked me a “why don’t you just” type question, I might be rich by now.
People cannot empathize or comprehend what it is like to be in my shoes unless, of course, they are someone experiencing the same circumstances. The housing crisis, driven by factors like gentrification and greed, has made it more complicated to find anything affordable. I don’t just mean purchasing a home, either.
When an area suffers from gentrification, rents skyrocket, including rooms for rent. With so many people unable to afford a place to live, even working people, Section 8 becomes an exhausted resource. In my area, for example, the Section 8 list is closed. There is a waiting list to get on the Section 8 waiting list!
Additionally, government housing, which is already limited, becomes even more so. Waiting lists to get into government housing are years long. In some areas, it can be 5 to 7 years long!
Most room for rent situations in this area are higher than $700 a month – just for a room in somebody else’s house or apartment! If you found a bargain for half the average rent of $800 by some miracle, you would still need $400 per month, which is more than half of what I receive per month. That leaves me very little to live on, which is why I ended up in a vehicle.
Yet, no matter how often I have tried to explain it, people simply don’t understand.
I’ve tried to explain what it is like living in poverty with sensory overload, autism, and chronic illness. But people do not understand. I have repeatedly been dismissed without compassion or empathy.
I was adopted and brought up in a squarely middle-class home, not in poverty. From nursery school at age 3 through college, I attended private schools. I have a decent education. However, it wasn’t the education that I wanted. I wasn’t allowed to pursue my dreams.
My female adoptive parent abused me for my entire youth. When I was 18 years old, I had to escape. I left home, but I was not ready for the world I entered.
People took advantage of me as I was innocent. On numerous occasions, I was raped and molested. I was in relationships with mentally and emotionally abusive, cruel people. Chronically ill since age 17, by the time I was 28, I could not work a full-time job.
Believe me. I did not sign up for this horrible life, surrounded by cruel beings with no compassion. I am judged constantly, yet no one takes the time to know me. Simply put, I do not belong here.
Homeless people should be treated with compassion, but I don’t see that ever happening. Of course, it doesn’t help when homeless people misbehave due to mental illness or drugs and alcohol. It’s like air travel – it is a safe way to travel, but one plane crash gets all the attention. People focus on that disaster rather than the fact that most planes come and go just fine and without incident.
You don’t hear a lot about homeless people like me who do not use drugs or alcohol and who do not commit crimes and do bad things. Instead, you hear about the bad examples. They become the image the general public chooses to focus on, just like the plane crash.
Disabled women like me do not deserve the hatred we receive from the public.
I have spent my life caring for others. I even gave up the opportunity of a lifetime for a person I took care of for eight years who had Down’s Syndrome. That choice is arguable the turning point that put me on the path to end up destitute and homeless, but my compassion for him superseded the need to fulfill my dream.
Perhaps that is why I don’t belong here. I never put myself first. It seems in modern times, that makes you very different indeed. There’s no place for me on your planet, no place for me in this universe. The cost of absolutely everything will only rise, and I will never heal, I will never get back on my feet.
Do you really have to wonder why so many homeless people see suicide as the only viable option?