Letters and Diary Non-Fiction posted February 25, 2016

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Biographical Study

How to Become Homeless

by michaelcahill

Becoming homeless didn’t traumatize me.  It happened all of a sudden and in a way I could not foretell. It did surprise me though, I must admit. Here is my story:
I rented a home and took in a women and her three children. They were homeless and I had a home. I’ll save my bows for judgment day just in case. I had no romantic interest in her and I’m not the kind of man who would levy any kind of tax in such a situation. She was a friend and I did what a friend would do by my definition.

Her kids were cool and thought I had a fairly high amount of coolness myself. They were correct, I am, if anything, high in coolness, not corpse on a morgue slab cool, but snap your fingers to the beat and sip some brandy chill, if you will. I’m prone to a wandering thought process as well. Many find it endearing, others find it endearing as well.
My friend’s sister had an idiot jealous boyfriend who called Child Protective Services on his girlfriend. Why, I never did find out. Well, the sister didn’t live with us and the matter had nothing to do with us. However, there were children there and they were in the Protection of Children business, so they set about to rendering their services much to everyone’s chagrin.
It was determined that my friend had two choices, she could relinquish her kids to CPS or have the two convicted felons on the property vacate immediately never to return. One of the convicted felons was her father, there for a visit. The other convicted felon was yours truly, author extraordinaire, and erstwhile landlord and all-around man of kindness, me.
The choice for me was to kick my friend and her three children out onto the street at four in the morning OR to vacate my own home at four in the morning making myself homeless.
My felony is another story and my felony is no longer a felony. It also had to do with taking in people off the streets. In that case it was meth amphetamine users. In case you’re wondering, no, I’ve never touched the stuff, I’m not a fan. I can tell you in case you’re considering such a move, it isn’t a good idea to take in meth addicts. See how wise I’ve become? A rare insight into how wisdom is acquired.

In any case, I was now homeless. I had some cash. I rented a motel and settled in for some cable T.V. and some Vodka and Apple Pucker, a kind of sour apple liquor. I rather enjoyed being alone to be honest.
We have a lot of services for homeless people where I live. You have to have some cognizance and mobility to take advantage of them however. I had both, so finding the shelter and the various services available proved to be an easy task for me. I had a bed and a locker in no time and knew where to hang out with my new associates who were very accommodating folk. There was nothing to do but drink, write and hang out with characters. Cool, just my kind of activity.
I had several people wanting to take me in. I simply didn’t want to live with any of them. Most of them were women and there were unspoken relationship strings dangling about. The shelter actually appealed to me. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I had no responsibilities. I had no one I had to take care of and no one needed me for anything.

I’m almost ashamed to say it, but I enjoyed it. I had taken care of my dying mother a few months earlier. It’s quite a burden taking care of anyone dying, but a parent is the worst. To have to catheterize your mother is not a duty a son should ever have to endure. Yes, a cot in a homeless shelter looked good to me. Sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee watching the sun go down was as peaceful as I had felt in decades.
I settled in and it wasn’t long before I started to see the need some of my fellows had for simple assistance in finding services available to them. This was especially true of Veterans. I felt rather ignorant to find Veterans in the shelter with me. I had been so out of touch I had no idea Veterans were homeless and treated like this.
It turns out having benefits and acquiring them are two very different things. An older Veteran named Chuck walked up to me with a stack of papers and asked for my help. I developed a reputation as helpful pretty quick I guess. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. It must have been fifty pages of nonsense to fill out all just to get a pair of glasses and an appointment for an eye exam.
HELLO! This man can’t read these damn papers, he NEEDS GLASSES! Well, I filled out the papers for him and took him to the Veteran’s Administration Offices the next day. We spent all day there, but finally got in to see someone. He told Chuck to come back in a week and he’d have an appointment time and location for him. I just took the information and told him we’d return. It was clear we weren’t going to do any better.
A week later we returned and true to his word the gentleman handed us an appointment slip. The appointment was for the next day and was about eighty miles away. I asked him why the hell the appointment was eighty miles away, and how would he get there etc. I spoke in a calm soothing almost sensual voice, of course. Bottom line, it is where it is, get there or go without.
There’s no question he couldn’t get there without my help. I did manage to get him there and he got glasses. That’s one veteran, one pair of glasses. He would’ve spent the rest of his life essentially blind if not for a little help. I’m sure you can do the math.
There was a story attached to everyone I met at the shelter and on the streets. Yes, there were many who chose to be there. Many who could’ve cleaned up and found work and were qualified to do so just like I was. But there were many, many more who couldn’t just pick up and dust themselves off and get back to the business of living.

There were addicts who couldn’t overcome their addiction. If you think help is readily available, you are wrong. It is not. There is help, but it’s a dog fight to get it and it isn’t readily available. There are waiting lists. An addict who agrees to help is agreeing right then and right now, not next week. Next week is too late. That’s the problem I encountered with so, so many people on the street.

Life on the streets is not all that different than life with a home. There's even romance. It seems almost ludicrous, but there are humans and romance blossoms even among the weeds. I had a homeless girlfriend. I never thought I would even consider such a thing. Michele was attractive and every male in the shelter did hand stands and whatever else they could do to entice Michele into their waiting arms.

Of course, I just laughed at them. I'm a writer after all. I went into the shelter and sat on my bunk and wrote her a poem. I walked back out and handed it to her. In one of the most arrogant moments of my life, I announced to the gathered throng of gentleman, "You never had a chance." Michele jumped up and hugged me. The power of the pen. I'm sure you're all alienated by now. In any case, yes, there's romance even among the destitute.
There’s enough mentally ill people on the street to fill a dozen hospitals. But there aren’t any hospitals. The hospitals where I’m from admit them, throw a couple pills down their throat and release them. I know of one man who was released and walked down the street about a mile. He stood on the train tracks and embraced a train as his final act on Earth. Yep, he was okay to be released. It’s the common policy at the hospitals here. I have the feeling it’s a nationwide thing. I’m in the United States by the way, I understand it’s a bit better elsewhere, I hope so.
I can’t write about myself without contemplating what I encounter. What I encounter is a part of what I am, how I feel and what constitutes my views.
As time passed I became more and more involved in the lives of my fellows. It became clear to most that I was not disabled, drug addicted or mentally ill. That made me someone who could be relied upon for advice and help. There is a flaw to that logic, but it turns out they were correct. I’m helpful by nature. Whether it’s a healthy thing on my part is debatable.

Not all magnanimous acts are pure in nature. Not all charity is wholly charitable or charities wouldn’t have names, hospital wings wouldn’t have plaques, organizations wouldn’t bestow awards on the philanthropic for they wouldn’t know who the philanthropic were … IF they were true philanthropists.
In any case, I’m essentially a good guy, willing to help and I do help. If there are some flaws involved compelling me in that regard they don’t abrogate the results. So, I helped several vets get their hands on benefits they were entitled to. I got some addicts into rehab. I got some people jobs. Truly, I only pointed in the right direction and they took the steps. I’m a decent traffic director I suppose.
Eventually, it came down to myself. After six months I realized I couldn’t spend the rest of my life living in a homeless shelter. My belongings were still in the house I had rented for the lady and her three kids, they were there too. So, I was out nothing but the time I’d spent there. In my view I’d had a perfectly lovely and relaxing vacation. I honestly dreaded rejoining the real world. The real world seems to require a lot of me and I seem to let it.
Within a couple days I found a job taking care of mentally and physically ill individuals at a board and care facility. It was a live in position. I had a job and a place to live. It wasn’t long before I was in charge of the place. A short time later, I owned it. Now, I have all of these people who are dependent on me. It seems like the norm for me. Such is life, mine at least.
One thing I’ll never have again is the notion in my head that I could never become homeless. 


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