A good night in @sonyakeith’s house is filled with soft snoring (or loud snoring if I have a cold), intermittent turning on of the heater, a cat meowing and prowling the hallways and the multicolored glow of stars beaming from the kids’ room.
A good night on Skid Row is one where no one kicks you, you don’t hear a fight, or the sounds of sex, the stink of weed and human toileting, or intermittent sirens as the police protect everyone and everywhere but you and where you are. A good night is cold but not freezing or wet. A good night lets you sleep for an hour or so at a time without interruption from people of pest.
Some people develop “Street Families”; a unit of people that protect each other and work as a small community. Someone protects the belongings, someone hustles for money, someone is the local hook up for food, drugs, or whatever is needed/wanted. In the protection of a Street Family you can find sleep and identity and community. But in a street family your time is taken up in the unit and there is very little time or energy left to break out of poverty and find housing .
There are a lot of people wandering on Skid Row. There are the homeless, the low income folks who live in the neighborhood, the merchants who operate the stores there, an occasional cop or police man, and all the saviors. Cars and vans pull up to offer food and clothing and blankets. Homeless Outreach workers approach the residents of skid row and chat over sandwiches or sit in their boxes and tents to discuss money management, shelter, and options to change the level of homelessness someone is experiencing.
Unfortunately no one is stopping on Skid Row with trash cans, washing machine services, and most importantly housing for everyone there. No one is walking up and down the streets and offering serious medical care to the disenfranchised and homeless individual.
This is why Homelessness kills.
Lack of sleep, good nutrition, warmth, health care and safety all build up. Even after someone has housing and establishes a new mental identity as a housed individual who knows how to keep house, shop, visit a doctor and have meaningful interactions in the community as am employee or volunteer … having been homeless can kill you. Nothing makes up for months and years of neglect.
I told someone today that I hope she is miserable as a homeless mother and that she never becomes good at it, because being homeless is a skill set that you develop after a long period of time on the streets. I don’t want anyone on the streets and I am tired of attending funerals and memorials for wonderful people I have known who had no fixed place to sleep at night and call home.
Today is Homeless Memorial Day. How many homeless people are alive today that will pass from us in the next year – not from cancer or accident, but from homelessness?