I Chose to Accept Homelessness. Not Anymore.
Sometimes it happens fast. An accident. A natural disaster. A risk that didn’t pan out. Sometimes homelessness happens fast.
I grew up in a middle class home. I had no history of substance abuse. No chronic mental illness. A lack of resources, maybe. A lack of confidence, definitely. It was a blow to my ego. I was unemployed and I was homeless. But try as I might, I couldn’t figure out why.
I kept looking around, comparing myself to those I met who shared my situation of homelessness. “I don’t belong here,” I said. Surely I didn’t. I had a master’s degree. I had a loving family. There was no trauma to be blamed. I didn’t belong there.
But then I realized, neither did they. At the time, I was looking for a distinction between them and me. But what was that distinction? What was the reason that any of us huddled in Friendship Place’s crowded AimHire office on Wisconsin Avenue hoping to learn something that had obviously been eluding us? Why was it that we had no place to call home? As if there was a good reason for some to be homeless. As if there is a good reason for homelessness at all. It’s been a while now, and I still haven’t found it.
While there are many reasons a person may become homeless, there is no acceptable reason for anyone to be homeless. That is to say, there is no reason for men, women, and, yes, children to sleep in cars, under bridges and on streets for days or weeks or years. There is no reason, except that we allow it to be so. Homelessness is a choice that our society makes. Homelessness is the choice of a culture that allows it.
I was born in the District. I saw people living on the streets here. I was mildly disquieted. But every day I walked by and said nothing. I did nothing. I allowed myself to believe that homelessness was acceptable for some people. I chose homelessness over the effort required to do something about it. But that was before I became homeless myself.
That day in the little room at Friendship Place changed my life. Now I am on staff, and I have a venue and a drive to help people who are like me, people who have experienced homelessness. I don’t know the best way to keep people off the streets, but I do want to do what I can to give everyone who is out there the opportunity to have a home.
In the past, I was part of the culture that chooses to allow homelessness in our midst. But not anymore.
La Casa Permanent Supportive Housing
#ichoosehomes #ichoosehomesdc #friendshipplace.