Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

You Never Leave the Places You've Been

I'm haunted by the memories of places I've been, choices I've made, sufferings and pleasures. I'm still thirteen years old, joining a cult that promised love and acceptance, emotional treasures I, an awkward, bookish boy, had never elsewhere found. I'm still seven, watching a spider wrap a fly as my parents shouted out the end of their marriage. I'm still seventeen, wandering through the Perris night in my first doomed bid for freedom.

I still live in my car, years after founding a family and renting more permanent digs. All the police, and criminals, and false friends linger. It's still my wedding day, the days of the births of my children, the day we got the autism diagnosis. It's the day my wife left me, and the day I left my wife. It's today, my kids and wife in the ocean, me on the shore, scribbling this essay in the front leaves of a book. It's all those times, together with thousands more. Time doesn't exist in chronological order.

When you make truly significant life choices, remember this. Before you join the military, or commit a crime, use drugs, or get married, or choose to try homelessness, remember this. Some of these choices are a crossroad, and the direction you choose will change you forever, for good or bad. If you choose to be homeless, you will never be as committed to your social place as you once were. You will know you can leave. The traumas and terrors, and time and freedom, will be in your dreams and on your mind in the middle of work days, on social occasions, and in quiet moments. You'll know things others don't.

Treat your mind as a museum you must curate. Choose carefully the exhibits. Once they enter the collection, they aren't going anywhere.

29 Comments:

At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Mom said...

This is so true, MH! painfully and happily true. I'm right there with you in some of those moments, and I have many others of my own, some I would like to lose... And many I will gladly keep. You are a wise man, my boy!

 
At 12:14 AM, Blogger Adrian said...

This was great. Thank you.

 
At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read that about 30 years too late. You are wise. I will try to keep that with me...because I have a long way to go.

Thank you.

 
At 6:59 PM, Blogger Wayi-Nuto said...

Awesome write. I treat my mind as a video camera but I never looked at it as a museum that's another great way to look at it. :)

 
At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As hard as it is to even vaguely sum up the pain in ones life, you've run my mind over every scar. Fuck you and thanks for the inspiration... Ill just continue to raise myself now

 
At 6:57 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I guess that is a witness that care should be taken in building your experiences.

 
At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you choose to be homeless, you will never be as committed to your social place as you once were. You will know you can leave. The traumas and terrors, and time and freedom, will be in your dreams and on your mind in the middle of work days, on social occasions, and in quiet moments. You'll know things others don't.

ha man, this almost made me cry - you have no idea. my time spent living in my car sometimes makes me wonder how i've been able to hold down jobs and have relationships (even with family). i'll be in the middle of a meeting or some social function and think about some randomly awesome thing i did when i had all that free time...and how my current life pales in comparison.

peace

 
At 4:28 PM, Blogger ofalltheginjoints said...

Is there anyone on this blog that I can email about running away? Please and thank you for all your help.

 
At 6:15 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I'm going to tell you not to do it, but you can email homelessnessATgmailDOTcom

 
At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. It's been many years now that I've been living a simple middle class lifestyle. But my mind often returns to a time when my circumstances were very difficult and life was about daily survival.

It's true, homelessness and instability (especially in youth) will indelibly render you different from many in society, in both good ways and bad. The most useful long term result for me has been that I can draw strength in my current life from what I survived and HOW I survived it... and that, if need be, I could endure it again (or whatever the heck else) and get myself back to good. Not that I'd want to go through that crap again, but there is tremendous freedom and independence in being able to trust in your own abilities because they've been tested.

Terrific blog, much appreciated.

 
At 12:52 PM, Anonymous E from SF said...

I have read your blog before being homeless and afterwards now that I have found a job and an apartment. Your words about social commitment struck me powerfully as I've been struggling since coming out of my previous situation now recognizing that the "real" world is the realm true of true confusion and desperation. I want to go back to being free but those challenges and fears are in the back of my mind. Thank the universe I'm gathering my courage and am respectful of the wisdom gained from not having a personal residence. Your blog has meant a great deal to me through some troubling and enlightening times and I almost cry as I write this. Thank you

 
At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is some power in your words and a lot of truth. My life spared me the experience of being homeless, but before starting 'a family' I lived of the land (nowadays 'survival'), slept in woods, travelled light and where I wanted. You can and you don't need a lot to do it. I miss it terribly. Modern living caught me up and I'm stuck in a job to pay for it all. That is not being free

 
At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was good, now.. how do i go about being homeless?

 
At 4:32 AM, Blogger Gus Crotty said...

This is a truly beautiful piece of writing. I'm looking forward to exploring this blog in more detail.

 
At 8:58 PM, Blogger Dominique Garvey said...

I was a kid when my mother and my 2 brothers where living in a car which was about 9 years ago and I’m 19 years old now. This blog really touched my heart because it reminds me of my mother so much. Although my mother did not choose to be homeless she didn’t work at all so it really seemed like she enjoyed the freedom a lot. To be honest till this day my mother still doesn’t work and now she’s living in a homeless shelter. I would have to agree that being homeless when you say “..you will never be as committed to your social place as you once were” because none of us felt like we were in our social place as we once was after being homeless.

 
At 9:02 PM, Blogger Dominique Garvey said...

I was a kid when my mother and my 2 brothers where living in a car which was about 9 years ago and I’m 19 years old now. This blog really touched my heart because it reminds me of my mother so much. Although my mother did not choose to be homeless she didn’t work at all so it really seemed like she enjoyed the freedom a lot. To be honest till this day my mother still doesn’t work and now she’s living in a homeless shelter. I would have to agree that being homeless when you say “..you will never be as committed to your social place as you once were” because none of us felt like we were in our social place as we once was after being homeless.

 
At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am close to losing my job of nearly nine years. After struggling with depression for many years, I am no longer in a place where I can continue with my current lifestyle. So I've decided to travel with only what I can carry on my bicycle. I'll tell everyone I know that I'm taking an extended vacation to sort things out. The truth is, however, I'm not sure I ever want to come back.

 
At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Write a book. For God's sake write a book. Your latest post alone would make it a bestseller. That last paragraph is the best life advice I've ever heard. I've always believed you should never do anything you will regret later in life, but you said it so much better.

 
At 12:33 PM, Blogger Anthony Carriere said...

you truly deserve the praise you receive for this blog. my strength has been bolstered by your direct non-judging tone. thank you.

 
At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Mónica said...

What I see in streets: People have afraid of what is different.They don´t understand and they really don´t want to understand...
My father is blind and he had a depression. Everybody was afraid of him and many people had rude and stupid behaviours ...Was difficult.
Excellent blog!
You have a writer soul and heart.
Good luck to your project! From a portuguese living in Lithuania!:)

 
At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm thinking for becoming homeless....my life is soo stressful I try to become a better man but my wife always put me down...I keep telling her I can't change over night...we have a child together but I don't know if I should just walk away and never look back.

 
At 7:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second the call to write a book. I can't express how much I believe such a book will help countless individuals who are struggling with feeling alone. This entire blog, miraculously enough, puts words - highly accurate, aesthetically beautiful words - to circumstances and psychological places that seem inexpressibly horrific and lonesome. And I can't tell you the relief it brings to me to read your words and mentally know that I am not a freak in my circumstances, but a part of a larger albeit unseen community. Please, please seriously consider writing a book.

 
At 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So beautiful! So poetic and true. What we put in our minds is so much more important than we ever give it credit for.

 
At 1:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you still monitor this blog? I hope so. I see you haven't posted since May 2012. Your life may, understandably, have moved you in a direction away from this blog.

I'm 48, female, out of work for almost a year and a half and it's looking very likely I will be homeless in a couple of months when my lease ends and my unemployment runs out. I'll be without a car, too, as the lease on it is done soon and I have no money to get another. I mean NO MONEY.

I'm afraid. I have 2 cats and I will not give them up. I WILL NOT.

I've been struggling with major depression for almost 3 years now. It's basically incapacitated me.

I found your blog last evening when I sat down to begin researching what I might need to know in order to be homeless. Learning that shelters don't take pets and they're not really anywhere you want to be anyway has me terrified. It's freezing out in the NEast where I live.

Your writing is beautiful, brilliant, haunting, poetic.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Your writing is

 
At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Streetlevel said...

This blog and its comments are beautiful. Made me tear up..I'm sorry people have to be homeless in just rich nations as Canada and the US.

 
At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh man, that was really intense. You had me on edge that whole post. You have some true insight.

 
At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I travel in my mind knowing that after 15 years of "homeless" I am able to leave the "home" I now have and never miss it..As a matter of fact the only thing I do miss are those I have come to know..None of this is related to money..Why I can travel from Florida To Washington state on a 20 dollar bill. In the end we will all die and i will still miss those friends..In about 5 months i will be homeless by choice..Many will not understand

 
At 8:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Earlier this summer I was having a really hard time. I fell asleep and had this beautiful dream about how time happens all at once. It helps me to know that old people and places are still there, even if my memory has cut me off from them.

 
At 2:09 AM, Blogger jeminai2wynns said...

Are you still there? I agree this blog is amazingly inspiring in all that it gives those either facing or experiencing homelessness. I too am so relieved to have stumbled onto it much the same way you had. Only difference is, I am already in the experience of being homeless... with my dog "Kitty", and my first "kid" and my very beloved best friend cat, SeaWeed aka "Mr. Weed". I will ABSOLUTELY NOT EVER give them up! However, it is NOT easy; that I gotta tell you! But, there are resources that are just recently "popping" up across the nation that are finally realizing that many "victims" of circumstances that will or have lead to homelessness have non human dependants that have kept them from seeking safety, rescue, or homeless shelter and rather opting to NOT leave their four legged or even their feathered best friends behind to abandon or at risk of domestic abusers; such places like petsofthehomeless.org and petfoodstamps.org and even the Humane Society's website has links to programs that may be a good choice for help in your situation. This tour of homelessness is not my first, however, it is my first with my precious little angels from heaven. It is because of my great love for my pet children and my need to provide safety, comfort, and a less stressful experience for them as they rely and depend on me for their provisions. Sometimes it is very difficult feeling that they may be experiencing distress and fear due to harsh weather conditions, other animals, cruel, insensitive, or even "good intented busy bodies" who profess me as being cruel for holding fast to keeping my babies with me and want or do report me to law enforcement or dept of animal control. It is mainly for this reason, along with the reason that there are no shelter, transitional or public housing resources that will serve unmarried and childless couples with pets, that I have now decided to research how to start and operate shelters designed specifically for this demographic. Perhaps you too may see the need to do the same? Considering although these types of resources are now coming to realization, their existence is only one drop of water in an ocean of need. I wish you all the luck in the world in keeping your world together and if it does actually slip through your fingers, I wish you succeed in keeping your little precious babies with you always. I love mine more then anything and will not stop at anything to remain together with them. I have even considered starting my own blog dealing with this subject of homelessness with pets whether either a couple or single, a family comes in many different flavors human and non human together, and deserve to stay together. Besides, the thought of what a once a loving dedicated loyal homeful pet must face when homelessness, crisis, or domestic violence becomes part of their unsuspecting lives; well, it just "kills" me! So I feel I must rise to challenge of providing a safe haven or sanctuary shelters for all with such a need for mostly pet friendly, but also unmarried childless couples with pets as well. Drop me life line if you do bed up finding any further information or resources that you think might help me and others as well. it would be super to hear you've found successful solutions to your situation. I really feel a great concern for you and your dependents. If you would like me to share more info on whatever else my research reveals, I would be happy to. Best of luck. :-) Hopefully there will bpe a little less for you to fear now. Namaste.

 

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