Names have been changed to protect the identity of those interviewed.
Randall is a 41-year-old man who is currently experiencing homelessness. In the past 15 years, Randall has been homeless at least 8 times. If he was not homeless, he has been incarcerated. Many times upon release he has been able to seek shelter with family, but a recent issue with his nephew does not allow him to stay there any longer. This is his story.
Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself?
R: I am 41 years old and I have lived in the city my whole life. I have been homeless many times and in jail many times. On top of everything else, I also have mental issues on top of this. So, when I get stressed out and stuff that is when the voices really come out. When my dad was alive, I was able to talk to him, but I talk to him now because he is one of the people that I see. The people that I see are relatives, but the voices are not voices of no relatives or nothing. They are just regular voices, but they are real aggressive voices. I would tell anybody if you are having some kind of mental issues, please go and get it checked out.
R: A couple of weekends ago, I almost jumped off the bridge because when I get stressed out is when everything collapses in on me. Just so happens, that an older guy that knew my father was coming across the bridge and seen me and pulled me down. He talked to me and asked me what was going on with me. I said, “I don’t know, I just want to jump”. He said “no” and we walked across the bridge to the hospital and they kept me hospitalized for 3 days before they let me go. But, mental health issues is a real problem. Like, I do not know how to control it, I just know I have to try and fight it, but it is hard. Every day it is hard.
R: I just hate to have to go through this and I hate to have to see anyone else go through this. I know that you got people going through it worse than me. I just hope this story can help somebody out there. Because I do not want to ever be like this again and hopefully I can get out from underneath of it.
How did you become homeless?
R: A lot of my issues with family and others started to go downhill after a back surgery, which is where the Sciatica comes from. It was like, once I had that surgery, a lot of people that I had in my corner stopped being in my corner because they wanted the pills that I was getting and I would not give anyone my pills. So, since then, everything has been pretty much been going downhill as far as me living somewhere.
R: As of this morning, I was living with my nephew and I am not going back there because what he is doing is a lot of wrong stuff and I can’t condone it. I was not raised like that. This morning, he tried to fight me because he was fighting his girlfriend about his daughter’s birthday today. I told him “what is you doing?” He got mad, pointed his finger, and threatened me. I told him that I was not worried about the threatening. He don’t realize that I have been to some places where you do not threaten anybody.
R: I am tired of getting locked up, in and out of prison sentences. I just want to stay out for a change.
R: I think that is the main problem with me being homeless is that I have always been dealing with my so-called family and when I do not deal with them, I am better off. I mean, I have stable shelter and all of that, but it is like they want me to come back and want me to come around and every time I come around, I end up homeless. I was in a shelter in 2006 and they were giving me a lot of help. I only left the shelter because of the advice of family members. If I had not of left the shelter, I believe that I would not be here today talking to you because I probably would have had my own place and everything. That is what I was working towards and they had me working; I was working a job while I was there. So, I left the shelter and left all of that to be with my family. Then, I ended up getting incarcerated from there and doing three more years. I came home December 6, 2010. Since I have been home, it has just been a struggle. Either not having a place to stay or getting locked up in and out. Then, after them couple of times, then it started being a problem with a roof over my head.
From your experiences, what is it like to be homeless?
R: I don’t understand it. As much as I fight and as much as I help people, I always get the short end of the stick, especially when it comes to my family. So, I made a choice today to just start putting myself forward. If I am not going to do it, then no one else is going to do it for me.
What keeps you going on the toughest days?
What about from service providers?
R: The mental health services, they are real good with the mental health services because there is a nurse from the hospital. She called me three times last week to check on me and she called me once this week to see how I am doing. There is another nurse. Those two nurses have been calling me constantly to check up on me, make sure that I am alright and making sure that I am taking my medicine. The mental health services have been great. I have an appointment soon and I just cannot wait to have a psychiatrist that I can talk to them regularly because that will take a lot of pressure off me then. I will be more at liberty to go into detail and explain.
R: I know that a lot of it came from dealing with issues in my childhood. I had a mom that was real abusive toward me. So I know that is where I get a lot of the issues from. To this day, for some reason, my mom does not what anything to do with me. I can’t explain it. But my uncles and aunts used to tell me it was because out of all of my brothers and sisters I look exactly like my father. They said that is what it is. I asked them how could she blame me for whatever her and my father went through. I have tried to talk to her numerous times about it. When I try to sit down and talk to her she gets loud, raising her voice, so I just left it alone because it is too stressful. That is the only thing that I can try to do is stay away from stressful things because when I get going, I just blank out and see all red all of a sudden. But, the mental health services have been great as far as trying to get me the help I need. They have definitely been good.
What about from the general community?
R: I think many times the community wants to ignore the fact that we have homeless people here. But, I know that we have a lot of homeless people in Virginia because there are times that I catch the bus and anywhere I go I always see homeless people. If I have anything extra I always tried to help them because that is how my dad always raised me.
What do you want people to say when they think about you?