Names have been changed to protect the identity of those interviewed.
At the time of her interview, Kelly was living in an emergency shelter with her two children (ages 8 and 2). This is her story.
How did you become homeless?
K: Rather than get an eviction on my record, I went ahead and left. I was just like “Oh my God. I have nowhere to go.” I had been out in my own place for 8 years and never had any problems, except that one incident just caused me to lose it, to lose everything. I was just like, “Okay, where am I going to go?” I was homeless then and I had never had to experience it and it was just something that I did not like. I came to shelter where they were able to help me with finding housing from there. I was only in the shelter for a couple of days that time.
K: So, I ended up getting another apartment after I left there, but I could not keep up with it. I could not afford it. It was just, the bills were coming in back to back to back. I just could not take everything at once. I had my kids and no babysitter, so, I was losing days off of work. I just could not keep up and I got placed back into being homeless again. I was like, “Oh, I am here now, all over again. And, I have only been out for like 6 months.” I don’t know, it is real different. Once I came to the shelter, I tried to work, but I was working security and nursing. But, my jobs were overnight and being here, I cannot work that.
What is it like to be homeless?
K: But, I wasn’t embarrassed or anything because there are people that are worse off than me. You have people living underneath the bridge. It is kind of good that I was able to get into a shelter because you know a lot of people are not able to get in with their kids.
What would you say is the hardest part about being homeless?
K: I have been here longer now and it is getting frustrating. I am like “I did everything. Call me! I’m waiting. I am ready to go!” It is just the anxiety of seeing people leaving before me. Everybody is gone and now new people are coming in and I am sitting here. I just want to be in my own bed with my children. I am starting to get anxious and frustrated. I am worrying about what is going on.
Where do you see yourself a year from now?
What about 5 years from now?
K: On the beach, relaxing, because my job got me paid vacations and stuff like that. Just enjoying life. Not stressing. I think in 5 years I should be set. Hopefully, 5 years and set. That is what I was working towards with the nursing. It’s like, “Oh, lord. I could have been in the Bahamas somewhere.” I started my degree in dental. So, I need to finish that and then I started in nursing. So, I need to finish both of them. If I finish both of them, it is only about four years altogether, so I am going to do both. And, I will work my security job part time. I liked that. It is funny because I am so small. People are like, “Oh, she’s a security officer?”
What has the response from your family been like to your situation?
K: I am not really concerned how anybody else feels about what’s going on with me and my children. They can’t help me. But, some responses was like “Oh okay, you in the shelter? I didn’t know you were in there.” Others were like “No, I don’t want you to be in there.” I don’t know like it was dirty or something, but I had to tell them, no it was not like that.
What about the response from service providers?
K: But, some of them are nice and good. I ran into a couple of them that actually like their job. Actually, really try to help. But then there are those that are just there for the money and don’t care. I don’t know. I just try to stay humble. I try to find stuff for me and my kids to do so I won’t get into an altercation with anybody and stuff like that.
What has the response from the general community been like?
What do you want people to see when they look at you?
K: Basically, I want to be seen as a girl that is able to take anything that has been thrown at her and still bounce back. That is basically what 2016 and 2017 has been doing. I think I hit my lowest in 2016 and in 2017, I am coming back. I just want someone to look at me and know that whatever life throws at me, I got it. I am going to make lemonade out of my lemons.
Anything else that you would want someone to know about homelessness or being homeless?
K: It is not as bad as everyone says or thinks. It is not like what it used to be when people used to live in homeless shelters and being homeless. They had to sleep on the floors or mats or something. I don’t know. That is what everyone tends to say, but it is not like that. It is basically like you are rooming with somebody while you get all of the help that you can get. It is not that bad. If I knew I was homeless, I would prefer to be in the shelter because they help you more quickly and it is useful. So, go get help.