As I am still waiting for a response from Suzette Cooke regarding the open letter I sent her, I thought the voting public of Kent would like to hear from some of its disenfranchised youth. I find it interesting that it is almost unanimous among the homeless youth that Kent police officers declare that it is by order of the Mayor, Suzette Cooke, that they are trespassing homeless youth out of public parks. All of this of course, was enforced heavily right before the Kent Cornucopia Days event. There are those in the community who are speculating that the only reason the Mayor attended last year’s One Night Count was so that police would know which areas to target when sweeping the city of homeless youth.

When I asked several homeless youth if anyone from the city of Kent, including the police department, even offered to help them find services, put them in contact with agencies that could help or downright act like they know what compassion means, I got an overwhelming “No!” Private agencies and churches are doing what they can but they acknowledge there aren’t enough housing options available to these youth. The city of Kent isn’t providing any alternative options either. According to some of the community leaders I’ve been speaking to regarding their dealings with the Kent city council, it has become apparent that there is a history of failing to deal with diversity issues and in case you didn’t know it, diversity doesn’t just encompass the color of your skin.

To the voters of Kent I’d like to say this, you are responsible for holding your elected officials accountable for failures within your community. Where are you in asking your leaders for a better response than using the local police to round up homeless kids simply because they’re an eyesore that might make the city look bad? Where is the diversity training for police officers when dealing with homeless youth? How educated are you on the issues of homelessness? When you see kids on the street begging for spare change for food or bus fare, do you ask them how they became homeless? Are you sponsoring community initiatives to get these kids into safer environments? Are you actively involved in making your community a better place for everyone?

I watch you walk past these kids with looks of disdain. I’ve heard your comments about how all homeless kids are responsible for where they are because they just don’t want to “follow the rules” or “they must be on drugs”. The kids I talked to told me that they “spange” so they can have money to buy food or ride the buses all night in the winter as that is the only safe way they can sleep. It’s one of the ways they have learned how to avoid police harassment and as one kid put it “What else can we do? Where are we supposed to go? It’s illegal to be homeless in Kent.” One of the reasons they are saying its “illegal” to be homeless in Kent is because they have been put in a jail cell when they had nowhere else to go.

“Matt” told me that he rode his bike 20 feet without a bike helmet (he doesn’t own one) and a police officer gave him a $90.00 ticket. “Matt” asked this officer how he was supposed to pay it since he’s homeless and can’t get a job? If he doesn’t pay it, he will go to jail. “Matt” shrugged his shoulders and said “How are they going to serve me? I have no address.” When “Matt” brought this up to the officers they shrugged it off and told him they didn’t care, it wasn’t their problem. Police officers, whether you like it or not, you are often the first contact for these kids and your behavior represents the city you are sworn to protect and serve. Callous attitudes translate into a negative image in the minds of all you come into contact with.

Police Chief Ken Thomas, what kind of diversity training are officers under your command engaged in, not only on the homelessness issue but on racial profiling as well? Citizens of Kent I’d like to tell you about an incident I had with one of Kent’s finest at Morrill Meadows Park about two and half, maybe three years ago. At the time, I was working two jobs while living out of a 1981 Minnie Winnebago.  My eldest daughter was in school and my youngest was at my babysitter’s. I was on my way to pick them up but had to pull over and Morrill Meadows Park was the closest place I could do it. The left side of my face went numb and my left arm was going numb as well. I started shaking uncontrollably and was slumped over my steering wheel. I thought I was having a stroke. A police car pulled up behind my RV and a female officer tapped on the driver’s side window. I managed to roll down the window and turn my head towards her. This officer asked me what I was doing at the park. I managed to turn my head towards her and my speech was slurred when I asked her what the probable cause was for approaching my vehicle. I also asked if she was in the habit of targeting people of color, people in RV’s or people of color that happen to be living out of RV’s as I noticed she said absolutely nothing to the white couple across the parking lot who were in their RV as well. Not once did the officer bother to notice that something was wrong with me. She just stared at me, then turned and walked away. She got in her squad car and drove off. Chief Thomas, what does the law say about an officer who fails to offer assistance to a civilian who requires it? I never saw this officer call over the radio that she was stopping a vehicle since I was already parked and I’m willing to bet a report was never filed on it. Not once did this officer bother to even ask if I was alright. Needless to say, I have already sought legal counsel against the Kent Police department……..By the way, I saw this same officer the other day in the parking lot of Starbucks near the golf course.

Enjoy the video…..

Going to New York is always an interesting experience and for me, going to the 140 Conference gave me a lot of memories and some things to think about that never occurred to me until I listened to folks from all over the world talk about how they use social media. Even more surprising were the folks who greeted me before and after being on stage. For me, it was almost surreal.

I enjoyed finally meeting Stephanie Brandt, especially since her story is very much the reality of homeless parenting in New York. My mind keeps drifting to questions like, what will she do since New York discontinued homeless programs without any plans of replacing them? Why do people look away at hard truths all around them? I know for a fact that New York isn’t the only place where this kind of attitude exists. Maybe some people are reluctant to face the reality of who the homeless are simply because with knowledge comes responsibility. Then there are those who know what’s going on but choose to do nothing anyway.

I know my voice isn’t the only one out there when it comes to advocating for basic human rights and the dignity of being treated like a human being regardless of race, income, beliefs and yes, whether or not you have housing. All too often, it is not a good idea to let an employer or potential employer find out you’re homeless. I’ve been turned down for employment once an employer found out and even when I was on a job, friendly supervisors advised me to keep it a secret from corporate as it is often viewed as “bad for business” somehow. Still, I haven’t given up hope in finding a job and if I can’t get employed then my only alternative is to create my own opportunity by turning myself into my own franchise so to speak. I may not know how to do that just yet but I’m a fast learner and one way or another, I will make it!

If you watched the video feed while I was on stage, you might have noticed that in the middle of my speechifying, my voice cracked. I don’t why exactly but it was at that moment a sudden realization came over me while I was talking. If it hadn’t been for Jeff Pulver and Mark Horvath, I wouldn’t be here talking to a crowd about being a homeless mother and how social media helps me get my story out. When I first decided to “come out” about being a homeless mother, I didn’t know at the time how I was going to go about getting my message out to the masses but I felt that one way or another, I would find a way. To my surprise it happened through a chance meeting with Mark. I’ll say this about Mr. Pulver, he certainly likes to hug! In my mind he is definitely Sir Hugs-a-lot! His ability to reach out like that showed me how committed he is to making this a human experience more than anything. Thanks Jeff! Thanks Mark!

I’ll let you in a secret….I was apprehensive about letting the world know my situation since our society ingrains in us a warped tendency to pretend things are better than what they are. But then I got to thinking about how no matter how hard I worked, I still couldn’t get ahead due to the politics of poverty and the sheer ignorance of friends and family who had preconceived notions about homelessness. Maybe there were other people out there, other mothers living as I was who needed to  know they weren’t alone. Maybe folks new to homelessness are in shock because they don’t know what to do or how to go about surviving while living in their cars. Maybe….I shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to them.

When I walked off stage, to my surprise a woman met up with me just outside of the stage doors. She told me how she thought I was so brave and as we talked, I told her about how many jobs I applied for but never heard back from the companies. Usually that happens because so many people apply for one job and for recruiters, they can only look at the first resumes received. The rest are never even looked at. To my surprise she slipped something into my hand and whispered to me to promise her that I would use what she gave me to buy something nice for myself. I told her she didn’t have to do this but she insisted so I gave my word.

When I left Seattle, my girls were a little apprehensive about what I was doing and my teenager still isn’t sure about what I do. For one thing, her self esteem (like any other teen) is heavily influenced by peer pressure. She worries about how she looks and being openly public about being homeless doesn’t exactly thrill her. As for my youngest, our situation is “normal” because she can’t recall a time we didn’t live on 4 wheels. For me as a parent, I worry that several more years will go by and I’ll still be homeless. My teen will have spent the majority of her life being homeless by the time she’s 18. How can I give my kids confidence that things will get better if I’m not sure sometimes that they will? Reading about where cutbacks are being made at the expense of the less fortunate does little to reassure anyone.

When I got back into Seattle, I told my girls about a woman named Laura who took a cab to the conference to meet Stephanie and I. She told us how our stories touched her and because of that, she had to come by with a gift. She handed each of an envelope with some money inside. She said she knew it wasn’t much but she wanted to do what she could to help. I was able to get my girls souvenir T-shirts and they were surprised because they weren’t expecting anything. My teen loves her shirt and my youngest thinks hers is “really cool.” That one act of random generosity really moved me. Even more touching was the fact that she offered to help Stephanie the next day to go shopping for things like diapers for her son. I could tell by the look on Stephanie’s face that she was touched by this woman’s offer to help. For Stephanie, having someone help her to get diapers for her son was a godsend.

Fast forwarding to when I got off the plane from New York……

I had a promise to keep to the beautiful woman back in New York to buy something special for myself. “Something special” can mean different things to different people and it wasn’t until yesterday that I figured out what the “special something” would be for me. See, my kids remembered how I used to take time out on weekends for “just us” time. They remember when I worked two jobs even while living out of an old Winnebago and how I wasn’t around as much as they wanted me to be. Even if I didn’t have money, whenever I got a day off, I would take them for a picnic at the park or to the beach in summer. In winter, we would go to a movie or find a decent inexpensive motel to spend the night in. They also enjoyed going camping in the Cascades, something we haven’t been able to do for several years now. Now this may not seem like much but there’s a restaurant chain we used to go to called The Country Buffet. It’s an all you can eat place a lot of families go to but if you don’t have the money, you don’t go. I asked my kids if they’d like to go there for dinner and they were quiet for a moment. How many times have they asked in the past only to hear that there was no money to go out to eat? I reassured them that this wasn’t a cruel joke and their faces lit up.

I spent dinnertime watching them go through buffet lines picking out everything they wanted to eat. My youngest was so excited to be able to get whatever dessert she wanted. I got to listen to my teen talk about things she wanted to do and her plans to earn money with one of her friends from school. We also talked about a plan of action to help manage her bouts of depression and academic goals to get her to where she wants to be later in life. There are no words to describe the look on your kid’s face when you reassure them that no matter what you’re doing in life, they are still very much a priority. Sometimes we as adults forget how the world looks through a child’s eyes and for my kids, too much time spent away from them begins to look like they’re being left behind.

Time to do nothing but just be with my kids and letting them tell me about their world is a luxury I don’t get very often, especially while working long hours for little or no pay. Risa, the gift you gave me was worth more than what was printed on paper but I did get myself an interesting little bottle of perfume I saw in a local drugstore on Lexington. Never in my life have I seen perfume designed to smell like every day scents like grass, dirt or clean laundry. Kind of reminded me of those every flavor jelly beans from Harry Potter so I bought one! Now I can have the fresh scent of clean laundry wherever I go!

The folks I met in New York left me with good memories and some ideas for some projects that I’ve been thinking about doing for awhile now. You just never know where life takes you or who you’ll meet so don’t ever give up on your life, no matter how rough things get.

The following poem was inspired from the view outside my hotel window and from watching people milling about in Times Square:

Crowds in faces

 

Dirty street, busy street, so many faces

Here, there and everywhere

Exactly where are they all going?

 

City lights, not so bright

Dirty streets to highlight

There’s always some place to be

Even when no place wants you

 

People lining up on Broadway

To see their favorite show

Out on the street everyone bows

To the scenes life plays out

 

Connected in their disconnects

I wonder if they know

There’s no logic in being blind

To a city full of woes

 

People on the streets asking for change

The pennies in a paper cup

Rattle with poverty’s rage

The poor daily will sip

 

See the dullness in their eyes

Shine with asphalt grey

Doesn’t matter who they are

As long as it isn’t you today

 

Faces in the crowd reflecting

We are they

And they are we

Together is how we ought to be

Parenting while homeless is no different than what other parents do; it’s just that as a parent without my own home, I have to deal with situations that non-homeless parents don’t have to worry about. For instance, my teenage daughter is going through major depression because of our situation and she has gotten to the point where just being at school every day is filled with dread. She is constantly worrying about her peers finding out that she’s homeless and her self esteem right now is directly linked to everything she feels she doesn’t have. Like most teens, there is an over focusing on appearances and popularity and having the money to go out every weekend. I can’t blame my daughter for the way she feels when she gets surrounded by this kind of pressure every day but at the same time, I cannot let her give up on her education or on herself.

She is fortunate enough to have two very nice girls who have befriended her regardless of her living arrangements and so far, they have kept our homelessness a secret. In fact they were the ones who told her about a young man they knew of that is currently living in a shelter not too far from the high school. Although I do what I can to help her self-esteem, I am the one who feels responsible for the pain and misery she feels. The logical side of me knows that I did everything I could to keep a roof over our heads but my emotional side is oblivious to reason. I feel like it’s my fault my kid wants to commit suicide because she feels no one cares whether she lives or dies. I can only talk to her so much but she has to come to the realization that life is worth living on her own because no matter how many times anyone talks to her; they can’t convince her that our situation will improve any time soon.

My daughter has seen me call shelters and transitional housing agencies only to be told there is nothing available time and time again. Here in Seattle we are overwhelmed and underfunded and our homeless population is not going down. If you are lucky, you may get on a waiting list but the stay in a shelter will only last about two months and then you’re put out on the street to start the cycle all over again. Section 8 is not an option
and hasn’t been for several years since our state is closed to even apply for housing vouchers. If you get an application, it is with the understanding that you are applying to be put on a waiting list with a minimum of 3 years.

My teen has watched police chase us from parking lots and public parks even though we had the right to be there. I was harassed by two police officers for “camping” in a parking lot in front of a store I happened
to be shopping at. They claimed that the store owner had called in a complaint but I researched that and found out that no complaint was made by the store owner. They made an assumption because they saw us in the RV I had. Fortunately, I had friends who were officers as well and they looked into it. Needless to say, I never saw those two officers again. One of my officer friends warned me that the area I was in happened to be notorious for racial profiling and I made a point of not making my presence known whenever I went through that particular neighborhood.

On the other hand, I have had officers go out of their way to give me rides so I could be at work on time or to daycare when I worked odd hours and had no working vehicle to drive with. Some have bought me coffee or
pointed out places that were ok to spend a night at. One even gave me gas money. You just never know what kind of people you will run into and it doesn’t matter if they wear a uniform. People are people but I made sure I did not feed into preconceived notions on what most people think of when see a homeless person. The disbelief and shock on their faces pretty much tells me what I need to know.

I imagine that things would be a lot worse for us if I had an addiction problem or mental health issues and although my daughter is thankful that I don’t, it doesn’t lessen the pain and humiliation she feels. Watching how some have treated us and the disconnectedness of relatives has led my daughter to believe that our situation is hopeless. She has been trying to find a part time job to help but no one is hiring or won’t hire her because she has no prior experience. Now add to this the fact that we are currently “living” in a small town where there aren’t many jobs available and you can see where all her frustration is coming from. How do you give your child hope when every step you take leads to nowhere?

Tomorrow may be a new day but in her eyes it is another day of more of the same.

Ahhh ….. the shelter system, first thing that comes to mind for people to go to who are about to become or already are homeless…..right? Wrong! There are many reasons why a lot of people choose not to go to shelters, the first one being that shelters may not be an option if there’s a lack of shelters to go to in addition to the fact that shelters have to turn people away because they can only take so many people.

I posted an article on We Are Visible today to get feedback from the homeless community to find out how many opted out of going to shelters and hopefully they will mention why they chose not to go to a shelter. For my kids and I, we couldn’t get into one when I tried, several times! Hence the reasons for living out of a 1981 Minnie Winnebago (and now a mini-van).

I’m not saying that there aren’t good shelters out there because I know for a fact there are. Take Path Achieve Glendale for instance. The folks here are deeply committed to doing everything they can to move folks from homelessness into permanent housing and they are one of the shelters that deal with families. Did you know that in many cities, families are split up because there are men only or women and children only shelters?

Have you ever heard of Wellspring House in Massachusetts? They were featured on CBS and treat homeless residents as guests. It be nice if all shelters could have the same positive attitudes as those who set the standards on what a shelter should strive for when helping the homeless. Unfortunately, the reality is that many shelters miss that and some are downright dangerous places to be. When’s the last time anybody checked how much was being spent on security at shelters?

How about hearing from the homeless themselves regarding their experiences with shelters? What they have to say is very enlightening. Often times it’s more dangerous for single women to be homeless let alone a single mother with kids. Essays by Carey Roberts about what goes on at some shelters is a real eye opener!

Before suggesting “help” for the homeless, know what you’re talking about first. Assuming that there’s resources to go to is a careless assumption but then that pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? You actually have to care enough to find out. Kudos to the shelters and the dedicated staff that go above and beyond the call of duty to get folks out of homelessness. You aren’t thanked enough in my opinion!

Happy Monday everybody!

After an interesting conversation with my youngest’s teacher, I have discovered that my daughter actually told her class that she was homeless. This is the email the teacher sent to me after I sent her a message saying “She did?”:

“She did and it was very matter of fact.   I can’t even remember what led to the comment.   She did not seem ashamed, just matter of fact.  I don’t want to label her and would never have brought it up myself to the class but sometimes when you say something aloud it does not have the power to shame you.  I clarified what it meant in Maggie’s case because I think that some kids associate homeless people with only those that hold signs by the roadside.  As we know, it is much bigger and more complicated than that.”

                                                                                                                                Judy

I am so proud of my daughter! I was worried about her self-esteem because she was reluctant to go to a new school and I also worried about her ability to make new friends. Last year she refused to tell anybody that we were living in a run down motor home because she didn’t want the other kids to make fun of her. I think having an understanding educator like Judy has gone a long way in making Maggie feel “safe”. Maggie has even told her teacher that she may not be at that school, which may be true, I just won’t know yet.

This incident just proves to me that kids are tougher than we give them credit for. I think that for Maggie, seeing how her mother deals with a tough situation has influenced her attitude about being homeless.

Now if only I can get through to my teenager!

I got an email the other day from my youngest daughter’s teacher about a “Cool U” interview with each student in class. Typical of my daughter not to say anything about this project until the last-minute! I didn’t see the blue sheet with details on it that the teacher sent home with all the students until today. I even went through photos I have stored on this laptop and emailed them to her.

Turns out that this project is asking for my daughter to take pictures of her home and neighborhood, pets or farm animals, favorite activities and family. Right off the bat, I see a problem. First of all, we’re homeless, do you want photos of a mini van that isn’t moving right now? Second of all, we have no pets and my eldest daughter doesn’t get “home” from school and after school activities until almost 8 pm. That leaves just the few photos I have on my laptop. Our favorite activities are to have enough food to eat, a warm and safe place to sleep and no harassment from the police. I’m sure the school would love to have my daughter post that to her entire class.

Of course, me being me, I will again contact this teacher (don’t get me wrong, I actually like her and think she does a great job) and let her know that this project highlights what most people take for granted. People don’t realize my girls don’t want their peers to know how they’ve been living. I will simply have to tell the school that if they can’t use the pictures I already sent then maybe my daughter doesn’t need to take part in this activity. Sure, the teacher gave my daughter a camera to use but it has no batteries and it’s not like I have the cash to buy any. I still have a transmission that needs to be replaced.

You know now that I think about it, this isnt’ the first time a situation like this came up. When the holiday season was here, my youngest was given a flyer about a holiday program being held in the school auditorium and the school was asking all the kids to wear their best holiday outfits. Well my daughter only has one dress and it is the one from two years ago that she wore to my grandmother’s funeral. She can barely fit it but she wanted to go so we went. My daughter takes violin at the school and sometimes they have recitals. Again, Maggie was sent “home” with another flyer asking all the kids to dress up and wear black and white. Needless to say, she didn’t go to that recital. Her dress has since been donated to a thrift store because she just can’t fit it anymore.

Even my teenager has to let things pass her by at high school if it costs money. I am proud of her though. She hasn’t given up looking for a job, even if it’s babysitting!

Little things like this sting more than people realize. Once I tell my kids’ teachers that we are homeless and have been for a while, they suddenly don’t know what to say or the opposite happens. I laughed when a school counselor asked me if I knew about welfare and shelters. I laughed and told her she doesn’t know me too well, does she?

Well folks, Caly’s mechanic friend kept his word and took a look at the mini van from top to bottom. He told me that the van is worth saving because Aerostar’s can go on forever but the transmissions go out. I asked him about just getting a used tranny from a junkyard, I found one for $275.00. Basically he said here’s the problem with those, 1. There’s no guarantee that used trannies from a junkyard will have less than 100k miles on them. 2. You might be able to replace your tranny with a junkyard part but how long will it be before you have to go out and get another one and pay more labor costs. 3. You could go and get another used vehicle but you may end up paying out more in repairs than just a transmission. His recommendation was to spend $1980.00 for a completely rebuilt transmission, get a tune-up at the same time and have my brakes fixed all at the same time. With labor and anything else that may come up, I’m looking at a guesstimate of $2,500.00 to cover anything else that needs to be replaced.

To be honest, if I had the money, I would just go ahead and get a better car so I don’t have to worry about a major break down somewhere that would leave me and the kids stranded in who knows where. When your vehicle is your home, you have to keep it in good shape.

I have been getting a lot of emails from generous folks asking where they could donate money to. To be honest, I have never felt comfortable “begging” for money but since I can’t seem to get a job (I’ve lost track of how many I’ve applied for), I decided to give in and create an account to take donations. I got the advice and link to the site from a good friend!  Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://carey.chipin.com/carey-fuller

WordPress doesn’t allow widgets so I put the link on this post. I just need to get the mini van fixed since it’s pretty much the only life boat we have at the moment. I will continue to look for a job even if it doesn’t pay a living wage. I figure some money is better than none.

A very big thank you to everyone who shared their good thoughts with me and offers of help. You have no idea how welcome your encouragement has been!

Memories of Minnie.

I was going through some pictures of mine to share with you all and found one of the Minnie Winnebago we lived out of for five years. When we first became homeless and started living out of it, my youngest was only one and half years old. My oldest was only about 9 years old then. To my youngest, the rv was home. It wasn’t until we came to Caly’s that I realized just how much of an impact the rv was on my youngest until the first night over here she said..”I don’t like it in here, I want to go back to OUR house, the rv.” That’s when it hit me that her memories of what “home” is are based on the three of us living out an old Minnie Winnebago. She was only 21 feet long from bumper to bumper but she was ours and as long as I took care of her, she took care of us.

See at the time, I couldn’t afford childcare as it was $900.00 a month for both kids and my rent was only $460.00. Add to this the absence of child support and losing your job because you slipped a disc in your back and voila! You have the makings of homelessness. I knew it was coming and in April of 2004, we moved from a two-bedroom apartment into the Minnie. All the furniture we had I either sold at a yard sale or donated to neighbors and thrift stores. Everything else went into a small storage unit. What little money I had I used for gas while waiting to get food stamps and basic health care through the state. In the meantime, I knew I had to find work and fast!

I managed to find a part-time job working for a now extinct newspaper plant in Kent. My shift started at midnight and the place had its own private parking lot that was fairly secure. The plant was in a rural area so it was quiet and I made sure to park the rv where I could see it from the warehouse windows. My kids slept while I worked and in the morning, I would drive to the nearest grocery store to get them something for breakfast before taking my oldest daughter to school. She was so embarrassed by the rv that she would ask me to park down the street so she could walk to school and not be seen by her classmates. I did so.

During this time, I had managed to save a little money to let my youngest daughter have a birthday party. We got lucky that year and had an unusually early summer and to hide the fact that we couldn’t afford a “real birthday party”, I invited friends and relatives to a neighborhood park for a “Summer Time Theme Party.” I found some balloons at a dollar store (in fact I think the paper plates and decorations were all from a dollar store!) and did the best I could at decorating a covered picnic area. I was able to borrow a friend’s kitchen to bake a “Hello Kitty” cake and to make it look store-bought, I went down to a local grocery store and to my surprise, they gave me a plastic cake box for free. To this day, my youngest has no idea that I made it and she still considers her fifth birthday party to be the best birthday she’s ever had!

I had parked the rv on the far side of the park so as not to bring attention to how we were living. From looking at these pictures, could you?

 

As for my oldest..well the memories aren’t so fond. For her, living out of the rv was a nightmare with no end in sight. She didn’t care about going to school since school was a never-ending exercise in dread. What if her peers found out she lived in a run down rv? This pic pretty much sums up her attitude about living out of a vehicle:

I know it’s been hard for them both and I have done everything I could to keep them busy with all the other activities in life that everyone else has but all that seems to hinge on money. You need money for gas, money to eat, money to do just about everything but the one thing money could not buy was me. It wasn’t long after these photos were taken that I landed a job in financial services with a national company. They didn’t know I had another job working nights at the newspaper and I had no intention of telling them until my body forced me to. That’s when the migraine seizures started. I can remember leaving my day job feeling a little funny. A friend and supervisor caught me by the arm and asked me if I was alright. She was about to call an ambulance but I shook it off and said I could drive myself to the nearest hospital. I almost made it up Smith hill in Kent when the left side of my body went numb. The first thing I thought was that I was having a stroke because I couldn’t feel the left side of my arm and I was trying to drive steer with my right. My symptoms got worse as I drove on but I was able to call my friend who had just started babysitting for me to tell her that I was parking the rv at a local garage. Thank goodness her husband knew the garage owner and he allowed me to park the rv at his shop until I got back from the E.R. . By the time my babysitter’s husband got me to the emergency room, my speech was slurred and I was vomiting. I couldn’t move my hands and he had to help me sign forms. I stayed at the hospital for six hours.

I don’t remember much after that except for when I woke up in my babysitter’s room. She was holding my head up trying to get me to drink something. It took me two weeks to be able to stand up but I was so dizzy I couldn’t stay up without help. The pain in my head was like a jack hammer but I was determined to get back to my rv because I could not afford to have it towed.

Eventually, Minnie needed more repairs than I could afford so last July, I sold her to a mechanic living out of his car. I got him to tell me his story and he said he just got out of a bad divorce and he was living out of his car at his place of employment in Seattle. His employer knew he was homeless with his dog and at least the garage was safer than the streets. I sold the rv to him for $200.00. At least this guy could fix it better than I could.

It was only by a sheer stroke of luck that Caly’s neighbor decided to give us a free mini van….with a dying transmission! Ah well….even so, guess it is the thought that counts.

So long Minnie! May you serve your new owner well!

Well it seems like quite a few friends are out looking for a transmission and affordable mechanic for me. I thank everyone for all their well wishes and willingness to help me out! But for those of you who know me, you know I am also trying to support myself through my writing, regardless of the things that happen that seem to weigh me down. Hence the reason for self-publishing my poetry on Kindle.

See, for those of us “out here”, we don’t have the money to pay for hard copy books or set up sites with all the fancy bells and whistles on them. So I put a small collection of some of the poems I wrote on Kindle because I want folks to see that even when things seem hopeless, they aren’t. As long as you don’t give up and don’t lose hope, you’re never really lost. Take your experiences and share them with others. How do you know who you will reach or affect? You won’t unless you’re willing to try.

I come from a warrior society so I was raised to keep on fighting even if it means fighting alone. I want to reach out to all you single mothers and fathers out there who know exactly what it’s like to be homeless with kids. You know what it is to feel abandoned, to feel like you aren’t doing what a good parent should because of homelessness. Our kids know what’s it like to feel ashamed of our “homeless secret”. It’s time to come out into the open!

Losing my jobs (I had two) and having no family support is the reason my kids and I are homeless but….I won’t let my girls see me giving up, there’s just too much at stake. My teen has felt like our living situation has to be hidden because of what other kids might think at school. When 60 minutes aired their piece on homeless kids, I made them watch it. A faint smile crawled across my teen’s face in recognition of what homelessness felt like to her. She finally got to see that she’s not alone and that there are far more homeless kids in this country than she thought. She even told me that she has decided to start some kind of charity effort with her classmates to help other homeless kids. Can’t put into words how I felt after she said that.

There are just too many of you out there that have no clue about what’s happening out here. I saw it through the driver’s side of my rv everyday and this is the very reason I will never stop fighting to help my homeless brethren. That is why my little book of poems is titled “Writings from the driver’s side.”

Here’s a poem from that collection:

Angst “I” at ease

Anxieties, worries, stresses, strain, unknown futures calling me

Nothing guaranteed, knowing that I won’t be free

Silent tears, hidden pain, when a new day will I see?

 

I saw my reflection the other day, past a window on display but….

The woman I saw, who looked like me, couldn’t remember what she used to be

Thinking back to childhood days, soft green grass and summer days, I never thought

I’d see a different reality, a different me

 

Blue, green, yellow, black, wish I could get my life back, but wishing on a star

That’s just fantasy. I’ve got to find a way back to me. I once met a girl, she was nineteen

She sat nearby, watching me. Somehow she guessed, somehow knew, guess she’s seen a few

“Be careful,” she said quietly, “you’ll lose your mind out here.” I watched her then, sitting there

Wondering how long she wandered through nowhere.

 

Sun gone down, the night is black, looking up I see its tracks

The Great Bear, it shines the way, sometimes the only one who hears me pray

No matter what I do or what I say, how come things are still this way?

 

I think about the people who, when asked to help, didn’t come through.

Excuses plenty, yes I’ve heard every, and even though with that mindset

They should know I won’t forget

 

I’ve learned a lot on the way, when to run and where to stay and stranger still

I can’t give up, never will. Eyes are watching, young and new, watching everything I do

When you see me walk on by, when I see you I won’t cry. You had your chance and you failed

 

Now I have a story to tell. Won’t be fun, not what you want to hear

Won’t be about people you have near. So while at home, snug in bed

Knowing you have nothing to dread, someone on the street,

dies tonight in their sleep.

 

“If they can’t feed their kids don’t breed them!” “It’s their fault they’re there”

“I don’t feel sorry for addicts and drunks” “Don’t give them money, they’ll just buy junk”

“I’m not paying for their welfare” “Not my problem so I don’t care”

 

This is the message society gives, this is the attitude they want to live

I find such attitudes to be odd, when did they become God? Christian charity, hah, not likely!

Conversion before giving to help the living, Forcing beliefs or no relief, they have forgotten!

One man came, one man said, “Give us now our daily bread”. There was no inclusion

No list of exclusions, apathy and indifference feeds the delusion

 

My mind is set, the goal is clear. With perseverance a new day is near

The system is broken, has been awhile. Sold our children down the Nile

Inadequacies are built-in addictions, that’s why you see so much affliction

It’s up to us, call it intuit, stop the excuses, just do it!

 

This isn’t what we’re supposed to be, stresses, strains and angst “I” at ease.

No matter what happens in life just remember that tomorrow is a new day dawning.