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

Two days ago I submitted my story to a single mother’s group online because they had advertised that they were looking for real stories from single mothers. I of course submitted the following:

“I am still a mother

I’m not that kind of person you often hear about. I’m neither an addict nor a mental health patient. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink. I don’t sleep around and I’m not lazy. I’m not a high school drop out and have never been a pregnant teen. I’m not a quitter, a liar or a thief.

I am a homeless mother.

In April of 2004, when I no longer had a job and used up my savings and monies from my 401K plan, I bought a used 1981 Minnie Winnebago with my tax refund and moved my nine year old and one and half year old into it. Here in Seattle, there’s no such thing as Section 8 for help with housing as our state has been closed to applications for years now. I called shelter after shelter only to be turned away because more people than ever are using them and there aren’t enough built to handle the scores of people entering homelessness. I met with our local welfare office, the last place I wanted to visit, and was told by the social worker that they couldn’t do anything to stop us from being omeless but if I wanted to sell our only shelter and transportation, I could qualify for $400.00 a month in cash. I was then given a food stamp card and sent on my way. I prayed child support for my eldest would show up but to
this day it hasn’t.

For the first several months in our new “home”, I quickly learned just how “as is” the Minnie Winnie was as I read the owner’s manual to figure out what worked and what didn’t. I learned by surprise that the master cylinder on the
brakes needed to be replaced when I went down a hill and couldn’t stop. I learned how to replace an alternator on my own. I paid to have the brakes, generator, voltage regulator, and tires replaced. My plan was to make the Winnebago as safe and livable as possible while trying to get another job and hopefully save enough money to get our lives back. Maybe it would only be a temporary situation lasting a year or two I thought.

In the meantime I worked various jobs through temp agencies, never telling my employers about my living arrangements and definitely never telling them that I was working two jobs every time I got the chance. One day though, my body caught up with me. I happened to be working at a financial services company during the day and had just clocked out. As I headed to the elevators, my peripheral vision started getting watery and a supervisor walking by caught me by the arm and asked if I was alright. I didn’t even realize I was sliding down the wall but I shook it off and told her I would be fine. I didn’t say I say I had to be since I couldn’t afford to be late to the next job.

I made it out to the far end of the parking lot since that was where I always put the RV.  I was on my way to my babysitter’s house but halfway there, I felt the left side of my face, then arm go numb. I almost panicked because I was thinking I might be having a stroke or heart attack. I told myself to stay calm and find a place to pull over in case I cause an accident. I remembered a garage nearby that my babysitter’s husband had told me about since the owner was a friend of his. By the time I reached the garage, I was vomiting and couldn’t move my left arm. I could barely stand up and my speech was slurred but I managed to get the mechanic to call my babysitter. Her husband rushed over and took me to the nearest hospital. At first I wasn’t going to go since I had no insurance and knew the hospital wasn’t going to be cheap but my babysitter’s husband made me go anyway. The hospital kept me for observation for about six hours before letting me go. I don’t remember anything else after that except that a few days later I woke up in my babysitter’s room with her holding a cup of water to my mouth. My head was pounding and all I wanted to do was vomit. My face felt numb and for some reason my motor skills were really shaky. My head kept shaking and I could barely talk. All I could think about was the RV getting towed so I tried to sit up but my babysitter pushed me back down and said her husband had talked to the owner of the garage so it was ok to be there until I got back on my feet.

The next day I made myself get up and walk around because I didn’t want to get my babysitter’s family in trouble with their apartment landlord’s who didn’t like me driving the Winnebago through the complex when I came to pick my kids up. Even though my babysitter and her husband wanted me to stay for awhile, I went back to the RV because I didn’t want to be an inconvenience to them. Needless to say I couldn’t work when I could barely walk or keep my head from shaking side to side. The hospital referred me to a local neurologist to find out why I got paralysis with a major migraine. It took me about 10 days or so to recover from whatever this was and I did that by sleeping in the RV at parks during the time my eldest was in school and my youngest was with the babysitter. Eventually I lost the temp job I had and once again found myself looking for work.

In the meantime, the RV needed gas to keep us moving since police harassment is an everyday concern when you live out of your vehicle. I went to local plasma centers to sell my blood for gas money.  About 8 months went by before I landed a part-time position at a local newspaper. I couldn’t afford daycare so working the graveyard shift was perfect. The newspaper plant was located in a rural area and had a well lit parking lot. I parked the RV where I could see it from the warehouse windows since my kids slept in the upper bunk while I worked. My shift ended early enough that I had time to get them breakfast and ready for school. Because my eldest was embarrassed to be in a motor home, I would drop her off around the block from her school so that she could walk in without any of her friends seeing her get out of a Winnebago every morning.

I spent the days scanning want ads for a full-time day job as it soon became apparent with the gas hikes that I would again need two jobs to survive. I took my toddler to the parks and hung out with her in public libraries when the weather wasn’t so great. When it was time for dinner, I asked my eldest how her day went and reassured her that everything would be alright and this is only a temporary situation for us. All the consoling I did couldn’t keep her from feeling angry and depressed. She asked why our relatives weren’t helping and how could the government let us live like this? Why wasn’t anybody helping us?

We met some interesting folks living out here and I was surprised to meet other families doing exactly what we were doing. At a Wal-Mart parking lot, we met a family that had come down from Alaska looking for work. They too were living out of motor home but smaller than ours. I was impressed since my Minnie was only 21 feet long, bumper to bumper. When my eldest daughter saw that she wasn’t the only kid living this way, she felt a little better but struggled with the fact that we had no permanency. We also met another single mother living out of class “A” motor home the size of a bus and she told me how she raised both her boys out of it. She was close to retirement and her youngest son at the time was about 19 years old. They worked every day the way I did and saved what they could but the last time I saw them, she was still living out of her motor home. It was through this community of folks living out of motor homes and their cars that I learned where I could park for the night and where the rest stops were that had dumping stations for free. Some camp grounds only charged $5.00 to dump the sewage tanks on RV’s plus I could refill my water tank. The “community” also looked out for us by telling me what places were dangerous to be in and which neighborhoods had a lot of police harassment going on. It didn’t take long to learn how to be “invisible”.

In October of 2006, I landed a full-time day job with another national financial services company and was able to find daycare through a co-worker I befriended at the newspaper job. To this day we call her “Cousin Pam” because she went out of her way to treat us like family. She helped me to get my kids enrolled in the school district next to her house since my kids would be there all day. She told me about sales at local thrift stores to help us with school clothes and she enrolled my kids in programs that helped with school supplies and summer time free lunch programs. If it hadn’t been for “Cousin Pam”, I have no idea how I would’ve worked the day job we so desperately needed. It was a good thing I had that day job because a few months after I got it, the newspaper went out of business. My day job paid twice as much but I still could not save any money. All I could do was maintain living out of the Winnebago since it needed regular maintenance and the gas alone was eating whatever I could’ve saved.

I had been at my day job for over a year when an old complaint returned with a vengeance. This time, the migraine attacks were becoming more frequent and the shakiness had returned. I had bouts of numbness on the left side of my body and didn’t understand why these symptoms were coming back. I took advantage of my employer paid health insurance and went to specialists to figure out what was wrong with me.  At first they thought I had the beginnings of
Meniere ’s disease but extensive testing ruled that out. It wasn’t until a year ago that my doctor figured out I had hemiplegic migraines. I had one big attack that left me in serious trouble. I had to go to physical therapy to be able to
walk a straight line without falling due to vertigo that just would not go away. It took eighteen months to recover and needless to say, I exhausted FMLA and lost my job. I even tried to reapply to the same company only to never hear
from them again.

I could’ve given up and ended my life. I could’ve sunk into despair and hopelessness. I could’ve turned to prostitution, drugs, alcohol or violence. But I didn’t and continue to refuse going down that path because that’s not the kind of example I want my kids to see. When everything seemed hopeless I did the only thing I knew how to do; write. I sat behind the steering wheel of the Winnebago and poured all my feelings and thoughts onto paper. To keep my oldest daughter from sinking into depression, I wrote a book to keep her mind occupied on something other than being homeless.

It was through writing to an editor from Change.org that I got connected with a man named Mark Horvath. Thanks to him I’ve had the opportunity to share my story with more people than I ever thought possible. I felt honored when he asked me to manage We Are Visible which is an online community that helps the homeless connect through social media on the internet. I am still connecting with other people, have been on radio programs, have seen my writings on more sites than I can count and I am always amazed at how one story can impact so many other people. I am still homeless. I am still fighting for a better life and doing what I can to help other single mother’s out there keep their hopes alive.

I am not that stereotypical “bum” on a sidewalk corner asking for spare change. I am not that drunk lying on filth in an open alleyway. I am not a “welfare queen”. I am not asking to be pitied or handed a lifestyle. I am not less of a human being because of homelessness.

I am still a mother.”

The interesting thing about this site is that so far, they’veposted many stories but conveniently have skipped over mine. In all honestly, it’s exactly what I expected. I don’t take it personally because this isn’t the first time my story has been “overlooked”. There were times I joined in online conversations designed for single mothers but whenever I commented about my situation, it was if the room suddenly went quiet.

I am after all…a little too real.

I recently read an article about getting by on $200.00 a month in food stamps. The author of the article is not homeless and not on any kind of state assistance so for her, this was a “challenging” experiment. For the thousands of homeless families and individuals who know what it is to live on less with no apparent end in sight, this is not a casual experiment but a living nightmare yet policy makers continue to make cutbacks to programs that are needed more than ever. Why? In a country that touts being a wealthy developed nation, why is giving the wealthy tax breaks more important than feeding the masses?

From the article, the author goes on to say that this was indeed a learning experience. For one thing she couldn’t shop at places like Whole Foods or where she usually shops. Of course not! Those places are expensive and when living on a budget, you make as many concessions as you can! Visiting food banks is something many of us have to do even with food stamps. Let me ask the reader this, have you ever visited a food bank? If so, did you notice a lack of healthy options such as fresh fruits and vegetables? Did you see a lot of cheap foods like Ramen, macaroni & cheese, bread, canned foods? I have only seen two food banks in my area that offer fresh produce donated from a farm with
surplus and only when in season. Not to offend anyone but for those who assume that people on food stamps are all overweight due to laziness, think again!

Here’s another tidbit of info that goes hand in hand with the topic of the food stamp program. JP Morgan profits from the food stamp program: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zf8v7RYk6Y

Not only that, Chase charges more in fees to recipients of welfare more than they do regular customers:http://www.realchangenews.org/index.php/site/archives/5597/

From my own experience I can tell you that with careful budgeting, occasional visits to the food banks and growing my own veggies in a community pea patch all help towards managing starvation but even then, that doesn’t always work. If I find myself in a neighborhood that doesn’t have many options outside of expensive convenience stores and a lack of food banks in the area or the food bank shutting down due to lack of donations, I will skip meals so that my kids won’t have to. That’s the reality of dwindling programs due to budget cuts that aren’t directly affecting policy makers willing to slash budgets at the expense of those who need them the most.

So you want a challenging experience? Go out and deliberately live homeless for a minimum of two weeks so that you can see firsthand just how little you can get by on. I guarantee it will be a real eye opener…..

“A cynic is a man who
knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Oscar Wilde

 

You may think that homeless folks have nothing to be thankful for but that assumption is as incorrect as believing all homeless people are the same. Recently I posted on my Facebook page an article I found about the Joplin tornado victims who, although are now homeless, still found blessings to be thankful for. This is only the beginning of the season and many people will become homeless due to tornadoes or floods. Add to this the thousands waiting for their unemployment benefits to end and a tidal wave of poverty is on its way.

Why wait for a natural disaster though, to bless other people with your time or even spare change? To most, the ever prevalent stereotypes of a “dirty bum” prevents seeing the less fortunate as human beings and let’s face it; it is very difficult to think in terms of compassion when you see someone urinating in public or obviously hasn’t bathed in a long while. The truth is that this stereotype is a small percentage of the homelessness that is steadily growing among young people, families, the disabled and the elderly.

Many homeless people work, some have two jobs and yet it isn’t enough to get by. I know because I once had two jobs and it wasn’t enough to pay for the childcare that cost more than my rent plus utilities, car insurance, gas, food, kid expenses and the list goes on. Even though we are homeless, I still consider myself to have blessings; like the strangers who come forward to offer help when I least expect it or the handful of friends who stay in touch regardless of my income or the car I drive (or living situation) and the fact that I live in a country that hasn’t been devastated by constant war, famine and disease.

I’m not the only one out here that thinks this way. Take my friend RD for instance. Some of you may have seen her story on  InvisiblePeople.tv or have visited her blog, www.lostawareness.com. Here’s a video of her: http://invisiblepeople.tv/blog/2011/01/rd-homeless-los-angeles-140-conference/. RD has housing now but could use a little help in replacing a blood pressure monitor. You can find details on the monitor at http://lostawareness.blogspot.com/2011/05/thank-yous-and-panhandling.html?spref=fb. With everything RD has been through, she keeps a positive attitude and counts her blessings daily but her story is far from over. In addition to keeping her housing, she has to keep her health up as well. We may not have much but we do have something in common; that human bond that links us all together regardless of where we came from.

Now let’s get real for a minute here. There are some homeless people that need to address the issues that led to their homelessness especially if addiction and mental issues are involved. Facing up to your self is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but you must do it if you ever hope to get back on your feet. Denying you have a problem and making excuses for not managing your condition only aggravates a hard life that eventually will kill you. On top of that, this kind of behavior alienates you from those who are sincerely trying to get you off the street but the hard lesson of life is this; nobody owes you a living and you don’t have the right to live off the hard work of other people. You can play the “pity me” game all you want but eventually people get wise and they’ll get tired of it. Why add to the stereotype that doesn’t need to be out there?

Because there are still so many questions about homelessness, I have decided to post detailed blogs about the myths of homelessness, the problem with statistics, the politics behind large scale poverty, community responsibility and stories that I got from the people I found living out of baseball parks, under blackberry bushes, out of their vehicles, in tent cities, on the waterfront and in the alleys most walk past without a second thought. It’s not going to be all doom and gloom either as there are stellar examples of community responses to the homelessness disaster. Sometimes the most heartfelt gestures of compassion I’ve ever seen came from individuals acting on their own without having to be asked to help. As always, the public is free to visit me at We Are Visible on Facebook. If anything, you may see for yourselves that we are a community to support each other through homelessness and those on the brink of becoming homeless. Everyone else is welcome too!

In closing, I’d like to leave you all with this video: Beth\’s story

 

 

 

Today I have the mini-van back! I almost broke down in tears when I saw it but managed to keep it together as they say! One thing the mechanic noticed in addition to the transmission was that the rear shocks were really bad which explains why it would rock back and forth whenever I drove over the slightest bumps in the road. Grand total of the rebuilt transmission with rear shocks came to $2602.75! The shocks were over budget by $102.75 but thank goodness another donor came to my rescue!

Not having the van around was a heavy cause for anxiety because without it, I’m pretty much dead in the water. For those of you without a clue, how long would you be able to last without reliable transportation? Would you be able to get to your job? Take your kids to doctor’s appointments or after school activities? Even something as simple as grocery shopping will be affected. For the homeless living out of their vehicles, it may be their only lifeline.

I really do thank everyone who took the time to donate funds to get my van fixed. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to get by without it and folks out there proved to me yet again that the spirit of giving exists outside of Christmas.  The best anyone can give to the homeless is hope. The only way to do that is to keep fighting for a better a day and that’s pretty much how I my life. There’s no such thing as being entitled but there is such a thing as compassion for those who are down on their luck through no fault of their own. For those with addiction problems and mental health issues, shouldn’t they be given hope too? I see so many comments that reflect the attitude that drug addicts and mental patients aren’t worth the hassle of saving but I refuse to believe that any life is disposable or expendable. Every life is worthy of living.

That being said, someone mentioned to me not to let hope get out of hand which is in effect an erroneous statement. Hope doesn’t get out of hand, expectations do. I have always thought that expectations lead to disappointments so why waste time doing that to myself? Better to be surprised by generosity than hurt by false expectations but that doesn’t mean I won’t stop working towards a better future. If anything, it just means I have to work that much harder.

Thanks again to all the generous souls out there who gave this homeless mother another chance to get back on her feet!

Whew! It’s April 6th already???? Time flies even when you’re not having fun but we all have to make the best of it, right? Anyway, as you can see, I’m on my own site now so have a look around! If you notice the widget on the side of the screen, you’ll see that so far, donations to get my transmission fixed are now at 46% towards the $2,500.o0 goal. I got until April 10th so yeah…it’s starting to cut close to the deadline! A big thank you to all you generous souls out there who took the time to help me out! Once the van is fixed, I can reschedule doctor visits for the kids!

Ok now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what a homeless mother like me does from day to day. I’ll tell you….it’s not much different than what other parents do except…I don’t have a place of my own and so begins the adventure! One of the things I’m working on is finding ways to make a living that allow me NOT to spend one job’s worth of pay on childcare. People don’t seem to realize that one of the reasons that homeless families have a hard time getting out of homelessness is because they need childcare even if it’s to go work at a minimum wage job. Does it make sense to have childcare that costs more than what you make in a month?

I also do what I can to help other homeless folks if I can. When I had working transportation, I drove to places I knew they were hanging out in and I am long overdue in visiting them. One is a gentleman named Steve that is wheelchair bound and lives at a baseball field. The other is an older woman I found sleeping under blackberry bushes. There are young people I know who sleep in cardboard recycling dumpsters because the street is the only place they can go. For the folks that know me, I’m a knitting freak and I use knitting as a way to alleviate stress. I’m also an avid sewing nut that has been known to make receiving blankets and baby clothes for needy mothers. Right now I’m taking apart thrift store and donated wool sweaters to recycle the yarn into hats and gloves for those who sleep outside. Sometimes I even do socks.

Since spring is on the way and hopefully warmer weather, I’ve been thinking about making things that go with outdoor gear. If you’re permanently “camping” it helps to have items that serve more than one purpose and are light to carry. Women need items their male counterparts don’t have to worry about so that’s another project I’m working on and when I find I can’t sleep when I should, I write..and write….and write some more! If any of you have suggestions on things that could be made to go with camping gear, let me know!

Other than that I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing, telling the stories of homelessness from my experience and through the eyes of the homeless folks I run across. Old stereotypes must die in my opinion.

Till tomorrow everybody!

You know it’s funny to see the expressions on other people’s faces when you tell them you’re homeless, especially when you run across old classmates or friends of family that didn’t know as much as they thought they did. Relax, I tell them. You were expecting to see someone who didn’t look like I do or maybe you thought I had relatives supporting me until I get back on my feet. Sorry to disappoint those preconceived notions.

I am no different from you it’s just that, I lost my job and there aren’t the social services you assumed were in place to catch us when we fall. Maybe you voted to defund programs because you thought the only people who benefited from them were drug addicts too far gone or lazy people who simply didn’t want to work. Maybe you thought that the puny amount of funds our government spends on social services is more than what the government spends outside this country.

Then there are those of you who look at me and wonder why I don’t just go out and live off some man as though that were the only option a woman has in getting a better life. Hasn’t the women’s movement gone beyond that kind of thinking by now? Having a man in your life does not guarantee your life will be any better….

I also think it’s funny when folks ask me how I’m doing even though I post status updates on this blog or on my Facebook page. If you really want to know, try reading. As far as donations go towards fixing the transmission on the mini-van, we are now up to $770.00 which is about 30% of the targeted goal of $2,500.00.

On my little book of poetry, 77 books were sold (Yay!) so I thank each and every one of you who bought and read them! The book I wrote for my oldest daughter, New Descendant, has only sold 5 copies so far but, that’s 5 people reading it and I’m grateful. I know how the book industry goes so it will be a while in getting my stories out to as many as I can, I just have to be patient!

In the meantime, I’m just like everyone else who is looking for full-time work that will enable me NOT to pay for childcare as it is too expensive. When I had two jobs, one of them was solely to pay for childcare.

If you’re reading this, do me a favor. Please don’t feel sorry for me, I’m not asking for pity. I’ve been through a lot worse and maybe sometime in the near future, my experiences with homelessness won’t be in vain. If you realize I’m homeless, don’t suddenly act as though I have a contagious disease, I don’t. I’m the same person you once knew, just in a difficult situation. If you want to help because you believe in the cause that homelessness can be ended, great! I salute you in your efforts to help out!

For the rest of the homeless nation, keep on fighting and don’t give up!

So far $690.00 has been donated to help get my transmission fixed. A big thanks to everyone who gave! To be honest, I just wasn’t sure anyone would; guess you all showed me! Right now the van is just sitting in a gravel parking lot where it won’t be bothered by anybody. The deadline I have is April 10th so if I’m unable to get the transmission fixed, I’ll have to get rid of the van since my friend’s landlord’s won’t let the van stay parked where it is indefinitely.

In the meantime, I will continue to write as much as I can while looking for ways to make a living. I’m not having much luck getting job interviews or even a “thank you for applying” response to the ads I’ve applied to. Doesn’t get me down though. For all the talk you hear about the economy getting better and supposedly more jobs being made, there sure are a lot of unemployed people here in Washington State.

When you don’t have a vehicle to get around in, you realize just how much you relied on it. I had to cancel two doctor’s appointments and missed my niece’s birthday party because I couldn’t get a ride there. Once the van is fixed or I get another vehicle, I’ll be mobile again!

Although homelessness isn’t a glamorous place to be, sometimes things happen that are downright funny, like the time this couple living out of their conversion van left a Wal-Mart parking lot in a hurry and forgot that the clothes line on the roof of their van still had all their laundry on it and as they drove down the street, underwear and bras went flying all over the road!

One thing I noticed out here was the fact that you observe a lot when you are constantly moving around. Sometimes you see bad things, sometimes good. It just depends on where you’re at and when. I’ll never forget waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of shotgun blasts and the flashing lights of police cars chasing a white pick-up truck down the street. Apparently the person they were chasing was involved in a murder at a local motel and the police ran the guy into a median, then shot out the rearview window when the guy started shooting at the police. Needless to say, I didn’t go back to that neighborhood unless I was desperate because these kinds of incidents happened a little too frequently there.

I will never forget one older woman who saw us every day at a local park. She went there to walk for exercise in the mornings and one day she tapped on my window. I rolled it down thinking she needed help but to my surprise, she held up a bag of apples she brought with her that morning. She said “Excuse me hon, but are you homeless? I don’t mean to pry but I’ve been seeing you here all summer long and kind of guessed that you were. I want you and your girls to have these.” She became a good friend along with another older gal that walked her little dog around the park. I came to find out that these two ladies knew each other! The woman with the dog would bring occasional Happy Meals for my kids and I was so grateful that she did. I didn’t qualify for food stamps then because I was working but the money I made went into the gas tank and maintenance on the r.v.. It just wasn’t enough to survive on.

By contrast, there was another family that also frequented the park and they saw us with our r.v. but…the father had a position at the church that sat on the other side of the park and although my kids would talk from time to time with his kids, he made a point of separating his kids from mine once my youngest told them we lived out of the Minnie Winnebago. What was he afraid of? Homelessness is not a contagious disease.

These are the thoughts I thought today while sitting at the park with my youngest today. Seven years it’s been and I haven’t given up hope yet. I still have a way to go before I can get my transmission fixed on the mini-van but several people have donated funds to help me and I thank all of you that gave so generously. So far, $665.00 has been raised and I am truly amazed! With a little luck, I’ll be able to raise the rest of the money needed to get the transmission switched out before the end of April. Otherwise, I’ll have to scrap the van and figure out how to get another vehicle.

Day by day is how we’re living and tomorrow is the beginning of another new start towards a brighter future so don’t give up!

Ever since that piece in the Huffington Post ran about me, I’ve been getting quite a few emails from sympathetic folks, even some donations for the mini van and I am eternally grateful to you all. In the meantime, I still have to find a way to make a living for the long-term. There is a book I wrote specifically for my oldest daughter while we were living out of the van. She was going through a lot of depression and the only way I could think of to help distract her from dwelling on our situation in a negative way was to keep her mind busy.

I did this by writing a few pages at a time about a girl called Yeracenna. She grew up poor and experienced what it was like to be abused, neglected and ignored. That didn’t mean she was worthless and she would soon discover that poverty doesn’t define who you are. It is a situation that is dealt with by learning her way through it. It didn’t take long for my daughter to identify with the main character and the world she lives in. I entitled this manuscript “New Descendant” as I also included in this story elements from our cultural background. Although my maternal side of the family is Filipino, my father’s side of the family are the Black Cherokees from Tennessee. I grew up around several different cultures and that influence can be seen in this story.

On a different project, I am working on another little book about my first experience with homelessness all the way up until now. I intend to release these on Kindle as it is free and fairly simple to use. Who knows? Maybe someday a major publisher will pick it up for hard copy but in the meantime, I will keep writing the only way I know how.

Of course, not to be left behind is my youngest daughter who now wants a story of her own so that is yet another project I am working on!

It is my hope that folks who read what I write can see what life is like on your own without a support system to stop you from falling through the cracks. Life may not be a bed of roses but it sure does feel better once you remove the thorns!

P.S. – Oh yeah, occasionally you will hear me on radio shows but when those come up, I will post the link to the station so you all can have a listen if you’re able to!