Yesterday was definitely a Murphy’s Law day. Everything that could go wrong, did. The morning started off with a frantic call from formerly homeless “Legion”. He’s been struggling looking for work while couch surfing at a friend’s. He lost his medical and food stamps benefits due to 5 year time limit. His friend has been patiently waiting for Legion to pay $100 a month but per Legion, last night was the last night he could stay at his friend’s house. Legion’s health appears to be faltering as his face was grey and he showed me lumps under his jawline that appeared after he started couch surfing. He’s supposed to go to a doctor’s appointment on October 17th but without insurance, most cancer clinics won’t see him. Legion’s biggest concern isn’t homelessness, it’s what the cold will do to his daily pain. My concern is getting his cancer status checked and seeing what can be done to keep him at his friend’s house.
I spent the morning running my “son” Strey to thrift stores to get him outfitted for my daughter’s homecoming dance. After that the plan was to take him to his soon to be new apartments to sign paperwork with his new caseworker then go back to his camp and move him into his new apartment. What ended up happening was paperwork not getting to Strey’s employer before yesterday so employment verification was missing and now Strey has to show up at the apartment complex Monday but that isn’t the worst of what happened. You see, part of the housing program requirements is that youth be employed or actively looking for employment in order to keep his housing. My daughter’s first homecoming dance is today and Strey could not get tonight off from his employer. If he doesn’t go in he loses his job. If he loses his job what do you think will happen to his housing opportunity?
Add to this that I was frantically calling around and sending text messages to everyone I could think of to make my daughter’s dream night happen and accidentally sent a text intended for someone else to my daughter. I told her to disregard the accidental texts in case I could work something out. Caseworkers are great for homeless youth but try getting in touch with one after hours. That’s one of the beefs I have with social services. Homelessness doesn’t clock out for the day when you do and homeless youth have no one to call at night or on weekends if program offices are closed. Anyway, I spent last night parked outside my brother’s house where my daughter was, stalling having to tell her that after all the work I did on her dress, after all the kind donations people sent in, sending her to the dance isn’t going to happen after all and once again another setback adds to another missed birthday and another missed social function. No wonder then, that to my teen, it’s not worth the effort to have too many hopes.
I watched as Strey knocked on my brother’s door to tell my daughter he was so sorry about not being able to take her to the dance. He kept blaming himself over and over and she kept assuring him that not going to the dance is alright with her. She’d rather not have Strey lose his chance to get out of homelessness. I even asked if she wouldn’t mind going to the dance alone but she said that she didn’t want to go without Strey and she doesn’t really have any friends at her new school to hang out with so….
So here I sit using free wifi at McDonald’s and staring at the screen of my laptop dreading every minute I have to write this. I apologize to everyone who did what they could to help a homeless teen go to her first homecoming dance on her birthday only to have everything fall through the cracks. I’m looking at this dress wrapped in a donut box and the only thing I’m thinking about is how to repay everyone even though I’m not sure how long it will take me to do so. Today is just another scratch on the tip of an iceberg I call our homeless life. Yeah, we know getting out of homelessness is more important than a dance and no one knows that better than we do. After Strey and Ariella accepted the fact that the homecoming dance isn’t going to happen, they rode with me to Kent to hand out donated camping gear, a tent, a sleeping bag, camping gear, tarps, flashlights and $5 McDonald’s gift cards to homeless youth with nothing. Even little Maggie got out of the van to hand out items.
Watching my daughter last night made me realize something I hadn’t really paid attention to when I was working two jobs to avoid the situation we now live with. Like me, she is tougher than I thought.