Today I talked to a girl who truly enlightened me on the horrors of being a homeless woman and how working your ass off to have a roof over your head, doesn't always go as planned.
After her frustratingly horrific divorce, she found herself homeless, with no family or friends to help her. They all turned their back on her, leaving her in the cold...literally. Her only choice, with snow on the ground and frigid weather was to check herself into a local shelter.
Here are the rules she was given when she arrived.
1. Sleep with one eye open
2. Sleep with your belongings close to you, but have nothing of value.
3. NEVER go to the bathroom alone.
4. If you have children, do not leave their side.
Why? 1 and 2 are because people will steal your stuff when you aren't looking.
3 and 4, however are the ones that got me the most. The area near the bathrooms is a prime spot for women to be raped!? And 4...Ugh...people steal your children! And I will not tell you why...its horrific and I am sure you can figure it out.
These are shelters, places that are supposed to assist HUMAN BEINGS who have NO roof over their head, and yet they are forced to "sleep" in a state of pure terror because the other human beings in their shelter aren't held accountable.
Thankfully she was able to get herself out of there in once piece, however, the roof she has over her head now, is literally falling apart. Just last week she fell through the floor while walking into the kitchen. Thirty plus holes , covered with a piece of carpet, plague her home, allowing for vermin to enter and ankles to get caught in shards of broken wood.
She does share the home with her boyfriend who puts in 60-80 plus hours of work a week to dig him out of a debt his last wife put him in. 5 credit cards in his name maxed out without his knowledge. His kindness being used up in the form of a burden he can't quite shake.
His home is falling apart, he can't keep enough food in the cabinets to feed his 3 kids and his girlfriend, who is trying to help dig him out of such a mess, is too disabled to finish all the work she is attempting to do around the house. She is literally in it over her head.
These are good, decent people who were dealt very bad hands. Another case of hardworking people who just can't seem to dig themselves out of a very deep hole. Gracious people who struggle to accept the help we can give them, because they don't feel like they deserve it...and yet the do.
Today she was afraid to ask for more than one deodorant. Five people sharing one stick and trying to make it last for the month. Our shelves are never full enough, but I can't make a family of 5 share one deodorant. To me, thats like sharing a toothbrush and I can't allow it! Yes, that is my choice as the Executive Director, however, can you imagine being a woman and sharing something so intimate with 3 teenage boys and grown man? She used bar soap to clean her hair because its easier to get what the men need and sacrifice feeling like a woman. It's not convenient.
She went from being in a bad relationship, to fearing for her life, to being happy but sacrificing her womanhood so that the people who gave her a roof over her head could get what they needed.
Thankfully, someone has stepped in and called on Habitat For Humanity so that their floor can be fixed, and we will be there to make sure she has the proper soap and shampoos, plus wash her laundry for her...but we need to do more. We need to give people like her Hope that it will get better, and be able to deliver on that promise.