The Homeless Chronicles Pt. 5A: How Could You Let it Get That Far?

Some of the folks who have sent me messages about my other entries ask the same question: How could I have allowed all of this to happen? They ask with true kindness and curiosity, but I can tell by their tone what they’re really wondering. They’re really wondering about my strength, character, or my lack of friends or family. After all, wouldn’t someone who has even a normal amount of friends, or even a small amount of success in life, be able to stave off that kind of tragedy? They would be half-correct in assuming that, too. They might even picture themselves in that situation, not fully understanding the nature of the people that surround them. A lot of those assumptions we make about our friends are just that: assumptions. We assume that if we ever got into that kind of trouble, that none of our close friends or relatives would ever allow us to fall that low. That’s what I thought, too.

Here’s how it all unfolded for me:

My long-time service business (photo studio/makeup salon) was starting to *taper off* slowly, because of the economy and a host of other reasons (smartphones, YouTube, etc.), so I was forced to choose between keeping my long-time apartment, or keeping my place of business (my shop). I chose to give up my apartment and move into my shop. It was uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it was clearly the logical choice. I adapted fairly quickly to sleeping in my office and not having a kitchen or a shower. My cats didn’t seem to mind so much, and I learned to deal with the noise (it was a warehouse in an industrial area). I converted my office into a bedroom by removing my huge glass desk and other office furniture, and setting up a bed and nightstand, television, and clothing rack. I felt pretty unsafe because the foot of my bed was literally just feet from the door that lead to the sidewalk, and it was NOT a good neighborhood.

A year had passed, and I adapted well to the enormous changes. I had not taken an actual shower in over a year, and became accustomed to washing my hair in an industrial-sized sink with cold water. My “baths” entailed heating one pot of water at a time on a hotplate, and pouring it into a big bucket. I repeated this process five or six times in order to have enough hot water to fill the five-gallon bucket. Once it was full, I could use a large cup to wash my hair and use a washcloth for the rest of my body. It took a long time, but I got used to it. Nighttime was a bit more of a challenge. I was spooked by the many noises that are normal for an industrial neighborhood. It was in a seedy part of Van Nuys, with no homes nearby. A large number of homeless people regularly walked the streets looking for anything they could steal and sell. I was always paranoid that someone would break into my shop while I was sleeping. There was also a fire station right down the street, so I heard loud sirens at all hours of the night, literally feet away from where I slept. I cooked my meals on a hotplate or microwave, and ate from paper plates and bowls.

Business was slowing down, but I was still working enough to pay the rent and bills. I was paying hefty car payments and insurance at the time, so whenever I was short on money, it was usually the phone or electricity that went unpaid. I’d just catch up the next month. My friends and clients knew I was struggling, and they were all sympathetic. I knew how to solve all the financial problems, but the solution involved spending money I didn’t have. I wasn’t about to gamble the rent money on an advertising campaign, but I knew that it would help a lot if I did that. No matter how well-known a business is, they still must always do some form of advertising to attract new customers. That’s just Business 101, and I always knew it. I could literally measure my business’s most successful cycles based on the amount and type of advertising I did. No advertising at all, for a long period of time, meant very few customers.

The holidays rolled around, and I had no surplus of funds for advertising. I had only booked a couple of clients over the entire months of November and December, so money was nearly non-existent. It was barely enough to buy groceries, let alone pay the rent or any bills. I held off the landlord and convinced him that this was unusual, and he let me slide for three months.He was a very kind landlord who liked and believed in me. He never fussed over my being late with the rent, and although he was unhappy about letting me slide for 3 months, he did eventually put his foot down. He gave me a few weeks in which to pay or vacate, and during those few weeks I hustled like crazy to raise the money. I was searching high and low for an investing partner, placing ads all over the web. I called friends and old clients, and anyone else I thought might be able to help. I even looked for a loan shark. Nothing worked. I began to panic, and I grew more and more desperate. That desperation is what caused my decline, because everyone around me sensed it and immediately started to avoid me. Little did I know at the time how much that phenomena would effect my life.

So as I promised the landlord, I went ahead and started packing up the shop. This was no easy feat, either. It was 3,600 sq. ft. of warehouse space, packed to the gills with equipment and furniture, tools and art supplies (not to mention that I was storing all the contents of my apartment). The space itself was dedicated to two separate businesses; one was my makeup and photography business, and the other was a spfx-makeup workshop and studio. It was a LOT to pack, and not a single friend came to help. I packed and moved every box by myself, with the exception of one day that a friend came to help me move some shelves. All that hard labor would prove to be a nice distraction from what was to come, and that was…where the hell am I gonna sleep tonight?

 

 

 

 

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