If you haven’t had the opportunity or inclination to read any of my other many blogs about being homeless, I will give you a quick briefing: I’m a 49 year-old white female, college -educated former business owner and artist. I became homeless a year ago, and my blog chronicles the adventure from the beginning up until now (I’m still homeless). I didn’t become homeless as a result of mental illness, drug-addiction, alcoholism, or domestic violence. I became homeless as a result of a declining economy, just like millions of other American small-business owners. You’d be shocked to find out how fast your life can and will unravel after only two months of little-to-no income. If it could happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
I have mentioned in several of my other blogs how seemingly impossible it is to work while you are homeless. This is about 90% true. However, since I happen to be a freelancer, and have been just about all of my whole life, I forget sometimes that most people have regular jobs that they go to every day. I do not fit that profile. I have always owned my own small businesses, ranging from music magazines to making/selling art pieces, to doing makeup and photography for cross-dressers and transsexuals. My entire business and income is based on having a physical location in which to do my work. Without a home base, I do not have an income.
I am a girl who has never known a day without work. I was brought up with the idea that a woman should never depend on a man for anything, and that she should work her fucking nails off in order to survive, and if she was good at something, she should harness that skill for her own survival. There was never an ounce of the concept of entitlement anywhere in my family. Our women were workhorses, and it was our “glory.” I am damned proud of that.
Once I became homeless, I obviously no longer had a location for clients to come to for makeup or photography. I no longer had a shop in which to build and ship art pieces, and not even an office to conduct at-home phone work or writing. I had to devise a way to continue that work as a mobile service. It’s a very rare occasion that my clients will book me for any kind of services at their home or location. Occasionally I will get a request to do someone’s makeup in their hotel if they are visiting Los Angeles, but it’s very rare indeed.
So how do I still manage to work even though I am homeless? It’s a very tricky endeavor, I’ll tell ya. First of all, I live in a tiny, run-down car. It’s a horrible piece of shit PT Cruiser that I bought from some bimbo on Craig’s List. It overheats every few miles, and in L.A. traffic, that renders the shit-wagon pretty much useless. Just a couple of minutes at a long light, and the thing starts boiling and steaming. I can go a few miles, and then I have to pull over to cool it down. So yea, you can guess that getting anywhere outside my normal ghetto-perimeter is a huge undertaking. If a client calls me to do makeup in a hotel, I have to leave hours before my scheduled arrival time to accommodate the inevitable five or six breakdowns along the way.
The other major challenge is not having a place to get cleaned up and ready beforehand. I wake up before dawn most days; freezing, sore, hungry, and depressed. Gas station and fast-food sinks are way too small to wash my hair, and I can’t just go up to someone’s yard and “borrow” their hose. How can I show up at any job looking like I haven’t bathed or slept in weeks? How can I show up to a job stinking like an athlete, wearing the same nasty clothes I’ve been wearing for a week? Oh, my social calendar was so full that I didn’t have time to pick up my dry cleaning, haha! Sure I could spend $50 I don’t have on a gym-bership or the YMCA and simply use their shower facilities on mornings I have to see people. But even that is very difficult in that I would have to sacrifice a week’s worth of food and gas for that privilege. $50 doesn’t come easily for homeless folks. Even if I did have the money, I would still have to get there and have money for shampoo and such. But yes, it can be done.
The last drama to overcome is my cat Sookie-Bojo. I have had to leave her alone in the car for hours before while I was doing a photo job, and I do not like to do that. In the summer I would not do it, and now that it is “winter” here in Los Angeles, I can leave her in the car without fear of her getting heat-stroke. Can I leave the car parked safely and securely, containing pretty much all of my worldly possessions, unattended all day? Will someone see Sookie and call Animal Control? I bet you never considered any of things while you’re judging us for not “just getting a job.” Do you have any idea at all how hard it is to get a job in a city with literally millions of unemployed people? Especially when you have no experience with “unskilled labor?” Those jobs are all filled by students and immigrants, and they do not hire 49 year-old white women who don’t speak Spanish, in case you were curious.
And by the way, don’t fucking utter the words “get a job” to us as you walk by us when we’re already spiritually broken and fantasizing about what it was like when we had a Goddamned job. Mmm-kay? We want to work, you soul-less demon! Never judge people for not getting help that you refuse to give. You want me to get a job? THEN GIVE ME A FUCKING JOB!
But I think the most difficult part of all is the emotional/mental distress of being homeless. After so many months of being alone and on the road, your mind tends to shut other people out. You spend so much time alone and not speaking to anyone, not really thinking of anyone else, that you become your own best friend. You eventually prefer your own company above all others, because you can no longer relate to other people. You can’t possibly explain to other people what it’s like to lose your life, and everything and everyone in it, so you close yourself off to people. You deliberately fall out of touch with 99% of your friends because you’re either resentful of them for not helping you, or you just get too sad to think that they’re doing great and you’re not. Homeless people just cannot relate to normal people anymore, just like people with cancer can’t relate to people without cancer (at least while they have cancer). It’s absolutely gut-wrenching to see their Facebook posts about their new bed or water heater they installed in their house. Any kind of baking or cooking or playing in the yard with family. That kills me every time.
If your life is in deadly-serious crisis, it’s incredibly difficult to “pretend” that everything is hunky-dory for the people around you. Suddenly nobody’s problems are as serious as yours, and their petty little problems are impossible to even hear about, because you just want to shake them and scream “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT SUFFERING/HARDSHIP IS!!!!” I stopped talking to most of my friends for this reason, well…that and because how dare they complain about their teeny-tiny problems when they KNOW I lost everything I had and loved, and I’m living in a fucking car?! The very fact that they can look at me with a straight face and complain about such petty things makes me never want to talk to them again. The fact that they can do that without even a thought of helping me makes me want to punch them in the face.
So the mental strain becomes crippling, the grief becomes debilitating, and before you know it, you cannot even talk to normal people. I suppose now I can better understand soldiers suffering from PTSD, because of the horrors they have seen have changed who they are forever. They can never un-see those things, just like someone who has lost their life and lives as a “ghost of society” can never forget those experiences. Pain, loss, trauma, humiliation, grief, etc., will change who a person is. Just like daily looks of disgust and hateful comments will change how you think of yourself.
I do still enjoy working when I can get the work. When all the planets and stars line up just perfectly and I can actually get my equipment and get to their location, and be sane enough to fake it for a few hours, then yes. I know I’ll snap back into work-mode once I find a place to live again. I probably won’t be very useful until I can at least feel human again.
The bottom line? How about the next time you need some kind of work done in your yard, why not ask the homeless gal you see “lurking” around the neighborhood? Stop being afraid to talk to us. We are not out to take anything from you, and we’re very grateful when anyone acknowledges us as human beings instead of trash. Try it some time.
Oh, and to all the nervous old ladies who actually call police on someone who is digging in their trash for cans? Fuck YOU. Try being a human for once and offer that person a sandwich, for fuck’s sake. You won’t create a thief out of that person, you’ll create a watch dog. That person will now protect you from the derelicts that would rob you if given the chance. Kindness has its rewards. Try it sometime.