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’m going to dedicate this entry to one of my generous readers. His name is Bob and he is the second person to donate actual money to my cause. I’m going to dedicate it to him because I want him (and others) to know exactly how that donation was spent. I also would like blog readers everywhere to know what life is like for homeless people who are lucky enough to sleep in a motel from time to time. I can’t speak for all homeless people, of course, but to me these motels are an absolute GODSEND.
Now, I need to be very careful with this entry because it is very important that I don’t sound either ungrateful OR spoiled. But the truth is, I will sound like I am both. It is because I am both ungrateful and spoiled. Let me explain:
I feel both emotions very strongly each time I am blessed enough to sleep in a motel. I sometimes feel ungrateful because these are not nice motels I am referring to. I have to choose motels that are the cheapest of the cheap, which means they are always in the worst (i.e., industrial) parts of town. These are the areas of Los Angeles that have a lot of crime and gang activity. The other “guests” are often gang-bangers, prostitutes, and drug-addicts. This means, of course, that these motels are largely unsafe and unpredictable, especially for a single female. There are always police coming in and out, there are always arguments and fights, and there is always some “explosive” tenant on the property. It’s not uncommon to see drug deals happening outside of your door, as it is not uncommon to see prostitutes (and their guests) checking out in the morning. It’s also not uncommon to have a drunk and angry stranger pound on your door in the middle of the night because his plastic room key won’t work. These things don’t bother me nearly as much as when I see a single (and obviously homeless) mother trying to take care of her babies. I’ve seen many homeless women crying in their cars, as I’ve seen so many prostitutes walking around the property looking as if they have lost every shred of hope for a decent life. Of course it also bears to mention the ones who have been doing it forever, and don’t seem to have a care in the world.
Since I just passed the one-year mark of being homeless, I have stayed in a lot of these motels because I am one of the lucky few who has a trade and can work from time to time. I still have makeup and photography clients, so I do still get booked occasionally. This is how I afford to live in the “lap of luxury” that is the skeezy-motel sub-culture of Los Angeles. Of course I sound ungrateful, because I am still newly-homeless enough to still be clinging to my old life. My beautiful apartment that didn’t have cockroaches crawling all over the sinks, my toothbrush, utensils, and every other surface of my dwelling-space. I didn’t have to keep what little food I had in a nasty old smelly cooler, I didn’t have strung-out hookers asking me for cigarettes every time I stepped outside of my door, and I definitely didn’t have gang-bangers eyeballing me every time I returned from the street. I didn’t have video cameras and security guards monitoring my every move, nor did I have exasperated, grouchy owners just waiting to pounce on me if I so much as looked at them wrong. But most of all, I didn’t experience the icy-cold stares from strangers who automatically assume you are drug-addicted scum of the earth.
These motels are absolutely filled each day with society’s throwaways. Junkies and prostitutes are a given of course, but they are also filled with relatively normal and sane people just like me who are just trying to stay alive each day. Lots of homeless single mothers, lots of immigrant laborers, and lots of elderly folks whose families have abandoned them. We all have one thing in common, and that’s the fact that once we’ve arrived here we will never escape the culture and return to normal life. Not without a miracle because the rooms cost just enough to insure that we will never be able to save for an apartment, even if we work a regular job. Even if we were able to raise the necessary thousands to get a decent studio apartment, it’s unlikely we would get one anyway because in Los Angeles one must have near-perfect credit to rent anything.
So just to be sure that I don’t sound like I’m moaning and complaining about how horrible these motels are (and guarantee that my haters, i.e., the “real” homeless, will write me hate mail), I will flip the switch and tell you why I feel so spoiled when I stay in one of these places. In fact, this is why I get so excited and happy when someone books me for makeup, because I know I will get to sleep that night in an actual room, instead of a freezing-cold backseat. An actual room with an actual door, is a Godsend. An actual bed, no matter how uncomfortable and gross it is, is still better than a tiny backseat (even if it does smell like someone else’s pee). I can stretch out and roll around with the greatest of ease. I can wake up and use an actual toilet in the morning, instead of squatting in some parking lot, and that is so much more dignifying. A real shower? Heaven on Earth. Sometimes I stand in there for what seems like hours, just letting the hot water wash over me as if to erase an entire year of shame. Cable TV? Now we’re talking pure, guilty luxury. I can get caught up on the news and my favorite shows from my old life. TV is actually one of the things I miss the most from my old life. Snuggling in bed watching movies with my three cats on a rainy Sunday used to be my favorite past-time. I’m a huge movie buff, so giving them up has been a big source of my anxiety. That, and being able to make art any time I wanted. Oh how I miss my studio, and sculpting and painting.
All the wondrous things I used to take for granted are afforded to me when I stay in a motel: shower, bed, toilet, TV…all under the same roof! Sometimes the room will even have a microwave, so I can actually heat food!! When Generous Bob sent that donation, the second thing I did after getting this motel was go to Ralph’s and buy a nice roasted chicken and veggies. I also bought a quart of ice-cold milk, and Sookie-Bojo (my feline fellow traveler) and I ate chicken, drank milk, and slept like Queens. All those things that you, as a normal human, don’t even think about. As a homeless person, I will sometimes go weeks without these luxuries. But my suffering is NOTHING compared to many, many others that don’t have a car to sleep in, or a means by which to stay in an occasional skeezy-motel. Those people have it really rough, and I wish every single day that our society would help them. Oh, and I’m not talking about the Government. I’m talking about society, which is YOU.
THANK YOU, GENEROUS BOB!!
Please read my next entry: “How to Help.”