For the third time in my life, I found myself to be homeless. The first time I was flooded out, and my life was washed away.
The second time I was burned out and my life went up in flames. This time is the hardest to accept, I have been put out by economic situations.
That is to say after 35 years of mostly continuous employment, I find myself without employment or income of any sort.
So since being homeless in Pennsylvania in the wintertime wasn't a whole lot of fun, so just after Thanksgiving I headed off to sunny Florida. Along the way to Florida I experienced some minor breakdowns and found myself basically broke upon arrival. I Immediately started looking for a job. These new experiences has changed my view of the world, and that of mankind itself.
The first big change in this new life style is that I have learned to ask for things, a humbling experience is also very eye opening. When you ask people for things especially strangers, they look at you differently. That is to say most of them look down upon you, no matter how clean cut, well dressed or friendly you are, they want to believe that you and you alone have caused you to be in the situation that you are in.
For instance I ran out of gas coming back from a job interview the one day. I grabbed my emergency can from back of the van and walked to the nearest gas station and asked people who were pumping gas if they could spare a dollar or two of gas to get me home. A couple of people choose to ignore me completely, as if I was invisible. One person told me that they had to borrow money for what they were getting. One said he wouldn't give me money because I would just buy booze or drugs, I pointed out that I was asking for gas not money... He responded that I would probably sell it. One gentleman gave me $1.55 in small change and wished me good luck and offered me a ride back to my van. When I gave the $1.55 to the attendant, she told me to leave or they would call the police. Bottom line five out of six people treated me like a dirty stray dog, one helped with all he could.
The truth is that my gas station experience went pretty much as I expected. What I didn't expect is the treatment that I received from people who claim to be charitable organizations. Having no source of income,
I turned to those organizations that collect money to help the poor and suffering. The Red Cross only helps disaster victims, The United Way, Goodwill and other organizations who say they help the poor, told me that they give their money to churches, food pantries, groups and projects, not individuals, they suggested that I go to the local churches. The churches hid behind secretaries who said they didn't have funds. Nowhere was I allowed to talk to a minister or preacher, some churches just sent me away often very rudely.
Ministers who come regularly to the soup kitchen, told me I should pray more
The travelers aid society has a big website and will gladly take your donations, they say that you must go to a local office for help, but if you go to the local offices listed, you will find them all closed due to lack of funding...
So after a couple weeks sleeping in my van, with my little dog in a Walmart parking lot, the temperature in Florida hit all time lows, dropping into the 30's.
So I checked into a homeless shelter, along with numerous other good people who have fallen through the cracks. First thing they told me was I had to get rid of my dog, second was to piss in a cup...
The homeless shelter requires proof of identification and a drug test before you could get a bed, alcohol or drugs in your system and you are turned away, there was a small tent encampment in the woods nearby for those who couldn't pass muster' However it is interesting to note that the shelter provides free tobacco and coffee. The difference I was told is that they are legal, I pointed out that alcohol is legal as well, they said federal grant funds require no alcohol.
While staying there, they treat you more like jail or boot camp, than a place to protect you from the cold. You have to be in by 6:00 pm every day to sign for your bed. You are awakened at 6:00am to do chores and get kicked out at 7:30 am, supposedly to look for work, with most of the residents going to the local mall or library, because there are no jobs to be found and those opportunities that do exist, expect you to apply by computer and to have transportation to and from work.
The director had a nazi influenced god complex. He claims the right to go through your personal things, when you are not there, if he suspects you may have any contraband or he doesn't like the way you made your bed, either way all your stuff is opened and dumped on the floor for you to clean up when you get back., They told me, it's not like you're in jail after all you could always leave if you don't like it and don't mind freezing to death.
They have a meeting once a week to give the housed a chance to talk about the rights and wrongs of the operation, but the director cuts everybody off in mid sentence, with we tried that it didn't work next...
The haves and have not's still exist in the shelter, we were forced to give up a table that several of us were using for puzzles so that the few patrons with laptops, could be online 12 hours a day, yet I was not allowed to set up my tower computer because it would take up community space. The puzzle issue was solved very directly by the director, he threw them all the puzzles away...
While there I was scolded for bringing my dog by to visit and twice scolded for fraternizing with the woods people and told if caught again I could just go live with them.
The office also serves as a clothing and food pantry for the poor and homeless on Fridays, however if you live in the shelter, you are not homeless and can't have food or clothes during your sixty day stay.
It's winter and cold outside, after you have been ejected at 7:30 am, the "soup kitchen" next door is open from 8 am - 8:30 am for breakfast. The office is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and is a toasty 75 degrees, while the shelter thermostat is set at 66 degrees..
The soup kitchen reopens at 5:00 pm, run each day by a different church. Some nights you get a choice of menu, but no seconds allowed, no take out. Leaving something on your plate because you don't like it and suffer the punishment of cold stares and perhaps rude remarks. The rude remarks don't only come from the church going people that serve you, the token Jew from the shelter complains every night about the lack of kosher food and refuses to take off his hat during the evening prayer because they pray to the lord Jesus. Still he eats some of the food every night...
The people staying in the shelter are varied. Most are men over fifty, many are veterans who have reached the age where no one wants to hire them. A couple families who lost their home to forfeiture. Also small family who was conned into renting a house by someone who didn't actually own it, which I am told is a very popular scam with so many foreclosed houses standing about. Just break in change the locks and rent it to some sucker, using a throw away cell phone. Take the money and run, it's amazing what the criminal mind thinks of to survive in a downed economy. Unwed mothers and small children reign on the woman's side of the shelter.
Which leads to those other people, those not good enough for the shelter because they failed the drug test showed up with alcohol on their breath or used up their time. In the woods nearby the shelter there are small encampments of people who are not good enough for the shelter. Mostly hard core alcoholics, who just can't or don't want to quit drinking. Also among the fray a transvestite with no ID, several people whom run out of time at the shelter.
Most of them are on the food stamp program, but they make their money standing outside of Sam's Club, with their folded up cardboard homeless signs, they tend to share their food, booze and money. They were the only ones that gave me gas money during my stay in Port Charlotte.
Hypocrisy runs wild in the charity world, a small sample; I watched the director of the shelter go to the bathroom,
do his duty and leave without even approaching the sink or sanitizer provided. Not unexpected but it was 30 minutes after
giving us a speech on the importance of hand washing to our health in the crowded close quarters that we exist in.
Bottom line today's charities have become corporations, whose only purpose is to provide jobs for those hypocrites running the charities. So the next time you see someone with a sign saying that they are homeless, don't judge them right away, offer them a job, give them some cash because you never know when you will be in the same place, in an unstable economy like we currently have. The homeless don't need a sixty day stay in boot camp, they need long term housing arrangements until the economy expands enough to reintegrate them into society.
It's now been a few years since I gave up housing, I found my way back north and have several places that let me sleep on a couch. Some say that means I am not homeless, but I say if I pay no taxes, no rent, no mortgage, and all my belongings are packed in boxes in various places up and down the east coast I am still homeless.
I Had applied for social services in four states. They all say the same thing, can't help you unless you have an address, then when someone says you can stay with them, they want to know all their personal business and finances. Then they tell you no help is available because the people you are staying with make too much money. Pennsylvania basically told me I could join someone who is already receiving assistance, and be a welfare gigolo or go live with my mother who is 70 and doesn't need the added expense of her fifty year old son. Since I can't work anymore, I have applied for Social security disability, but I am told it takes a least two years to get approved and I have to hire a lawyer and give them up to 25% of the take to get on... I have paid into the system for 35 years... On a side note my granddaughter just got on SSI because she can't sit still in school (attention deficit disorder).
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