Homelessness: My Story

Image of downtown Los Angeles at night.

Nathan/ Flickr

Homelessness can be an experience that raises questions about what else a person could have been instead of homeless. I left home after my mother died, the city where my father, my sister, her husband and her children also lived. I decided to go to Los Angeles where we had family and I planned to look for work.

I had gone to California a couple of years earlier and taken a civil service test. Nothing should have made more sense. I could have stayed at the Y and checked if I was eligible to be hired if I had passed the civil service test. But they had never contacted me one way or the other, so I did not know for sure.

I might have liked LA and gotten an apartment and settled in the city or the surrounding area. I could have joined a church, and maybe met some people with shared interests like tennis, bowling, books, or the theater. I had been a member of the Thespian Club in high school.

When I first arrived in Los Angeles, I stayed at a hotel. My ex-husband, who already lived there, told me to look for work at the unemployment compensation board. A relative told me to get on the substitute teacher list in the meantime, and that I could expect to be paid about one hundred dollars a day.

I guess I should have tried these options. My hotel rent money was almost depleted and I started staying at an all-night theater, where I heard about shelters in the area. Reluctantly, I went to see what a shelter is and started staying at one that allowed mothers and children there. It was open all day long, but there was nothing to do all day except listen to the radio. Some people gathered a few blocks from the shelter and seemed to talk to each other and have a little more fun.

I moved to another shelter and forgot about pursuing the other efforts to become employed. However, I did apply for jobs that were currently available, like police-community worker. I never heard any more about my applications. I should have followed up on them. For several positions, I had to take a Spanish test. They told me I was qualified to be bi-lingual but I knew I was not fluent in Spanish, so I never pursued any of these jobs.

Living in the shelter had become my life. I also spent time in shelters in Las Vegas, San Francisco and other places. Eventually, I moved back East and finally ended up in D.C. I worked as a teacher and after an ankle injury healed a little, I saw a Street Sense vendor and asked him how he started selling papers. He gave me his card and I went to the Street Sense office. I got to start selling the paper. It has helped me a lot. I regained some self-esteem and was able to earn money.

Issues |Housing

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.