I was kicked out of the co-op when I was 20 years old, but that’s not why I became homeless.
What actually happened is, I moved into a house by the ocean that I loved dearly. I continued loving that house right up until a cis straight man moved in. He and I had fun together for about a week, then his brother came to visit and the two of them spent an hour and a half verbally harassing me. That’s when I moved out. That’s when I spent $800 on a room I never felt safe enough to live in. That’s when I became homeless.
I want to go back and kick that girl I was. At the same time, back then, all I knew was fear, and flight, and leaving. All I knew was how to be afraid when a man who was stronger and louder than I was got in my face.
Violent men continue to bully me. I continue to flee, rather than fight. What am I so afraid of? The worst things have already happened, haven’t they?
When I moved out of that house by the ocean, I transitioned from one world to another. Sleeping in a forest, my suitcases in the driveway of someone I barely knew, I stopped being human. I became an animal.
May you never know fear like that. I had lived through domestic violence and child abuse, but I had no idea what it meant to be afraid.
It meant begging near-strangers for a night or two in their spare bedroom. Sleeping on the couch of someone I thought was my friend while he loudly masturbated down the hall in his bedroom with the door wide open. Crashing in someone’s extra room for two weeks, cringing with gratitude, but so exhausted that I lay in bed unable to sleep for fear of waking up to someone sexually assaulting me.
I don’t remember all the times I was sexually assaulted. There were times I woke up feeling I had been touched when I knew objectively that I had not. Times I am fairly sure someone did touch me, and I’ve blocked it out. Once, I was raped, and I went to the hospital saying out loud “I’m not sure whether someone raped me last night or not but I want to go to the hospital just in case.” Sure enough, I was right.
Homelessness leaves an indelible imprint on your mind, heart, and body. You understand things about humanity that you wish you’d never known. At first, it was a shock to me that people I had known for years could simply walk by as though they did not see me. Then I got used to it.
I never got used to the cruelty. The false compliment about my clothing, bought or stolen from the thrift store, yes even the underwear. The sign someone left on my forehead when I slept in my sleeping bag too close to the university and he was angry at me for drawing attention to the group of people sleeping in the university’s woods. The rich friend who wouldn’t loan me $10 to buy myself my first dinner in weeks.
After I was raped, the community where it happened kicked me out for reporting the assault to the police. Really, they just liked my rapist better than me.
I was never on drugs. While I was certainly mentally ill, cPTSD is treatable and largely requires community care and understanding, not ostracization and more abuse, as so many of us face when we disclose. In too many ways, I was the typical homeless person. Scared. Alone. Traumatized before, damaged indelibly afterwards.
So no. I don’t think homeless people need drug rehab or pity, or even human empathy. What I think homeless people need is safety, which is an entirely different thing. You are not doing nearly as much good as you think by talking to a homeless person for five minutes and treating them like a human being. They are expressing their gratitude in hopes you will feed them, or give them money, so they can take care of themselves in peace.
Trust me. I know. On the hierarchy of human needs, compassion is pretty low down the list and pity is nowhere at all.
So please stop patting yourself on the back for having “such a good heart.” Unless you have been there and are actively working to end homelessness once and for all, you really, really don’t. You’re just faking it. Stop.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
|Compliments Men Want to Hear More Often||Relationships Aren’t Easy, But They’re Worth It||The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex||..A Man’s Kiss Tells You Everything|
Photo credit: iStockPhoto.com