Monday, December 5, 2011

Day - 75 The Sun Shines On Homelessrob

When it came to Huntington Beach, CA I basically crash landed there. I was broke, worn out, washed up, and a complete mess. I also knew that I was going to be there for a very long time. I arrived there in the morning, spent the day walking around looking into things and trying to not look homeless. Basically....settling in! By the time the sun started to go down I knew I was in big trouble. I had nothing and knew no one. To make matters worse I had no where to sleep.

It was a Friday night, and the party scene went well into the night. It was around 11: 00 before I decided to simply take up a bench. I found one that was sort of out of the way. One that wasn't in direct traffic to where I felt people would be coming and going after the bars closed. I sat down and waited about an hour. It was probably about 1:00 am before I layed down and began to try to get some sleep. I figured I'd be up before the sun came up and I also thought that I wouldn't be seen by many people in the dark. I didn't feel safe, but I felt as safe as I was going to feel that night.

It was a long night. The bench was not comfortable and it was cold. The bench was short (I'm 6 feet tall) and I couldn't tell you what the temperature was but this was early Feb and I was next to the open ocean. It was cold. This bench was practically on the beach.

Early in the morning I pulled my jacket up over my chest and head. I pulled the sleeves inside it and tucked in. It worked (for the most part) and I finally dozed off.

I think what woke me up was the thought in my head that said "you over slept, you're late". I think we all wake up like that from time to time and I think that's how I woke up that morning..... in a startle. I quickly pulled my head out of my jacket only to find sunlight! Everywhere! I knew right way that I had slept well into the morning. There wasn't a shadow in sight.

The second thing I noticed was that I was surrounded by people. My heart double pumped and my brain went straight into panic mode. All I could think was "these people have all been watching me sleep! Now, these people are all watching me wake up! Everyone is looking at me". I got up and walked off.

As I walked away I stayed in panic. I also couldn't help having these other feelings either! I felt humiliated, mad, small, exposed, and I also felt a lot of shame. The worst part was that I had no one to blame but myself. To this day I feel like I left a piece of me on that bench. And I chalked it all up to this: homelessness got the best of me!

I think about this a lot! Sleeping is something that is usually done in private. How would you feel if you woke up from a good nights rest to find that hundreds of people have been walking around in your room watching you sleep? I don't think you would like it too much. For the record, I never blamed the people for any of this. This was between me and homelessness.

I'd like to say that this experience made me stronger or wiser. But for the life of me I can never seem to turn it into something that sounds better. It wasn't a learning experience. I mean, what could I have learned? How to sleep in open places? It did make me more street smart, I will admit that. After I calmed down that day I told myself I would never wake up like that again. That's when I started to learned about finding "spots". How to find spot that is safe and secluded. How to find spots where I didn't have to worry about being found or seen. How to scope them out first and how to treat them when I find them. I can't say I learned too much more than that.

That was years ago. Since then, I have learned a lot about homelessness. I have learned that one thing homelessness likes to do is chip away at people. Why? So that that a homeless person will become weak, then comfortable. Homelessness wants to chip away little bits at a time until that homeless person feels so comfortable that the thought of a normal life is UNCOMFORTABLE.

I'll give you an example:
A man becomes homeless and findes its hard to take showers. He does his best, but as time goes on, it becomes harder and harder to maintain himself. After awhile, the man begins to smell. Then the man notices the people around him - he hears them begin to make comments about him. They begin to start moving away from him. They say things to him and hold their nose when they walk past him,(sort of their way of telling him he stinks without telling him he stinks). Now, after awhile the homeless person becomes used to it. After enough time, he becomes comfortable with it! All of a sudden, taking a shower is UNCOMFORTABLE! This is why a lot of times you will find that a homeless person won't take a shower even if its right in front of him. And its this same concept that makes it so easy for homeless people to sleep just about anywhere they see fit. They are simply comfortable with it!

I propose that any "homeless recovery system" must consider the convertibility factor. Making a homeless person feel uncomfortable with homelessness and again comfortable with a normal life might even be harder then when that person became uncomfortable with a normal life because of homelessness in the first place.

If you take a homeless person that has been out on the streets for 8 years and put him in his own place you might consider that as a blessing (I DO), but although he might say its a blessing, he actually feels like its a pure nightmare.

I'm not saying I'm right about this. This is simply just my opinion based off my experiences and observations.

I can tell you one thing: in regards to this problem, I do believe there is an easy process to overcome it. But I'll save that for another post.

I just ask you consider what I'm saying here. Don't you think there is a possibility that a person can become homeless and become comfortable with that? If the answer is "yes" then you must conclude that that's a problem and that any strategy you use to help a homelessperson come off the streets must include steps that address that portion of the problem.

I try my best to stay away from becoming comfortable with homelessness. But I have to tell you that every once in awhile when I wake up in the morning, and before I open my eyes, I say to myself:
"Please God, don't let there be a crowd of people around me!"
"Please God, don't let the sun be up!"

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