In March of 1998, I went to a shelter in St. Louis. I didn’t want to go, but I finally went on a Friday night. When I arrived there nobody spoke to me. I sat in the chair by the television in the dormitory. It was an old school that was converted into a shelter. There a lot of cots in the dormitory that had been a gym. The first night I was scared to go to sleep. I left early the next morning and went to my grandmother’s house. I was fortunate then I had my own transportation and did not have to be at the shelter much. I would come back right before curfew. I did notice that women there took more care in their appearance than I did. They did not look homeless or hopeless. Most of them were younger than me. The majority of the women were single parents. There were a few single women. Only two of the women seemed to have some mental issues. Ms. Mary was very friendly until she drank. Ms. Ann was never very nice. I wondered why the only people who were referenced with respect were the ones that were a little touched. Maybe it was because they were probably the oldest residents.
Looking at the young women at the shelter, I thought they have their whole life ahead of them. I never wondered how they got there. After I left I only saw one of the women a couple of times. She was doing well when I saw her both times. The shelter had classes for the women to attend. If you had not graduated from high school or did not have your GED, you were required to take classes. They offered a lot of life skills classes for shelter residents.
When I was homeless in Atlanta in 2003 it was very different. Also, everybody, I meet was trying to get away from something. While I was in the Salvation Army shelter most the families were from another state and had come to Georgia with only the clothes on their back and hope for a better life. At the Atlanta Day Shelter, the woman I saw seemed hopeless. I didn’t feel any southern hospitality as a homeless person in Atlanta. For the first week I had transportation, but it was after my engine blew in my car that I really began to learn how to get around Atlanta as a homeless person. I had to become focused not to become hopeless. I got the oldest daughter in school and my youngest in daycare. I knew if they were taken care of during the day I could concentrate on job hunting. They would be comfortable in the air conditioning. I also knew they would be able to eat at daycare and school.
I learned that some stability is better than none. When I left a shelter with a semi-private room and bathroom attached and went to a church and slept in the sanctuary. At the church, my belongs were stolen and I was not able to bath, so I could not do job search because my clothes were gone and my identification. I began to become a little more hopeless every day at that point. Then I went to the new women’s shelter and I was able to get some stability again. I even managed to do some freelance audio-visual work.
At the women’s shelter, we were required to attend nightly chapel service. Area churches would come and give a religious service for us. My youngest daughter would praise God during the chapel services. A lot of the women would comment about that. I thought about how before we became homeless we had gone to a prayer breakfast and the speaker told me I need to learn to praise God. I thought instead of making the rocks cry out and praise him my baby was doing it when it should be me. I thought now I understood why homeless people knew the bible so well. I wonder was the cause of my being homeless a spiritual issue. I know I learned a lot about endurance. I learned a lot about faith and that God will provide.