Dabbling in homelessness

Preface number one: If you want to read a happy blog post about how great my new life in Philadelphia is, stop here.

Preface number two: Despite the fact that this post reads more like a diary entry after a terrible day, it does have a message I want to share and a lesson learned.

I don’t think I have ever been this stressed or depressed, ever. This is nothing like exam-week stress or post-breakup depression. This stuff is chronic, underlying. It’s like a constant dull headache that clouds your thoughts and leaves you feeling exhausted and dehydrated. I’m in a new city where I have maybe three friends, cannot navigate the public transportation system, and am beginning two new jobs. I have no idea what the hell I’m doing here, or why I ever thought this would be a good idea. The few things I could do to make my time more bearable (going to Circle of Hope, taking cool dance classes, teaching ESL) I cannot do because they all conflict with my work schedule. When I am not working, I am attempting to deal with the problems outlined below. The one place I could go to escape from everything does not exist. Hence the name of this post.

For the past month I have had no home. Technically speaking, I’ve had two half-homes, but neither suffice. They are both full of boxes and half-moved stuff and dust and chaos. The breakdown: my sister and I are moving into an apartment in Washington Square West where our lease began August 1st, and my sister is moving out of her old apartment in Northern Liberties where her lease ends August 31st. The landlord at WSW is the most horrible human being to ever walk this earth. His maintenance crew is afraid of him, and despite the fact that they are good people, they do not know how to do anything.

Upon moving in I was told they were going to stain the floor, and it would be ready in 24 hours. 48 hours later, I moved in. The stain was not done correctly, and polyurethane pieces were peeling up right and left. I couldn’t fully move in, so I lived out of my backpack, sleeping on the futon at my sister’s NL place. A week later, the maintenance man said he would redo the floors. He did the same thing again. The floor stained any fabric that touched it, peeled wherever you walked on it, and was slippery and oily. Fast forward two weeks. At some point I bought a bed and started sleeping in our WSW apartment (constantly breathing in toxic fumes from the polyurethane that never dried). We have been in a legal battle with our horrible landlord who sends verbally abusive and horrendously rude emails, twists facts and words, and refuses to acknowledge or fix his mistakes for nearly a month. My brother (a lawyer) has to get involved. The maintenance man finally offers to sand off whatever he put all over the floors, says he has to put a different kind of stain on the floors to at least protect the wood, and that it will be ready in 3 hours. I get off work at midnight (8 hours later), expecting to walk into the apartment, make some dinner, and go to bed. The floors are sopping wet with stain. I have to take a taxi to my sister’s NL place and sleep on her futon. Today we went to go to check on the floors, they’re still not dry. My sister has to move the rest of her stuff in by Friday because her other lease is ending. We are out of options, and we will have no place to go. I’m not even going to go into the monetary and legal issues here.

Feeling: helpless, alone, cheated, uncertain, scared for the future, numb, empty.

The lesson?

I remember learning about how people living in poverty have chronically high stress levels that can be measured chemically through the amount of cortisol in their blood. Poverty is more than just a social justice issue, it can take on a life of its own and infect people’s bodies and minds; it has the power to cripple like any other disease. Dealing with slumlords, not knowing where you will sleep at night, being homeless – these are all daily concerns for many living in poverty. Can you imagine being a child, say in middle school, and being homeless? The other kids all taunt you for the clothes you wear and the fact that you haven’t showered in a few days. The teachers all get frustrated that you didn’t complete yet another assignment, or study for a test. But how could you when you have no bed, no desk, no electricity, no roof, no dinner, no encouragement? Better yet: can you imagine being this child’s parent?

Though I feel like my situation at the moment has brought me a lot closer to being able to relate to this kind of stress, it doesn’t even compare. I am so blessed. I have an extremely valuable education. I have a pretty sweet job where I get to learn about wine, beer and cheese. I have an amazing internship with a non-profit that I truly believe in. I have a credit card, a computer, a bike, and a car. (Which are tools that can help me do just about anything and go just about anywhere). And if all else fails, I have loving parents who will take me in, give me a free room, and let me know that everything is going to be alright.

Oh man, what I wouldn’t give to be there right now.

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One comment

  1. Kristin

    Thanks for this post and your rather unnerving honesty. Thinking about you a whole lot, and praying that things will get better.

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