This is a hard story to share. Really it’s because after 9 years it’s still really raw; it’s raw because it goes to a deeper level than what it appears to look like on the outside.
I have abandonment struggles. Growing up in a house filled with neglect and uncertainty I learned early on not to trust if people were going to come back. Most of the time they didn’t; even in times of great crisis.
When I was 21 I was in Topeka Kansas. My parents had sent me to this long term psychiatric hospital. When the money ran out there wasn’t anything else they could do, so even though no one agreed that I was ready to leave; I had to be discharged.
My parents and caseworker found this lovely (snark) group home for me to live in. It was a nightmare. After a month there my parents decided that they weren’t going to help me at all anymore. They were no longer going to pay for the group home, they weren’t going to help me find or pay for a place to live and without saying it they were done with me.
I was in a city where I knew no one and had nowhere to go. My option was quickly becoming the Topeka Rescue Mission. That felt devastating to me; especially in the grips of trying to understand why my parents were completely removing themselves from my life.
Later they would tell me it was tough love. Yet I don’t see that as tough love, I see that as abandonment. It hit and hurt HARD.
Two days before I was supposed to leave the house I attempted suicide. I didn’t know what else to do. I wound up in on another crisis unit and while I was there my mother used her passive aggressive manipulative skills to get me to agree to admit myself into the state hospital. It was that or my parents were going to go to court have me declared mentally incompetent.
I chose the hospital, little did I know what that was going to do to my life.
That place was insane. Think Girl Interrupted only with murders, sex offenders, meth addicts and people who talk to themselves all day.
I met Abigail’s “father” there and we started a relationship that carried on after we left. We moved in together and stayed in the extra bedroom of a friend’s apartment. When he friend left we stayed but never paid any bills or rent. So when the eviction notice came we didn’t know what we were going to do. His first inclination was to send me back to Colorado to my parents and that was received with panic. We knew we could always go the mission but without being married we wouldn’t be able to sleep in the same building.
We moved in with his parents instead. They gave him a job; we saved up money and were able to get an apartment in September of 2002. Unfortunately that’s summer we started smoking crack and the duplex we moved into was two doors down from our dealer.
That was really the beginning of the end. We spent the next year and a half living there smoking as much crack as we could. I don’t think I had any thought of a future, other than I wanted to be with him no matter the cost.
In April of 2005 though the shit hit the wall and we couldn’t keep up. We lost out apartment and knew that because none of his family was willing to take us in that it was time to go to the rescue mission.
The night his aunt dropped us off I sobbed for an hour before we left and the whole ride there. I still could not believe that this is what it had come to.
It’s not like I had grown up affluent or in a different environment. I grew up with neglect, abandonment and addiction but there was something about now being homeless that was incredibly sobering.
We both were checked in a filled out paperwork and then they took Jeffrey over to the men’s side of the shelter. I was heartbroken about being away from him and turns out I would be away from him a lot more than expected.
The mission had a curfew and if you weren’t back by curfew you had to wait until the next night to come back. Our second night there Jeffrey didn’t come back. Without a cell phone I had no way of knowing where he was. A few weeks after moving into the mission he decided on a Saturday that he wanted to go have a couple beers at a bar around the corner (drinking was against the rules) so he did and he got caught and had to leave for 72 hours.
I didn’t get to see him before he left. It felt like my heart had been ripped apart because once again he chose a substance over me. Just like my parents had done, and he was supposed to be different. He was supposed to protect me from the memories.
Again I felt that sting of utter abandonment. I had tried to tell him that he couldn’t drink, that he’d get caught but Jeffrey couldn’t go without alcohol for more than a couple of days.
Being on the women’s and family unit alone was hard. We had our morning duties and then after that we hung outside all day and smoked and told war stories about our drug and drinking lives.
I lived in a large, dorm style room with 7 other women, most who had just gotten out of prison and didn’t have anywhere to go. It was a completely different experience for me and I felt lost.
I try to rationalize my way out of the hurt of the experience by blaming myself and saying that we wouldn’t have been homeless if it weren’t for the drugs. Maybe we wouldn’t have been but if it wasn’t the drugs it would have been something else.
My relationship with Jeffrey was volatile from the start and honestly something, anything really could have caused it to implode. We were two broken and addicted people who met in a locked down facility who were trying to make a relationship work.
Being homeless was scary because even though we were there and safe there was no program or assistance in getting us OUT. They didn’t offer any kind of job training or assistance in job readiness. T
There is also a definite different between the mission in Topeka and the mission here in Denver. The mission in Denver the guys have to leave during the day and their spot isn’t saved for the next night. They have to come back and line up.
We stayed for two months then left because we decided to move to Florida. And then I got pregnant and most of you know that story.
I have much more empathy for the homeless, the disenfranchised and those who deeply struggle with income because I have been all three.
I can see how people become homeless and it’s not a hard fall and can happen to anyone really, not just people with drug or alcohol problems. However that’s what I saw the most of when I was working at the detox. These guys who have been on the streets for YEARS that are so addicted that most of them won’t, or rather can’t stop. And honestly with some of them it’s probably better if they don’t.
What I find so infuriating is that there aren’t enough resources out there for the homeless, there aren’t enough shelters, or organizations that can help any of these guys addict or not get off the streets. I find myself even more infuriated when the city of Denver makes outside sleeping illegal and now arrests these guys and takes them to jail. Granted they are warmer and sometimes safer in jail but then they have these charges stuck to them and I don’t know one SINGLE homeless person who has ever shown up for a court date.
We are called as followers and lovers of Christ to care for the least of these. These men and women are the least of these and they are so sneered at snubbed when they stand on the street corner flying their signs asking for money. And for every time I see one and I hear someone say “Oh they probably have a BMW parked around the corner” I want to scream. If they need money I’ll give them a buck or two. If they use it for booze that’s their choice; I don’t know, REALLY know what they are doing with it.
There are so many ways to care for the least of these and my heart breaks for them and even though we weren’t on the streets we could have been.
Now facing the homeless situation again my heart starts to race every time I think about that night that Jeffrey’s aunt drove us and checked us in. It’s even scarier now to think about because I have Abigail. There are a lot of people that do not understand the depth of this fear in my heart because they don’t know this story and the pain behind it.
It’s real and it’s scary and send me into a tailspin of catastrophic thoughts.