Imagine if your whole life rolled along with you on two small wheels, exposed to the world. You bring it with you because you have no home, and you cannot afford to have your few remaining belongings stolen.
Having spent a year now volunteering at The Living Room, listening to the stories of women who come there for warm meals, rest, companionship, and services, I can now imagine it better than before.
One of many suitcases, backpacks and bundled belongings to be found any day at The Living Room.
I recently read that HUD had released a new report on the State of Homelessness in America. The five US cities with the highest rates of combined sheltered and unsheltered homeless have numbers more than six times the national rate and Santa Rosa is number 5, running behind only Washington, D.C., Boston, New York, and San Francisco. Add that to our notoriety for firestorms!
So who are all these homeless people? One of my friends at The Living Room (TLR) writes:
When most people think of the “the homeless” they call to mind unkempt and dirty-clothed panhandlers they encounter in their travels. In fact, in Santa Rosa most of the people sitting in the libraries reading; many of the folks typing at laptops in cafes, and lots of browsers in shops and bookstores are homeless too. We are everywhere. We’re dirty, we’re clean, we’re young, old, strung out, sober, well dressed and rumpled, crazy and sane, just like people in houses, only we can’t conceal ourselves from view. – Maureen
Her words gave me pause. Those of us who have a home do not have other people traipsing through our personal lives throughout the day. We have homes that are off limits to strangers, not to mention doors to close, closets and drawers that remain untouched by any but ourselves. And we can sleep knowing we won’t be disturbed by someone we do not know or trust.
Every day I’m at TLR I meet another fascinating woman like Maureen who has something to teach me about coping with life when you’re homeless. As the women are willing to share their personal stories more publicly, I will be sharing some of them here, along with more sketches and portraits of them..