Thursday, October 27, 2016

When I Was Homeless

In 2010 my husband and I moved into an adorable little 2 bedroom apartment in Manhattan. In 2011 I gave birth to our daughter and we lived happily in that space for several months. On April 1st, 2012 (oh, the irony!) while I was home with my daughter there was a knock on the door. When I opened it I found a police officer, a fireman, and two Red Cross representatives standing on the other side. They told me that the city had declared our building to be unsafe and all of the residents had 7 hours to evacuate.

I got out my cell phone and called my husband to tell him he had to come home from work and help me pack up some things so we could get out of the building, to which he reasonably responded that this was not a funny April Fools prank. After a few minutes of convincing he hopped on the bus and came right home, but now we were stuck on the sidewalk with a baby, a dog, two cats, and nowhere to live. It turns out the reason the Red Cross was there was to provide housing to the 112 newly homeless people from our building. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Luckily my mother-in-law lived close by, so we moved all of the people and animals from our apartment into her 5th floor walk-up on the other side of town. This lasted about 3 weeks until she couldn't tolerate us in her space any longer (a small apartment is not meant for 4 people and three animals, after all) and we went from there to my husband's aunt's home in Connecticut. Luckily she had a huge house that was big enough for all of us while we figured out what was going on with our apartment. While were in this state of flux we found out that support beams in the building had been removed and nobody would be allowed back indefinitely. We started house hunting but that didn't work out either, so in September we hired an apartment finder (the only real way to find an apartment in New York City) and paid a princely sum to move into a new place in Manhattan again.

My period of homelessness lasted 5 months and I spent most of that time living in a million-dollar beach house in Connecticut. Short of Hef volunteering to move out of the mansion and having all of his bunnies boarded so we wouldn't have to share the grotto there aren't many better situations to be in when facing homelessness, but it was still one of the most miserable times in my life. I had an infant daughter I was responsible for and the universe had conspired to take away the roof I had worked so hard to put over her head. I was forced to be an intruder in the homes of the people I cared about most. I was forced to put all of my things in storage and sleep in a strange bed in another person's home. It was a far cry from having to give up my pets and live at the Red Cross, but still a situation you couldn't pay me to repeat a second time.

I live in Massachusetts now and I take the train into Boston for work. Every day I pass the same homeless man who is begging on the street and at least twice a week I give him something - an apple, a sandwich, a toothbrush, etc. - because I know that, but for the grace of some higher power, I could very easily have been that man. I've seen the looks people give me for supporting someone who is living on the street, judging me for not judging him, but I don't care. I know that without family nearby, without the money for an apartment finder, and without the good mental health to deal with the stress of it all I might have been raising a baby in a homeless shelter just a few years ago.

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