Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sexual Assault and The Homeless Girl (and Prostitution)

Well, I haven't posted in a while. Partly because I couldn't and mostly because I just didn't want to. 

I removed myself from the situation with the large man, mostly because I HAD to. It as getting dangerous for me to stay and the best solution was for me to just vanish.

I had posted a rant on Craigslist in the rants and raves section, in Tennessee and had gotten a couple responses, most notably one from a man I will call BH.

BH offered me a meal and a shower (a hot one!) and a safe place to take a nap for a bit out of the heat, in exchange for me one day helping someone else in return, as someone had once helped him.
It took me a few weeks but I had no other options and smelled pretty bad, so I decided to go. Armed with my trusty knife (its a sharp hunting knife, pocket/switch style) I went over to his apartment complex which is in a very  nice area of town.
His children were there (visiting) which threw me off, but he just explained I was a friend. He got me a towel and shampoo and left me to shower, then gave me a corn dog (I have never had one before, they are quite tasty) and all the ice water I could drink and let me sleep in his spare bedroom.

I of course locked the door behind me, but I haven't slept that well in months. BH did not try anything and was a pure gentleman. Of course he is army and moving and it was not a permanent thing, but I thanked him and left when he did for work in the morning. (If you EVER read this BH, thanks! You gave me faith that there are still good people in this world!)

It got pretty hot that day and my little dog and I went over to my storage unit (which is NOT climate controlled) to chill out while I made some calls to 211, which is United Way's emergency number, before my phone got shut off at midnight.
Well it was 87 or so outside and probably 100 in the storage, so little dog and I (mostly me) stripped down, laid down on an old sleeping bag I still have and dozed off in the heat. (Of course I had a bowl of fresh water out for her and water for me)
I went to the ER, I was pretty sure I had a kidney/uti infeection (I did and still do, antibiotics are NOT working) and enjoyed the a/c for a bit while I was waiting to be called back to be treated.

I made a bunch of calls in hopes I would get a return call.. no such luck.
I ended up booking a shitty motel through priceline for two nights, at about 100$ even, which was most of what i had saved.

Got to the motel, it was clean but not 'new' and reasonable. Plugged in my electronics to charge and connected to the crappy wifi signal, only to get an email that a woman had found my cat.. in ALABAMA.

Why my cat went missing is another post entirely, which I will do soon.
I took my antibiotic, took a shower, cranked up the a/c and little dog (who I snuck in in my backpack) and I fell asleep for the night. We slept about 12 hours straight, which was beautiful.

I arranged with the woman to pick up my cat the day my motel booking was up and pawned some old jewelry I had for gas money. I posted on Craigslist looking again for a room to rent (that isn't more than a one bedroom apartment here.. people are nuts) and went down to pick up my fur child.

I picked him up and although dirty with a few puncture wounds, he was okay!
We came back up to Tennessee and parked at Walmart, in a nice shady area.
I let him out of his carrier and set up his litter box and water/food dish and prepared to go to sleep.

We all slept pretty well (except for the random headlights going by, always makes me worry about police and wakes me up)  and had intended on spending the day down at the creek (my cat has a harness and a long lead, he can wander but not escape and get hurt, and my dog swims with me) and I noticed blood all over my shirt.
I called the humane society, they got my cat in to an emergency vet with a 50$ voucher, thankfully. He had an abscess that he had ruptured and they cleaned him up, gave him some antibiotics and sent us on our way.
I'm happy to report, by the way that he is doing GREAT and is currently trying to catch a mosquito.

I bummed some wifi at mcdonalds (its over 95 degrees out this weekend, I try to be somewhere cool at all times for ALL of us) and posted an ad on craigslist looking for a room to rent.

I got a few responses and started texting them about details. One man eventually offered that I could stay in his basement, rent free (which is air conditioned and mostly finished, just no bathroom) provided I give him a blow job 2-3 times a day.

I am absolutely disgusted by this, and in fact had ANOTHER man suggest the same thing!

I ended up staying with the first man, although I have NOT performed any sexual 'services' I have found that he regularly employs a prostitute, for oral sex only, which disgusts me even more now that I know he is a single dad to TWO kids under 12.

I'm currently in his basement, hiding from the 100 degree heat waiting for the holiday to be over.
I pee in a bucket and dump it outside and bathe in his garden hose at night, specifically so he does NOT know I'm awake.

He wont bother me if he thinks I am sleeping, so I would rather avoid him entirely and just book it in the morning when its not a holiday and people answer their phones.

I can easily see how women, especially in such a predicament, would be enticed or feel obligated into sexual services, which I honestly consider to be rape or assault.

I don't quite understand why men feel that this is an acceptable thing.
During the brief discussion I had with the man here, he said "well I just want to make sure I'm not being taken advantage of, ya know?"

Really? Because letting someone who was willing to pay rent (which now I am thankful, I am NOT doing) stay in your unfinished basement with no regular access to a toilet, or clean water, is being taken advantage of?

If I could find somewhere for my cat and dog to stay, that would ensure their safety until I found stability and could get them BACK, I would stay at a shelter, no question.

I refuse to abandon the two things on this earth that mean anything to me (outside my child) and who keep me sane and alive.
I refuse. Period.

Men disgust me.
Are there any men left on this earth that aren't total pigs?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Having a Vagina and Homelessness

Well, being a woman in this world is hard. You are born at a slight disadvantage, provided you are born in a country like the United States.  You are born to an extreme disadvantage in less progressive countries, or ones with strict value sets (which may or may not include women as lesser people) if you are lucky enough to be born at all.

Being a woman and homeless in the US has its ups and downs.  It varies greatly in different areas of the country, different states and even within neighboring cities.  In my experience women with children are always treated differently, usually put above and before anyone else, as they should be.

Of course as a woman with a child, sometimes you face scorn or judgement (actually this is common place) as if you are a horrible mother for being unable to provide for your child, or for bringing them into this world, in such a dark place, such as domestic violence. My experience with this is limited, so I can't really go into great detail about it.

However as a single childless woman (if your child is not physically with you, you are considered childless in most situations) its a grab bag as to what you will experience.  

Most commonly you will experience degrading comments, assumptions that you are a drug/alcohol abuser, that you are lazy and incompetent and looking for a hand out, a social failure, corrupted and damaged, or that you must be crazy... and thats just when you are looking for help and/or a place to stay.

 Some of the problems on the street (or in a shelter, or even in life) that I have personally faced include but are not limited to:  Domestic Violence
                            Rape/Sexual Assault
                            Violent Crimes
                            Abuse (of all kinds)

I have had attempts on my life made more than once, even twice while pregnant (two separate pregnancies, two different men making the attempts) 

It doesn't really bother me and I suppose it should. I think I cope by numbing myself to it and just taking away a life experience.

Anyways, women face quite a bit of stigma.  Of course men do too, but not nearly to the degree women do, at least in my experience.  I am consistently looked at as less because I do not bring my child with me into this. (Might I add, sending my child away was the hardest thing I have *ever* had to do) I am looked at as a drain on society, a person who just wants everyone else to provide for her, an incapable slut because I have never been married.

Don't mind the fact that I have a Masters degree, I am useless and just want handouts, right?

I am looked at as an object, as just another person.  As I've explained previously, we all got here (homeless) in a different way. Everyone has different needs. Programs with individualized case management plans are far more successful than lump sum programs, that do little to address WHY a person became homeless to begin with.

Sometimes I hear you have to have a child to live here, to stay here, to obtain services. Well, I am doing the best thing I can for my child, by NOT bringing her into this, so thats just not an option. I will not corrupt someone elses life, especially that of my own child, to advance my own.

Then I hear I have to be a substance abuser. Great, so because I am clean and sober (and prefer it that way) that you can't help me. Okay, everyone needs a boost and help and addicts do too.  

But then I hear, well, we can't help you because you are a woman. Well why? 'because we don't serve women, there just aren't that many homeless women.'

This is true. I don't know statistics, but I'm sure its at least a 1:5 ratio, women to men.

Well then, what do you suggest I do? 'Find a friend'. Yes, because all us women are social creatures that help one another. *cough*

Although I have a number of friends that would probably help me, many live too far for me even to contact them regularly, much less live with them. Many have families of their own, or are in college and simply can't add another person, who realistically can't contribute much at the moment.

So, I'm left playing the waiting game.

Waiting for a solution, a hand. I'm sure I'm not the only homeless woman experiencing this and I'm sure others find far better solutions to this than I can.  
So my question is.. well, what are we supposed to do?
I am constantly solicited, especially on the streets, usually by disgusting men (You'd be surprised how many white collar men also solicit me) usually using the line of 'well it will help both of us out, if you know what I mean' usually followed with a sick laugh or smile.

I am not a hooker. I am not a prostitute. I will not lower myself, put myself in danger or bad situations for a meal, a quick buck, or the possible opportunity of somewhere to sleep for a night.

I'll take my chances on the street, thanks.  At least there I can RUN.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I Ceased to Live, Instead I Exist

Let me be clear about something, this blog is for my sanity of sorts. Its not a 'pro-homeless' blog, an activist blog, or a call for action. (Although all of those are welcome) Its an outlet for me to ramble and perhaps show others (if anyone might ever stumble across this) a bit about the life of an actual homeless woman.
Every homeless person has a different situation, life and back round and this is mine.

Some homeless are drug addicts, some are emotionally unwell. Some are ex cons, criminals and all around horrible people. Some are products of circumstance, others are living through the cycle of poverty just as their parents did. Others are disabled (like me) or victims of domestic violence, which might I add is not just for women. Some are single mothers, others are married couples, runaway teens fleeing abuse, or just someone down on their luck after a round of layoffs.

There are many, many reasons to be homeless. Everyone is different.

I grew up in a middle class home, adopted into that life by a well intentioned single mother. Although my upbringing was in my mind traumatic, by outsider accounts it was a glorious way to live.  I was placed in foster care for a variety of reasons, at the age of 12 but I like to think it was for the best, although 'services' even eight years ago were nothing compared to what they are now.  I was literally dumped on the streets at 18, having become pregnant in foster care.  No support no follow through.. not so much as a goodbye, good luck here is a bus pass.

But, again by all accounts I had a decent upbringing. Middle class, stable, traveled the country and even went to Disney World a few times. I was raised by an Masters level educator and optometrist (odd how they cross, no?) and was determined to have a rather high IQ at the age of 7. I was educationally supported and my mother tried to emotionally support me, so I am told. I personally believe to have been a child victim of something like Munchhausen by proxy, but I certainly can't prove that.

Point is, I didn't grow up this way. I didn't grow up in poverty, I didn't grow up with the occasional bout of hunger or uncertainty. My mother owned her home, had a nice vehicle and a great line of credit, with stable employment. Poverty and homelessness were something I was aware of, but never worried about personally experiencing.

I have read many articles over the years about homelessness, poverty, teen pregnancy and other assorted social plights and although I felt sad for those involved, was grateful that I never had experienced that and stupidly assumed that it wasn't a problem that would ever affect me.

Now I can spot a homeless person in a crowd of a million people, as I know the signs. I have lived in more shelters than I can name and I have called probably ten thousand more. I have been turned down, pushed away, beaten, broken, battered, raped, chastised, arrested and even been subject to hate crimes.
I have even had attempts on my life made, more than once.

These are all the things I was taught in school, all the things I read about, heard about and immune to.

Yet, I have lived through it all.  I am still here. But sometimes I wonder when I stopped living and started existing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How I Got Here 2

After my move from the womens shelter, I stayed in my car for about a week. I must have called every shelter in Nashville and surrounding cities for help and was shot down every single time.  Some said I had to be in the hospital and have a police report within the last 12 hours for domestic violence. Some said I had to have a job, or be seeking employment (I am disabled, the point of disability is that I can't work..) others said because I did not have a drug or alcohol problem I didn't qualify.  Some said because my child isn't with me I didn't qualify. (I would NEVER wish this existence on anyone much less a child, my child lives with her fathers parents in the area where I hail from and has no idea of any of my struggles) 
Yet others said because I am not an veteran, or because I am a woman, unmarried, and still others were just plain full.

 I became painfully aware, within about 2 hours that my life had reached a bottom. I began to cry, to the point where I was physically ill. All I wanted was a safe place to sleep, somewhere warm and where I could lay in a horizontal position without fear of being arrested or robbed, or even raped.

I out of sheer desperation called my mother. She had nothing to offer, but did book me a cheap motel, where I was able to shower and sleep for a night, without fear of arrest or violence.

Eventually I found someone renting out a room who did not mind my dog, and although it was more than I could afford, it was somewhere to stay until I figured out what would come next.  That lasted a month and was amazing. Those people will forever be in my hearts as gracious and amazing people.  They knew and know nothing of my situation.

Right before that situation was to end a friend here in Alabama offered me somewhere to stay, with minimal rent and expectations. I had no other options, so down I came.  Within 48 hours a  fake excuse was given as to why I needed to leave and within 48 hours of that, I was back on the streets, penniless, as I had given them my rent money up front.

Out of random chance, an old college friend texted me (why yes, 10$ prepaid phones do have texting) and asked me how I was. Upon some conversation i discovered him to now live Huntsville and we decided to meet up for lunch.  Although I ate nothing (actually i ate all the free bread they could put in front of me) he didn't notice and we discussed how our lives had changed. 

After a day in the park, learning about the area, I broke down and told him of my plight. Although living with his parents due to his persistent unemployment (who ever would have thought that TWO Masters graduates would both be jobless?!) he could offer me a place to stay for a few days, with wifi and electricity (and a bed and bath) to research my options.

This is where I sit, today. I have not a penny to my name, my gas tank is so empty my vehicle won't even start, but it is somewhere to be, for now. I generally stay during the day when it is hot (currently it is 86 degrees and rising, at 10:40am CST) and leave at night, so as not to cause problems.

His family has been nothing but gracious, even taking me to dinner on one occasion (and prodding me not to pick the cheapest thing on the menu, or save half for the next meal) and doing my laundry, however this is not a place I can stay, long term.  This is due to many problems, most notably the serious infatuation my friend has developed with me. As a woman and homeless (as well as a repeated domestic violence survivor) I am used to being hit on, or criticized, or even solicited, which I always shoot down without a second thought.  However, this man is interested in a serious relationship and is constantly trying to..get me to be interested in him, even though he is semi aware I do not and cannot view him that way.

I am simply just not attracted to him and well, I usually identify as a lesbian, as I prefer women aesthetically to men.

My bisexuality causes many problems within the homeless community and outreach organizations, which I will touch on later.

But, this is how I got here. This is how I live. This is my life. The life of The Homeless Girl.