And unfortunately, it’s in short supply. I’ve talked before about the hierarchy of needs. You have physiological needs (food, water, sleep), safety, love, esteem (feeling like you’ve done something that matters), and self-actualization (you have achieved your dreams and won at life forever). It looks a bit like this. Most people live somewhere between love and self-actualization, and self-actualization is the hardest to achieve. But when you’re homeless, you’re doing good to stay on the bottom level.
Kate and I live on the safety level. We struggle with food sometimes (the end of last month was a pretty good example), but we’re not worried about starving. If worst absolutely comes to worst, we can go back to her abusive parents and get money. We’ll do everything we possibly can to avoid that moment, but we’re not going to die.
We’re also not in danger. We spend all day in a library. When we can’t be here, we have two churches, a gym, and a Panera Bread to choose from. We live and sleep in a car, but we have enough blankets and warm clothes that we don’t have to worry about freezing to death.
So love is the level we struggle with. We love each other. We have friends who love us. But the rest of the country hates us. We’re homeless, and that makes us automatically criminals in a lot of people’s eyes. It doesn’t matter that we’ve never done anything wrong. One infraction is all it takes for people to condemn us.
I think I’ve mentioned our storage unit before. If not, we have one, which we pay $100 a month. The place is quiet and has a bathroom, so we spent time there on occasion. Until today, when the gentleman who works there lectured us about this isn’t out personal bathroom and we need to stop sleeping there (Kate was the only one sleeping; I was on my phone.) He informed us that we’d been spoken to about this before and refused to listen when I said we had not. I said it wouldn’t happen again, and he continued to lecture us for like two fucking minutes.
There are at least two homeless families living on the third floor of that building. A bag lady comes through with a shopping cart every single morning that we’re there. And someone is illegally storing gasoline near our unit. But we’re the criminals because we thought paying $100 every fucking months meant we could occasionally use the bathroom or sit quietly in the parking lot to watch a movie.
This is not the first place we’ve been kicked out of. McDonald’s has done it twice. Apparently, you’re not allowed to sit and eat your food in their dining room. You have to be out in 15 minutes. Take too long, even if you’re the only customer, and you risk getting kicked out. Dunkin Donuts did it once: same deal, though a little more understandable since they don’t have a proper dining room. Even our gym coach, who told us point blank that he wanted to do anything he could to help before we ever asked, told us we had to stop cooking there because someone complained about a smell.
This country needs to rethink its attitude towards homeless people. I am not a criminal. I am not trying to scam the system. I just want a place to unwind after work like everyone else. And you know what? I’m not even asking you to give me that. I just need you to stop taking it away whenever I find it.
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