For years I used to wonder about the homeless people you see around town. How could people wind up sleeping in a doorway. I used to dismiss them as perhaps lazy, alcoholic or having severe mental problems. I would give spare change when I could and then forget about them. There is one woman who has slept at the Harvard Coop for 20 years and then stands in front of the store all day. Sad really. Yet last summer I wound up sleeping next to her. How on earth did this happen??????
I am 57 and have lived in the Boston area most of my life. I have a BS from a well known Boston college and until 3 years ago worked hard in my chosen field. I was married, had a wonderful son, a condo in a nice suburb and had no real complaints in life. My marriage however suffered from working nights which in my line of work was the norm. We never divorced and are still close friends and good parents to my son who will be 16 next month.
The company I worked for was taken over by another outlet and we were all let go 3 years ago. It isn't easy trying to start over at 54 but I kept plugging away. Then I got sick.......
The last 3 years have been a nightmare as I have been inpatient more times than I can count. I keep getting infections that when they occur I have to be on IV treatments for 10 days. I just got out of Norwood Hospital last week after spending 2 weeks there. Because of this I can no longer work and have to be on Social Security Disabilty. The only good thing about that is that I am now on Medicare and my medical bills are covered and prescriptions are a small co-pay. Still the government does not give you very much. In my case it is under $900 a month and $73 in food stamps. The harsh reality is it is next to impossible to find even a room in the Boston area for that plus I am paying child support. I was living with a realtive in Newton until last May but she passed away and suddenly I had no place to go.
Now you might be saying why don't I go to service agencies for help? Well answer is that I spend most of my days doing just that but they are overwhelmed. I am on housing lists statewide but it can take up to FIVE YEARS to get placed. The goal is to get on subsidized housing where I would pay 30% of my income. I am working with an agency in Cambridge called Homestart and they are wonderful but it is a numbers game.
What about homeless shelters? That is what I am doing now and it is not fun. The dry shelters that take people in fulltime are all full and with freezing weather nobody is going to leave. I am waiting on shelters in Somerville, Waltham and Cambridge calling every morning but nothing yet. Right now I am in a shelter run by Harvard students but you can only stay 14 nights at a time and then wait a week to try and get back in. You can try to call them at 9:30 PM to see if they have a 1 night bed but if they don't one is faced with the Boston shelter system which is horrfic. One morning I woke up and someone had stolen my sneakers. That is a big reason you see people sleeping in doorways and ATM's in December as people are afraid to go to the 'wet' shelters where many of the clients are drunk or on drugs. It is brutal.
I only have one blood relative now, my nephew who lives on the Cape with his wife and 2 wonderful children. They worry about me but they have their own problems as he is in the mortgage business which is a nightmare these days.
Why the blog? I will be frank...I need help to do something for my son at Christmas.
He is a sophmore in high school and he needs a laptop badly for school. To compound the problem his Mom was laid off from her job in the computer industry and she is working now at a Dunkin Donuts just to pay the mortgage. They live in a nice middle class suburb but right now it is a struggle. Since I am getting fed most nights at the shelter I let her use my food stamps ( which isn't much ) Right now I am powerless to do much except lend moral support. I do what I can, for example I rented a car Saturday so we could go to Foxboro and cheer on his high school football team in the Super Bowl ( they won!!!) and it was money well spent as it is a lifetime memory for him (and me). Still it was money I really did not have.
I saw the perfect laptop yesterday at Staples that costs $599. I really want to get it for him.
I have never been a person who would hold out a coffee cup on the street begging for help. My needs are small these days, coffee in the morning, the Globe ( and hope somebody at Starbucks throws out the Times ). I am not going to chase a miracle and blow money on lottery tickets either. So here is the deal.
I have had an account with Pay Pal when I used to use Ebay. I have the put a link to my account on the upper right of the blog. Right now I have a whopping 23 cents in the account. Perhaps over the next 3 weeks some readers may decide to make a donation. In return I will blog about my days on the streets and the people I have come to know. If I can show a side of the homeless that people don't know then that alone is worth it. I am lucky that I can use a friends computer during the day.
The one thing I want to avoid is being 'outed' in the blogger world. NOT because I care if anybody knows my situation but to protect my son. If his classmates found out they might tease him as that is what kids do.
I hope I can make this an interesting read. May you all have Happy Holidays
Thank you for reading.