In the spring of 2001, I moved to lower
But, the bottom fell out on me when my girlfriend left. Old demons surfaced to haunt me in a bottle and drugs. Nothing kills the pain though, and in 2004 I entered rehab to address my problems.
It's sad to have to face life on life's terms. But, I was determined to not make my life worse. The year I spent in a halfway house gave me back the tools to work through it. In 2006, I moved to
I returned to
In a few short years, I went from top of the world to being homeless.
I spent many a night covered in blankets and drop cloths, desperately trying to keep warm. What little work I could find only provided gas enough to look for more work. I got $123 a month from general assistance and another $174 a month from food stamps, but it was barely enough to eat.
Sleeping on the streets
One day, I relapsed and found myself back in
I slept in graveyards, alleys, overcrowded shelters, and finally got into a transitional home for men. Day after day, I spent hours searching jobs on library computers and at internet cafes. The search went on for a year before I found a government-funded program for men and women over 55. It was 20-hours-a-week, minimum wage, but I swallowed what pride I had left in order to survive.
Along the way, I met many people like myself, people who never dreamed that they could end up homeless. But there we were on the streets. Before finding a transitional home, I spent many a night with them, sharing stories and a bottle in some dark alley-way or park bench. I realized the bottle didn't help matters, so I stopped. I nipped it in the bud.
I took the tools I had from rehab and went forward again. I attended support meetings and applied for counseling to deal with the real issues of why I turned to self medicating.
I was determined that the streets were not going to be my demise. I wanted to be remembered as someone who pulled it back together. But it's a tough road, homelessness. It eats away at the fine character you once had in life. Where once I was revered in my business community, now I was nameless. Another inhabitant of the streets. But like everyone I met along the way, none woke up one day and decided they wanted to be homeless.
Looking for shelter
I placed free ads on Craigslist for handyman work, taking on anything my skills could handle. My spare time was spent writing in the library after hours of job searches. I established a few good customers who referred me to others and the little money I had I put to good use. A year ago, I began to look for a room, explaining in the ad how little I could afford to pay. By the grace of God, someone answered that ad. I got a place of my own to stay.
I don't have much right now, but I am regaining my self esteem and confidence.
I still search every day for two hours or more for work in this lousy economy. But, I am not a quitter. You just can't give up that's all.
And life, though meager, is good now. I spent the summer writing my first novel, of all things to do. Go figure. It was good for healing me in a way, though.
The long and short of it is that I never thought I would end up on the streets, but I did. Anyone can end up there. Yet, I must admit, it has made me a better person. Instead of passing by strangers on street corners perched in my truck, I see clearly what life is from street level. And what can happen if you assume that it can't happen to you.
S.A. Gibbins is a writer and painter who lives in Wilmington