Each person who comes to Living Room is unique, but many share a hard to describe determination. Like the brilliant woman who spoke during Taste of Life, many are working while caring for young children or elderly parents. Others have been working two or even three jobs, and still others have learned that work will not happen until they have daily access to a shower and some ability to launder their clothes.
This is one of the most remarkable, and frustrating, things about working with the homeless population. Their needs are infinitely simple, tangible, and attainable. In fact, their greatest desires are things I take so much for granted. I have been known to leave the keys in the lock to the front door of my house. Because I’m so accustomed to the privacy and safety of doors that close, and locks that hold, I forgot to double check. Some case managers have reported that will people who move into an apartment or private room after many months or years on the streets manifest a form of PTSD in which they become utterly convinced that someone has entered their room, taken, broken or moved their things.
Because when you’re sleeping on the streets, that happens. It happens every night – someone steals your shoes from under your bed in the shelter. A group comes upon you and takes everything you have, no matter how worthless. You never fall fully asleep because you are afraid if you did, someone might take your last $5, the one you have been saving to buy breakfast. Or they might steal the last third of your sandwich.
No matter how severe the obstacles they face, people who come to Living Room do so because they bring a seed of hope inside of them. A belief that they are not the “walking dead” just biding time until the virus consumes their final t-cell and decimates their immune system.
They believe life can be better than that. Their minds betray them, as many of our minds are wont to do, but that hope? it actually DOES matter. It helps people eventually to believe that the lock stayed closed, their medicines will still be present when they wake up, and after a time, they can truely rest easy, in a chair, without counting the seconds before someone comes to usher them off.