The Conversation & Other Awkward Things You’ll Encounter When You’re Homeless

“You can’t go home?”
“Don’t you have family?”
“So you’re really homeless?”

No, because I’m homeless. Yes. Also, yes. I can’t count how many times I’ve had this exact same conversation over the past year and a half. Their reactions are the same each time. Dismay that I, a homeless person, do not have a home to return to. Confusion that a family could be so dysfunctional as to not be able to (or want to) help a member struggling with housing stability. Slight disgust that they were talking to a gross homeless person this entire time and didn’t even know it.

At first it always took me off guard. Despite the increasing number of homeless people in this country the general public is still somehow not used to interacting with us. So when they do actually speak to us they tend to forget basic manners and proceed to bombard us with personal questions about how we became homeless. In this entire time that I have been homeless I have had few people ask me beforehand if it was okay to ask me about my personal life.

It’s just another small indignity homeless people face. The casual invasion of our privacy, redundant questions about our housing status, and forcing us to relive painful events of our pasts for whatever purpose it serves the person asking the questions. I remain confused about what exactly the goal is in these interactions. They’ve rarely resulted in anything productive. The only conclusion that I can come to is that people just refuse to believe that a homeless person can exist outside of the very narrow stereotype they have about us. As a result I have spent a lot of time explaining to adults how as a homeless person I can’t just “go home.” This isn’t just some rebellion against my family or society. I really don’t have a home. I’ve had to dispel them of the notion that everyone has a stable and caring family they can return to when life gets hard.

Unsolicited Advice

Among the stereotypes associated with homeless people is that we are failed adults. That somewhere along the line we stopped doing what needed to be done to support ourselves. Because of this we are often dealt with in an infantilizing way. People think it is acceptable to tell us to do things, not ask for our input into what course our lives should take, or give us advice that is often useless. This brings me to my next point.

Besides the bombardment of questions, you should also expect a heaping load of unsolicited advice and opinions about your situation. I am commonly told about jobs (I never ask about) I need to apply for even though I already work. I have had to sit through lectures about lowering my standards and not being too prideful to accept certain forms of work. As if me being homeless comes as a result of not wanting to work instead of untreated mental illness, generational poverty, employment discrimination, and losing a major source of income.

I have gotten into arguments with people about why I refuse to go to most shelters. They can’t bring themselves to trust my judgement even though I am more likely to have knowledge on shelters than someone who has never lived in one or who only goes to a shelter to volunteer on holidays. On top of this people will also insist on taking direct action in your life, oftentimes making things even worse.

It all goes back to housed people seeing us as less deserving of the respect given to other adults. Because they stereotype us as incapable they believe it’s okay to step in and take over our lives without even bothering to ask permission to do this. I have had to cut ties with a few people who didn’t understand that needing help didn’t grant them ownership over me.

Suspicion

While the general public believes that homeless people are inept and incapable of taking care of ourselves, they also believe that many of us are these stealthy scammers feigning poverty because we’re too lazy to work. Because who wouldn’t want to bare their entire life story to get help? Who doesn’t want to beg for money so they could eat or rent a room for the night? It’s not at all dehumanizing to ask for help in a society that is obsessed with the myth of pulling oneself out of poverty by sheer grit and hard work.

Most of us are too stressed and sleep deprived to invest the amount of energy needed to scam someone. Our days are filled with either work, finding a place that will allow us to occupy space, or trying to dig ourselves out of the sinking hole that is homelessness. And if we’re being perfectly honest, many of you don’t have that much to scam to begin with. A lot of you are just one job loss or medical emergency from sleeping on the same streets as us.

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

This is an old and pervasive mindset that many people just accept without question. They believe that because our situations are desperate that we are not in a position to object to anything that is presented to us – whether it’s food that doesn’t adhere to our diet, worn-out clothing, or another care package loaded with toiletries that we may not be able to use if we don’t have access to showers. Since homeless people are seen as sub-human, we are not considered worthy enough of enjoying the same things other people enjoy. But we are deserving. Our status as homeless people doesn’t take away our humanity.

Homeless people don’t need for strangers to dig into our personal backgrounds. We don’t need to be given advice that doesn’t pertain to our situation or to be given leftovers no one else wants. We deserve the same respect and consideration as everyone else. If someone is really committed to helping us, they would talk to us and find out what our needs are. Then they would work within their capabilities to assist us. And they would do all of this without demeaning us, diminishing our abilities, or commanding us to do as they see best.

I’m still working towards being stable and donating $5 or more to my PayPal will go a long way to helping me. paypal: rssunjoy360@gmail.com

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Your Liberal Friends Are Racist Too

Before the year leading up to the 2016 presidential election I would have considered myself a staunch liberal and supporter of the democratic party. But in that year I began to see fellow liberals and the democratic party as a whole in a new light. I felt that valid concerns Black democrats had against the party and it’s ineffectiveness to produce enough viable candidates were dismissed. Accompanied by an insolent expectation that despite this the party was entitled to the votes of Black people. In addition to all of this came the pervasive idea that the indignation many Black people felt arose not from genuine concerns that were unmet but from some outside source influencing our thought patterns.

The one that came up the most then and in the two years since is the claim that Russia was secretly behind racial tensions in the United States. I have seen this sentiment echoed in numerous publications, news reports, tweets, and facebook posts. Liberals believe that in addition to Russia meddling in the 2016 election that it is also responsible for racial tensions within the United States.

Behind this claim is the idea that before Russia began meddling in the election that everything was fine. That racism was a thing that happened on a rare occurrence but was something most of the country had progressed from. It’s not only tone deaf and condescending it is also a denial of systemic racism and state sanctioned violence. It reveals that white liberals who claim to be our allies are no better than republicans in their denial of our continued oppression.

This line of thinking has carried over into politics as well. More specifically as a defense against the growing number of Black people that are disillusioned with the democratic party due to its failures to meet the needs of it’s Black voters. It shouldn’t be too far fetched to understand how many Black people can be fed up with a system that only gives us two options. One is the republican party that openly calls for our oppression and the other is the democratic party that has a history of acquiescing to the demands of the republican party under the guise of keeping the peace. Many Black people have grown tired of giving our undying support to a political party that expects and often demands our vote then abandons us the chance it gets because they know that we have no other options.

When Black people criticize the democratic party or say that we will no longer vote for the candidates that are presented to us simply because they are dems we are met with accusations of being Russian trolls. Told that we are responsible for Trump winning the election. We are belittled as if we owe our support to the democratic party. The worst part about their behavior is that they don’t see the racist undertones in these statements.

The idea of Black people as autonomous beings with the capability of thinking and feeling on our own is so foreign to white people in this country that even the ones who see themselves as allies cannot conceive of Black people coming to conclusions that are oppositional to their own. So when we do oppose them we are met with their worst. This is perfectly exemplified by the backlash Black members in their own party experience simply for lending their support to democratic candidates that other democrats dislike.

For example, Nina Turner was kept off of the DNC stage in Philadelphia because she decided to advocate for Senator Bernie Sanders. But this was after she experienced harassment from democrats after it was announced that she had endorsed him. Nina recounted how after an event at Planned Parenthood a woman confronted her and told her that she was a disappointment and that she should be ashamed for betraying the Clintons.

Democrats seem incapable of reflecting on why many Black people feel like a democratic vote is only useful for harm reduction. That their candidates are only slightly less awful than republicans candidates. The blame for the loss of the democratic party is laid at the feet of everyone except prominent members of the party. Im reminded of the slogan many liberals tooted after Trump became president: “If Hillary had won we’d all be at Brunch right now!” It let’s me know that to liberals in the democratic party we are only valuable to prop up their votes. However, we are not valuable enough to have our anger taken seriously. Nor are we valuable enough for them to consider us as thinking beings.

White liberals hold the same racist opinions of Black people as right wingers, they just express it differently. For them racism comes in the form of not recognizing the autonomy of Black people. In my opinion liberals and right wingers are two of the same. The only difference is that one cannot see how much they dislike us.

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Mental Illness And Gratitude

When people vent they have a habit of interrupting themselves to say that they should be grateful for what they have in life. Almost as if they’re embarrassed to not hold every problem inside. I can see why people do this. Growing up a lot of us were probably told to count our blessings in response to us voicing difficulties we face. Or had our problems compared to someone who was thought to be suffering more than ourselves.

For a long time our society has taught people that to voice their troubles is a sign of weakness. I believe this is a problematic pattern of thinking that encourages people to hide from our problems rather than voicing them honestly which would allow us to confront them. It holds us back from being able to grow and for people suffering with depression or other mental illnesses this can be very dangerous.

Many times in the past when I needed to vent about the troubles that came along with my depression and BPD I would be told to just be grateful. That there were people in the world who were actually suffering. Not only did this diminish my experiences but it also made me less likely to seek help even when I was suicidal.

The assertion was that my depression and BPD weren’t really life altering illnesses but more of a mindset. If I were to just change my outlook and be more grateful my mental health issues would disappear. Since I did not want to appear ungrateful I would just remain quiet while my mental state deteriorated.

The problem is a lot of people confuse someone needing help or wanting to process their issues as someone who is simply lazy and would rather be miserable than take an active role in changing their life. However, a person can’t change something that they don’t feel comfortable even acknowledging exists. Another issue is that a lot of people don’t understand what it means to be genuinely grateful.

Being grateful shouldn’t entail a denial of your mental illness. It should not be because you are happy that someone else is suffering more than you. It should happen because you are able to recognize that there are still good parts about life even when you’re suffering.

Teaching someone to be silent about their suffering will not teach them to be thankful about life. Suggesting that gratitude will cure mental illnesses will just prevent someone from reaching out when they need help. Telling someone that they should be grateful others are suffering more will cause them to be less sympathetic to themselves and to others. We must learn how to encourage people to see the joys in life without telling them to deny the parts of life that are not joyful.

I recently moved down to Georgia and due to unforeseen circumstances I am at risk of being homeless. So if you like this post please consider donating to my paypal: rssunjoy360@gmail.com

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Being Homeless In A Privatized World

I spent most of my Sunday trying to avoid the fact that there is a 50/50 chance that I will find myself homeless and on the streets by the end of this week. With the way I tend to obsess over things distracting myself only works for so long and eventually I found myself brainstorming plans on how to survive another winter homeless in a city that I’ve spent less than a month in. This got me thinking of just how incredibly difficult it is to be homeless in an increasingly privatized world.

When I was on the streets last year I spent a great deal of time trying not to look homeless. I wore makeup, made sure that I changed my outfits frequently and that I didn’t smell bad (which is a very difficult task when you can only bathe once or twice a week). I rented out a small storage unit so that I did not have to carry everything with me. Even though I was not enrolled in classes at the time I would spend most of my day at my university so that it wouldn’t look strange if I decided to take a nap.

I did all of this because I knew that once I was “visibly homeless” that life for me would become exponentially more difficult and possibly more dangerous as a woman. Job opportunities would be harder to find, I would be subject to harassment from law enforcement, and housed people would feel uncomfortable with me occupying the same space as them.

The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet,’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.” -John Adams

America has always been a society separated by class and since America’s inception one of the primary distinguishing of class has been land and the ownership of private property. When many of the colonists came to ‘the new world’ they brought with them old ideas of property ownership. Historically, a person’s worth was tied to the land they occupied, both the quantity and the quality of it.

These ideas were so influential that when America was founded only white, male property owners had the right to vote. This was later amended however the idea of property ownership being a virtue stuck with us. Our ideas of freedom, citizenship, success and quality of life are linked to property.

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In a society that overvalues private ownership to be propertyless is to essentially not exist. At least not exist in the same way other people do. Homeless people are seen and treated as deviants who have failed to properly integrate themselves. Or as public nuisances that burden the rest of the population with their presence. This is reflected not only in how everyday individuals treat homeless people but also in how local, state, as well as federal governments choose to treat homeless people.

For example, there are laws preventing religious groups and other orgs from giving food to homeless people without permits. Or giving them other supplies such as blankets or toiletries. As if homeless people are wild animals that the public is discouraged to feed out of fear that they will stick around. Another strategy communities use is to put barriers on public and private property to deter homeless people from sleeping or loitering on it. Restaurants and coffee shops that refuse to allow people to use restrooms or sit unless they purchase something first. Police who harass, arrest, and use excessive force on homeless people knowing that nothing will be done about it. The goal is to make the lives of homeless people so unbearable that they decide to go somewhere else, somewhere that might have less stringent laws in place.  

When you’re homeless your life revolves around finding ways to survive day to day. This causes stress that can impact your mental and physical state and takes an incredible amount of strength to overcome. To live in a world that tells you everyday that your existence has less value because you are not housed makes an already awful situation worse.

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Invisible

I walked beside the manager as he took me from one display to the next in each section of the store. Explaining what was on them and why they were important. I tried to hold on to the information but after more than a few seconds a fog passed over me, clouding the part of my brain that helps me remember things. Why didn’t I take that little notebook with me? It was right there in my purse but I left it the locker.

Now it was too late. He was looking at me, waiting for me to tell him the name of the display he was pointing at. I looked back and forward between him and it. My mind drawing a blank. I felt absolutely foolish standing there and the only thing I could say was “ummmm.”

My behavior probably read as absent minded, aloof. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Getting this job was very important to me. It had been my first one in months and some part of me felt as if this would be my last chance before I would finally give up.

He told me the name of the display and I breathed a sigh of relief. He then took me to another display, pointed at it, and asked what it was. Yet again, I just stared, my mind blank and my mouth agape. When I felt like too long a time had passed I finally told him that I didn’t know. The expression on his face seemed to be a mixture of annoyance and impatience. It shouldn’t have been this hard for a grown woman to remember the names of a few displays.

I wanted to tell him why I couldn’t remember, maybe he would offer me some sympathy and we would go over the displays again. Perhaps he would let me go back and get my notebook. Then I remembered the application, and how quickly I checked the box saying that I didn’t have a disability. Telling him that I had hid the truth, that I actually was disabled, would only get me fired.

I remember the first time I told an employer that I have clinical depression. He responded by telling me about a guy who he used to work with who killed himself. Immediately thereafter, he threatened to fire me. For some reason I didn’t learn my lesson after this so, each time I filled out an application, I would check the box, “Disabled.” and wonder why I didn’t get callbacks from jobs I was qualified for. Most bosses don’t want to accommodate workers because that would mean they make less money.

Having an invisible disability gives me a little more privilege than people who are physically disabled For instance, no one asks me if I can have sex, no one approaches me in the checkout line to say they pity me for being alive, and most importantly I’ve learned not to disclose that I have depression and BPD, because then no one will tell me that God has made me sad as a punishment for sin.

Yet, we share and suffer similar consequences. I am unable to find steady employment and therefore unable to support myself. My quality of life is tied to a society that refuses to accommodate people like me.

A year from now, I probably won’t have this job and if by some miracle I do I will probably be debating whether or not I should leave it. Convincing myself that a new environment will help. That won’t be true, because from what I can tell, that’s never been true. I’ll just continue going from job to job. Holding on to the last bits of sanity I have left. Hoping that things will get better but I know they won’t.

I am currently in the process of publishing my first book detailing my life with chronic depression and BPD. Please be sure to follow me on twitter under the @lifelessspace to stay updated on my blog and book release. If you liked this post please consider donating to my paypal: https://www.paypal.me/aafira

Racism Is Not A Mental Illness

Last week was the anniversary of Heather Heyer’s death. A woman who was killed last year in Charlottesville while marching against Nazis. Many chose to remember her by hosting vigils or picking up where she left off by taking their own stands against white supremacy. While others choose to remember her by posting on social media about the impact she left. One of the tweets I came across condemned white suprmacy as a mental illness. This wasn’t the first of it’s kind that I had stumbled across, both online and in real life. A surprising amount of people seem to hold this sentiment.

Another popular opinon seems to be that white supremacists should be treated with compassion since they are similar to neurodivergent individuals. The person beckons their readers to get to know their fellow white supremacist, invite them into their lives in the hopes that it will show them that the humanity of other’s matter just as much as their own. This is something that I have seen echoed in editorials on mainstream media sites and documentaries. These bigots are described as “lost”, “misunderstood”, or “scared”.

It’s surprising the amount of compassion and understanding people are able to dig up for those who want anyone different from them dead. I find it suspcious that my mental illness is enough to make people regard me as dangerous, unstable, and unworthy of being taken seriously.

I have been fired from jobs, lost friendships, had people refuse to allow me around their children, told that I would burn in hell if I attempted suicide. I am labled as lazy because I am not able to keep a full time job or attend classes. Yet, I have seen little compassion in people who are not also mentally ill. There were no articles written about my everyday life in an effort to humanize me. No documentaries about me or people similar to myself. It seems to me that most people aren’t geniunely intrested in mental illness until they can use it as a shield against criticism.

Saying racism is a mental illness is a way for people to distance themselves from it. White supremacy makes our society uncomfortable because it is difficult to comprehend that someone can make a choice to be hateful. It also forces us to confront our own complicity in it’s continuation and our long, bloody history that is rife with it. So, we label it as a mental illness to rationalize blind hatred that we are too afraid to confront.

However, this is dangerous. It is dangerous because it allows white supremacist to be excused from their actions. It allows people (paticularly white people) to go without examining how they benefit from it. All while stigmatizing a group that is already feared and misunderstood.

Mentally ill people make up the majority of those killed in police shootings. We are more likely to endure employment/housing instability. Those of us who cannot affford treatment are likely to end up in prison. And none of this is a choice we make.

Unlike bigotry one cannot choose to be mentally ill. It is just something life deals you. Neo nazis/white supremacists aren’t these scared, lost individuals that need saving. They are bigots who want to go back to a time where they didnt have to keep their hatred hidden. When they had no one challenging them.

White supremacy, like all forms of bigotry, is about power and what privliges that power affords you. They see that marginalized groups are finally gaining some of that power and that is what motivates thier hatred. They choose not to see the humainity in those different from themselves because then that would mean giving up the power they desire.

Bigotry is a choice, mental illness is not. I did not choose to be mentally ill. However, I can choose to be prejudiced. I can choose to internalize homophobia. I can make a choice to be transphobic or ableist. To disregard a person’s humanity and justisfy taking away their civil rights would be something that I would have to do deliberately. However, that would not be a symptom or byproduct of my mental illness and being mentally ill does not exscuse me from the consequences that results from engaging in hatred.

I know so many mentally ill people who are caring, compassonate, good people. Who are themselves fighting against white supremacy. We don’t deserve to be society’s scapegoat.

Sources:

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We Need Dark Skinned Black Characters

The show ‘Altered Carbon‘ is a futuristic science fiction thriller set in the 25th century where humans now have the capability to live forever via transferring their consciousness between bodies, also known as sleeves. The show follows Takeshi Kovacs, a prisoner and former intersteller solider who is awakened after 250 years of forced hibernation to solve the murder of a 365 year old aristocrat in exchange for his freedom. Takeshi is plauged by memories of his captain and former lover, Quellcrist Falconer. The chance to reminisce on his memories of her is his sole motivation on agreeing to his new mission.

I have never been a big fan of science fiction but it was this sub plot of the show that kept me hooked. Not only does the chemistry between the two charecters feel natural but Quellcrist is a fully developed charecter all on her own and serves a critical role to the plot of the story. She is the scientist that pioneered the technology that allowed for consciousness to be transferiable. Once she realizes that it could be misused to create an unjust society where the wealthy use it to live forever she forms an army (known as envoys) and sets out to prevent this from happening.

Quellcrist is a strong but compassionate leader who is unmatched in her skill set as a warrior. She has a society of dedicated followers who believe in her mission and are willing to follow her rebellion. And she’s Black.

Not only is she Black but she is a darker skinned Black woman. This should mean nothing to me but the reality is that im just not used to seeing such a role be given to an actress with a similar skintone to myself. When a Black woman does procure such a role it usually goes to a racially ambiguous or light skinned Black women. Even when the charecter was originally dark skinned. When darker skinned Black women were shown it wasn’t surprising to see us put into one of the plethora of stereotypes society has about us. We were angry or vengeful. A mammy or side kick. Many are not allowed to develop into multi dimensional charecters.

Growing up charecters like Quellcrist was something I desperately needed to see. I needed to see dark skinned Black charecters who were self actualized, talented, capable people. Because everywhere I went there were people who let me know that those were traits that I would never posses. I was too dark, “dirty”. I was told no one would ever want me. That I had to subdue certain personality traits in order to make myself more palatable to society. I had no one to teach me that I was valuabe as a person. I had virtually no self esteem growing up and as a result my outlook on myself and my future always had limits. I could not achieve certain things because I was too dark. I could not be a certain way because I was too dark.

Of course the implications of colorism go far beyond one’s self esteem. From housing oppurtunities to employment, marriage, and even the outcomes of court proceedings. The lighter your skin the better oppurtunities you will have. A research team at Villanova University found that among incarcerated women lighter skinned women recieved less time when they commited the same crimes as darker skinned women. Earlier studies, such as one conducted by Stanford University, found that the same dynamic played out among Black male inmates.

Colorism is about constant rejection of one’s humanity. Tone determines one’s outcomes in academia and their respective career field and just about ever other facet of life because it is still engrained within our society to base a person’s worth on their skin. This is why even among historical black institutions the paper bag test was implemented. If one did not pass that test they could easily find themselves boxed out of certain spaces. This is something the black community and the rest of our society has still not grappled with.

Black people are gaining more representation oppurtunities but more often than not we are only seeing one kind of Black. Representation of dark skinned bodies matters because it allows us to be humanized. We need the world to see that we aren’t these angry, monstrous beings that we have always been seen as. We need the world to see that not only are we human but that we are also intelligent, capable, and creative individuals.

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Welcome to my new site

Hello, my name is Regina and I will like to welcome you to my new site. I first began blogging a few years ago after converting to Islam. I wanted to document my journey as a new Muslim and I wanted to fufill a dream of mine that I had since childhood: to be a writer.

I deleted that site a few months ago because that chapter of my life is over. However, my urge to write is still very much alive. I will cover many topics on this site as there is not one paticular purpose to this other than to keep track of my thoughts.

So welcome. If you like what I have to say follow me and spread the word. Btw my grammar is awful so if you have any editing skills and a little free time I would love to have you as my editor.