While distributing backpacks to those experiencing homelessness in Atlanta, we have had the opportunity to meet and talk to some truly amazing people with incredible stories in the process. Everyone has a story, and we look forward to sharing them below:
"I have 6 kids- five boys, one girl. Two of them are in kindergarten, and one each in first, fourth, and fifth grade. The other one is too young for school. Needless to say, online school has been a bit of a struggle. I’ve learned a lot from it though! When we first started out, the school wifi we had constantly cut out, and the kids kept getting kicked out of their zoom calls. So I got us to switch over to AT&T, and the wifi’s been so much better. Now, when school starts, I have all the kids in one room, each with their own earbuds. It’s nice to get some peace and quiet! They’re still quite a handful, though. I try to always remember that it’s important to be a good role model for my children. Shouting doesn’t solve anything, y’know? I’m trying to look on the bright side and stay strong for my kids, but it’s hard sometimes, with depression and all. That’s alright though. I’m just taking it day by day, and from all this I feel like I’ve learned a lot. After all this ends, I might look into becoming a teacher."
“Eventually, you learn to hide a knife up your sleeve. He locked me in the basement for a week once. I used the knife and the bobby pins in my hair to pick the lock and get out. I’m a runner- he couldn’t keep me down. One time after he caught me running, he tried to prevent me from leaving again and injured my leg so badly that I needed to get ten surgeries for it. During our court trial, the judge had to leave for five minutes to puke after he saw the pictures of the lacerations on my thigh. People always ask, “Why don’t you leave?” but it’s not that simple. It’s easy to look at someone in that situation and be like, “Oh, of course I’d leave!” but you don’t know. You haven’t been in that situation before. It’s psychological- the abuser messes with your head. Did you know? On average, it takes a victim seven times to run away from their domestic abuser until they can stay away for good because they don’t have the outside support they need. When I called the police, you know what the first questions they asked me were? “Did you love him? Did you do anything to make him mad?” That’s why I don’t trust the police anymore. The responses I get from social services is similar- “I’m sorry ma’am, we can’t help”. I had to take things in my own hands- I just arrived here from North Carolina two days ago. I know he’s looking for me, and I can’t contact many people because our court case is still going on. So far, it’s been a bit frustrating. I had a heart attack coming here, and the hospital put me in a room with several other patients. The person behind me was vomiting severely, and when I asked the nurse if he had COVID-19, her response was just a dry, “Yes, he does”. No remorse, no nothing. I’m not stupid. I graduated high school with a 3.8 GPA. Did I just not have a heart attack? Am I not immunocompromised right now? Why on earth am I in a room with a patient with a severe case of COVID-19? I left the hospital and stayed the night at the park. I know I’m strong, but even strong people need support sometimes."
"I was born in Puerto Rico, but I’ve spent most of my life here in the states. Currently, I’m living at my friend’s flat, but it’s still tough to pay rent. You know how hard it already is to get a job with COVID-19. Try adding the fact that you’re 71 years old! I tried applying for this job a while ago. The hiring lady took one look at me and placed me in the back of the applicant line, separating me from the rest of the young guys. I didn’t get the job- not much of a surprise. That’s just age discrimination for you. A few months ago, someone pulled up behind me and crashed into the car I was in. They operated on me at Grady Hospital, and thankfully Medicare paid for most of the $10,000 fee. I’m supposed to get $2,500 from the settlement, but the guy who crashed into me was uninsured so I don’t know if I’ll get it. I was planning on using the money to go to Florida. It’ll all work out though- God is on my side."
"There’s not much to say- my girlfriend cheated on me, and things went downhill from there. I’m 48 now. When people ask me what it’s like being homeless, I ask them, what do you think? How do you think it feels? Take a second and place yourself in our shoes. You won’t understand, but you can try. The cold, the heat, the looks people give us. It gets to you. What do you think that feels like? You gotta keep your chin up."
"Precious came to me when my friend's dog had too many pups. She's a year old now, and still pretty small, but don't be fooled by her size. Precious is a smart one. I didn't even have to teach her commands like stop or sit- she knows. Sometimes, I won't have dog food at hand, so I'll try giving her some canned food instead, but Precious knows what's up. She'll glance down, glance back up, and give me that Look, the one that says, "Really? You expect me to eat this crap?" And that's partially why I'm here now- heaven knows I don't have money for dog food. I'm hoping they'll have some here."
(This particular story is told in 3rd person to avoid accidental misquoting.) She’s not ashamed of talking about her history. From age three onwards, she experienced childhood trauma from her mother, and suffered from domestic violence at the hands of her ex-husbands. However, she’s found a great guy and is now happily married, and her three kids are doing well, with one of them in nursing school! They’re regular volunteers at Safehouse Outreach to help the homeless. Despite her own homelessness, she still volunteers because that’s what she loves to do. Recently, she was accepted into a program in Gwinnett that will hopefully help her transition out of homelessness. She’s an incredibly kind woman and knows everyone- she gives hugs freely!
“When I was younger, I enlisted and served in the army for around 15 years. I was part of Desert Storm, in the Persian Gulf, all of that. When I came back home, I became a certified floor master, and I even worked at the CDC for a while. Recently though, I was hit by a car and my legs were heavily damaged. I was in the hospital for 6 weeks. And when I finally got out, I lost my housing because I hadn’t paid rent. I’m now waiting for surgery so I can walk again, but I don’t know when I’ll get the notice. It’s a little frustrating because someone in my family is getting married and I’d really like to go, but the fees and trouble of getting me there are too much. I’ll probably watch it live on my phone instead."
“I’ve always been used to this life. My real parents were homeless, and sometimes we had to sleep under bridges. But one day, I guess someone thought we were fishy and called human services. They took me and my sister. I’ve gone through multiple foster homes, and became homeless at age 16 when my last foster parents threw me out. I got back in touch with my real dad, but he was addicted and made me beg in the streets to get him money. I wasn’t having that, so I stopped. Recently though, I got in touch with an old high school friend. He’s been absolutely awesome- he sent me $230 the other day, no strings attached. Now I’ve been looking into a nearby homeless temporary housing service to get a free place to stay. They said they might even offer me a job! I might have to leave here and go to Savannah, but we’ll see.”
"In 6th grade, my class was invited to listen to a local minister. After the talk, we got in line to shake his hands, and my teacher told him, “Dr. King, I want you to meet my students.” A month later, we heard that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and assassinated. I had so many questions. Why’d he have to die? What did he do wrong? I looked for answers in my local church pastor, and at the age of 11, I was molested by him. I suppressed the memory and kept quiet about it for 52 years, until one day, I was in alcohol rehab and I heard another man bringing up how he, too, had been molested. That confession set me free to finally process the memory. But then in 2003, my mother died. It was devastating, and to drive out those memories, I went into a deep addiction of drugs and alcohol. I couldn’t even remember what my mother’s funeral was like. It was only four years later, when I was in rehab, got clean, and I finally processed things, when I actually cried for her. I’m 63 now. Got no college degree but I have a job, but there’s no affordable housing around so I’ve been living in a hotel for the past 8 years. Around 60% of my income goes to rent, and I have my medical bills to pay, too. But no matter. I’m glad I got to meet young people like you and your generation. I didn’t think I’d get to live this long to see the world having this much compassion for Black lives. It wasn’t like that back then. The response for inequality and BLM shook my heart. I live in a good world. My generation didn’t know the solution, but I have full faith that your generation will put us in a better place."
“I lived in Making A Way Housing for a while. All they care about is money. 30% of my income went towards rent, but they never seemed to do anything with the money to make our living conditions any better. We had rats eat the cornbread on the table, and a leak hole in the toilet. The most frustrating thing is that they’ll place whoever into the housing- There was just no separation whatsoever between those who were severely mentally ill or who had just been out of prison. I had to room with a crystal meth addict who ended up getting both of us kicked out because of his habits, even though I was clean.”
"I've been homeless on and off for 7 years now. Occasionally, I can find a place to stay at my uncle's, but he's 88 years old and I don't mean to cause him more trouble. It's okay though. As the saying goes, "the laughing and smiling stops the crying"! Oftentimes, I'll talk and have fun with my best friend or just appreciate nature. I'm also the self proclaimed mayor of this park! It's my responsibility to make sure that everyone here is okay. What are you guys doing here, passing out bags for the homeless? Can I help you guys out?"