Define Homelessness

Imagine you get a call. Your mom had a heart attack and she's on the way to the hospital. You get in your car but your thoughts are racing. The spells. She's been saying she was having spells. For months. Dizzy spells. You asked her to see a doctor. She promised she would. But did she? You never thought she had. She's stubborn. Hates doctors. Hates being sick. Being pitied. Of course she didn't go. Her eating is bad, you've tried to move her to healthy eating but she won't budge. She loves your kids so you have them take her for walks. It's not enough. You've known that all along. But you keep trying because you're sure that her 'spells' are really a bigger problem. A heart problem.

You turn the key and drive. You bargain with god. Just let her survive. You'll fix this. You'll make her change. A horn honks. You've run the light. You look in the mirror. Everyone's ok. Focus. You have to focus to get to her safe.

You don't remember parking your car. The emergency room doors slide open at your approach. You get ushered back to a room. There's a crowd. Someone is holding your hand. Stroking your shoulder. You don't really here the words but they comfort you. Your mom leaves on a stretcher and you're guided behind. Blue hands squeeze a bag. You understand that's mom's breath. The beeping in the hall. You understand that's mom's heart.

You follow turns and halls. It's a strange little parade. At the end of the hall you're stopped. The waiting room. You have to stay in the waiting room while they get her settled. You can't sit so you pace. It seems like seconds before they come get you. It's been one hour.

A tech walks you into your mom's room. As she walks away, she squeezes your shoulder. The nurse tells you things. Important things. But your mom opens her eyes. She squeezes your hand. You can finally breathe.

Then the nurse hands you a paper. A list of the things your mom needs. 100 items. But there's a problem. They know your mom is non-compliant. They understand it's going to be difficult for you but after they've figured your mom's personal responsibility percentage they've determined that out of the 100 items on her need list she only qualifies for 15. As her next of kin you have the opportunity to choose which 15 needs the hospital meets. Please choose quickly as her ventilator counts as 3.

Horrific right?

This is what happens to homeless people every day.

At this writing our country is dealing the remains of a massive hurricane. No one would put those affected by Harvey in the same category as those we traditionally call homeless. Being made homeless by something like a flood or a fire is very different than being chronically out of a home.

No one expects today's flood victims to be sleeping on park benches tomorrow. They may expect them to be in a hotel for a while or on someone's couch for some time. They may even expect them to miss a few days of work to take care of recovery things or need a moment out of the workday because they're mourning loss.

You wouldn't laugh at them because they only have enough clothes to get through one week without repeating. You wouldn't judge their eating habits because they can't cook in a hotel. You might even understand if they didn't want to socialize with the group because the hotel was expensive or the grief of loss was too great when they're invited to your home.

And you'd probably understand how scared they were to start again, knowing what it's like to lose it all.

Because that's different than chronic homelessness, right?
Now imagine you're me.

You watch night after night as people all over this country, a country you've served, come together to help strangers. Right now they're still rescuing. But you've seen this before. The rebuilding. The recovery. It will come. You donate what you can. Your prayers cover the rest. You check headlines. You watch news channels. You keep watch.

You turn a corner at work and walk into a conversation. Not one you want to join. They're talking about homeless people. Their lack of deservedness. You want to poke them in the eye. But you need your job. You'll buy a lottery ticket. If you win, then you can poke eyes. For now you'll just scream in your mind. You scream about the fact that an estimated 50% of all heart patients are noncompliant. That means that nearly one half of all of the money that's spent on heart disease each day is spent on people lacking deservedness. You'd scream it out loud but you already know no one cares. No one cares that one week of cardiac non compliance costs more than a year of helping the homeless.

You stop in the hall. You see someone lost. You help them find where they're going and carry on. Your door opens. Some days are worse than others. This one will be ok. That family in 5 is freaked out but you're pretty sure they'll be ok. Mamma's non compliant but she'll probably be ok. You chat with the son until you see some of his tension release. You say your goodnights and see you in the mornings.

While you wait outside for your ride you wish you could be part of the team going to help with Harvey. Between the Navy and the hospital you have more than enough of what they're looking for. But you can't. You need the over time. You check the headlines. You're thankful for the people being helped. You try to figure out how to wish for the same help without taking their help away. Do wishes cancel wishes? Or are there enough wishes to go around.

When you get home you slip into your wish. You are thankful for what you have. You are. You feel guilty for wanting more. But for the now, a hotel will have to do. Still you can't help wishing for a real home. A forever home. But this will do for tonight. After all, it's not your car.

Contributing Editor: Laurie Love

Class of 1984, Navy Veteran, solo parent of 2 phenomenal adults. Uneducated but intelligent; hard working but poor. I look at all things with logic, artistry, suspicion and hope. I am @RckyMntLuv


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