A Christmas Story
From beginning of July till end of October Charlot and myself did not have a home. We were literally and quite real homeless. That’s no problem, right? We were “on holiday”, right? Nothing to do, just time to enjoy summer, ourselves and a vision to live from?
Honestly- we had a good time, but it was tough! Sometimes rough, sometimes quite a pain.
Our idea was – of cause – to save money. Both unemployed and on the search for where life would lead us, were thinking: would be nice to use the time to visit friends and family, spend as much time at places and with people that we will probably not go to see once the baby is there and – if – we move to Mull.
But actually, we had so little money we could not afford to rent a place. The moving around, the hovering about, the restlessness and the sometimes difficult process of applying for jobs, receiving no positive feedback from nobody ( – well, I did expect somehow that friends and family would give hints, offer something or lead in certain directions, open some doors or at least give some advice -at least some fucking advice where to turn to!- but silence, nothing, nad... – ) was quite a challenge.
So, what to do?
I realized, what it means to be homeless. It is one of these experiences one can only fully understand when lived through. You can’t understand it in “theory”, no matter how empathic you are. I admit, I thought I new how it feels to be homeless. And I did pity homeless folks. Well- a little, half, or a quarter, or sometimes just 5% when passing a homeless guy not taking notice of his or her situation (oh my god, am I really that heartless?).
I sometimes even thought in a half-thought: well, those homeless folks, they are, like everyone, masters of their own fate. Why are they living on the streets? They must enjoy it, they must have chosen to be homeless because in our society nobody needs to be homeless.
Well, now I think differently. I was homeless.
I did not live on the streets, and I did not freeze or starve or suffered anything. But- I was homeless. Several times I did not have anywhere to go.
Why? I do have friends and family, and nobody - if worst come worst - would not let me in if I would have asked, right? Right? Of cause not! Right?
Well its a bit more complicated than that. If you get homeless, you can still have friends and family The question is- do you want to tell people in what kind of desperate situation you are in? can you? It can be quite humiliating to ask for help.
And then, well, even when I told friends: I was send away… Surprise! People, close friends, actually do deny access to their homes, when you are in need. Wow, what a new feeling! Unexpected but very real. You have a person on the phone where you know, big flat, single person, full fridge, heated rooms, well paid job and then: “no, sorry, tonight I rather prefer a quite evening, you know, I just came back from an exhausting holiday in Barbados, I need to recover, what about hmhm, why not ask him? I’m sure he loves your company… “
I learned that – probably that’s the case, at least that’s how I explain this to myself – that other people can so much NOT understand how it feels to be homeless, to be desperately in need for a place to sleep, to wash your dirty clothes, to have a shower, that they don’t really realize that you truly are in need. Why otherwise would thy be such assholes? They probably are not just ignorant, they are rather just too busy with themselves to not find the time and space to consider how you feel when asking such a question.
But common, how was it really?
I had to be in Switzerland, with my loaded car, with Charlot, with some appointments.
So I asked friends: Can we come for some nights, or at least one night, we are happy with whatever, we have all we need, except a floor to put our inflatable air matrass on…
Some didn’t even answer.
Others said, well, yes anytime, but right now, I have this Tinder thing going on, its fitting rather not really well right now… Others simply said they had such a rough week, it would be a bit too much.
Others complained about having visitors so often, right now, its not suitable, any other time of cause! Some “friends” where not at home. So they could have left us their space easily. But- even when knowing about our situation “forgot” to mention that we could have had their home, without any hesitation. That’s easy to say afterwards and did feel like a slap in the face. Thanks!
I must add, that –if I would have explained our situation in more detail, crawling on my knees, sobbing and pleading, stressing on the fact, that we really don’t have any place for the night, that we asked others before and that this particular “friend” is the last person we could think of, is our last straw, he or she probably would have said, “of cause, my home is yours”. But, that’s a lesson I learned, and that’s why I can understand homeless people now much better is, that humans are people with dignity, with pride, with self-respect, with self-esteem or little self-esteem. I just could not tell people how deeply in need we were. Its embarrassing. I don’t want to admit that I`m in deep shit. Partly because it’s not entirely true, I`m quite happy and everything goes well. Still, I`m in trouble, I don’t have the money to rent a fucking place right now- I do need your help! I expected that they – as good friends – would empathically (at least a little) feel into our difficult situation and maybe kindly (maybe even without us having asked) open the door to their guestroom for us or that a phrase like “ hey, do you need a place, you are always welcome!” turns in some kind of action that we could have accepted without needing to feel like invaders or misusing their hospitality.
This is the one side, the other is: We experienced a great deal of help and support. As always, quite often from people not expected, who suddenly turned out to be much better friends than thought.
A friend had us sleep in her bedroom and bed, while sleeping on the guest mattress in the living room for a whole week. A colleague, someone I would before not even have called a friend had us use his guestroom for a week. A friend of Charlot from study time spontaneously told us where the house-keys are hidden to stay in their house while on holidays.
It might not sound like it. But I`m really grateful for this time.
After all- a really valuable experience.