It’s hard to believe that my darkest hour turned out to be my journey into the Light.
For nearly a year I’ve been homeless, sleeping on friends’ couches, or in a spare room, staying in a motel when I could afford it, and ultimately sleeping in my car.
Living on the street is devastating, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. There were times I’d sit in my car and cry “God, I hate this” as I made my bed in the front seat of my car just when dawn was breaking. This after staying up all night in a 24-hour fast-food restaurant. I didn’t understand at that time that if I trusted in the Word of God, trusted in Him, and cried out to Jesus He would make a way for me, not only getting off the street, but getting me back on my feet.
But I believed I deserved what was happening to me. I heard all the negative voices, all my mistakes, misgivings and shortcomings came rushing back to me, and I was convinced that I deserved this shame and unhappiness. I was down, and slowly I learned, through the grace of God that I didn’t have to stay down.
This is my story and I’m sharing it with you in the hopes that you can avoid unnecessary trauma and drama in your life. I’m not saying you won’t have problems and tribulations, because you will. But what I’m sharing with you is, you don’t have to stay in your situation no matter what it is. You don’t even have to rely on friends or family; you just have to trust in God and let Him guide you, and He will put the right people in your life. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but when you finally surrender all, and let God handle your life, your peace will be unimaginable and you will truly understand God’s amazing grace.
I was what you would call the “working” homeless, meaning you work but you don’t earn enough money to maintain a place to live. When you’re the working homeless, you’re faced with different challenges and new indignities on a regular basis. You have to keep your private life a secret because there is so much shame attached to being homeless, especially when you end up living in your car.
Showers are a luxury, and going to the bathroom when you want to is pure heaven. You wear a mask at work, and what’s most disturbing is you shy away from the world and the people you know, enjoy and love to be around.
Many working homeless people find refuge with family members. Others have friends who are like family that take them in. I’m not from a close-knit family so relatives were not an option. My brother did tell me that I could live with his family in Texas if I couldn’t get on my feet. That was nice to hear, but he and I both knew that wasn’t an option for me.
As far as my friends were concerned, most of them had troubles of their own. And even though a couple did what they could by letting me sleep on their couch, or in a spare room, this proved to be too much of a burden for them. They had other family members to consider and financial ramifications, such as the landlord raising their rent if they found out an additional person was living with them even temporarily.
I stayed at a Motel 6 near LAX when I could afford it. I liked their slogan “We’ll leave the light on.”
That was a comforting sentiment for me, and when times were particularly hard and the street uninviting I took advantage of their invitation.
My first night on the street came on the heels of the death of one of my dearest friends; we went back to our college days. We were brought together again through our church in 2004 and we were inseparable until the day he died. We had that rare friendship where we could discuss our deepest even darkest thoughts without judgment. We always found a way to uplift each other. He was a good man, and I have no doubt that he is with the Father.
He died suddenly of a heart attack, and he was alone, but I can’t help but believe he was surrounded by family members who had gone on before him. In his own way he let me know he was OK, and I felt comfort in that. He was OK, and I like to think he was watching me. If he were alive, I believe he would not have let me be on the street, but God had other plans for both of us.
That first night on the street was strangely without fear. I was in survival mode. It was August and when night fell I didn’t know what to do with myself. I drove around for a while but realized I was going to run out of gas, and my money was low. I needed to find a safe place to park and just sit with the windows up just in case I fell asleep. I didn’t have the mind to be depressed, or even to deal with the reality of my situation.
It’s strange how you can hear, read and even know the Word of God, but you seem to forget about it when you’re in trouble. You start to think about how “you’re personally going to handle the situation” what your plans are to get out of the mess you’re in. Your mind is activated, and you’re going to think your way out of this situation. That was me. Like most Americans, I bought into the saying “God helps them that help themselves.”
Thank goodness for 24-hour restaurants. After I stopped driving, parked for a while I decided to get something to eat. You can imagine my disappointment when I found out it was only 11 p.m. The night was still young. I nursed my food as long as I could, two hours and I finally left after using the restroom. I returned to my car, and must have dozed off, because when I snapped awake eyes were staring back at me. I freaked, the person was bent over looking in my car dead in my eyes. He apparently worked at the restaurant, but I still felt very vulnerable, I started my car and drove out of the near vacant lot. It was only a little after 3 a.m.
Shaken, I drove to an area where I used to live, found another 24-hour restaurant, refused to be seated because I told the nice young man that I was waiting for my friends to arrive. After an hour he asked if I’d like a drink, I ordered a soft drink and nursed it for another hour, refusing refills. Finally, I left at 4:30 a.m. wondering why daylight was so slow in coming.
I found a secluded street, and once again sat in my car. I looked up at the stars and thought how
beautiful; to get a better look I bent over and put my upper body at seat level to turn my face upwards to get an even better look at the stars from my car window. When I rose up I found a man standing directly across the street from me, standing under a street light, smoking a cigarette and looking dead in my eyes with the meanest look I’d ever seen on a human face. I froze. I stared right back into his eyes and I didn’t move. He kept smoking the cigarette and staring at me, our eyes were locked. I didn’t move an inch. I knew I was in an affluent White area, and this man probably didn’t know what I was up to and didn’t want me there. My mind was racing, but my body was not moving.
Finally, he dropped the cigarette and smashed it on the ground. He walked away and I got the heck out of there. And to my dismay, it was still dark. I had to park somewhere until daylight, but I didn’t want to take the chance, and for the first time I cried.
I also knew that I couldn’t afford to become depressed, I did pray but I wasn’t sure what I was praying for because nothing in my life was working. I drove back to the area where I had my storage and waited in their parking lot because access was available at 5 a.m., but it was still dark. Daylight didn’t appear until after 6:30 a.m. I thought with dismay, this is hell on earth.