It’s been over a decade since being put out onto the street, pregnant and with two young kids. I feel my experience could help people understand better what it’s like to be homeless and why Suspended Coffee can make such a difference. There are a lot of misconceptions out there.
Personally, I had it easier than many. I managed to stay in shelters. I kept an unstable roof over our heads throughout the ordeal. I got into the charity “system” where I could access the best sources of assistance.
Nonetheless, there was the stress–just astronomical levels of stress. Every moment I felt a knife hanging over my head: Will we have a place to stay? Would we be safe? Many nights in the shelters were pockmarked were the sounds of nearby bullets. I was forced to work with a former drug lord at a food bank to “earn” my $400/mo. TANF money. One day this drug lord described how he cut off the fingers of a woman who had betrayed him.
My daughter had to learn street smarts when she started kindergarten in the inner city, taking a special bus from the shelters. My infant son dropped from the 95th percentile in weight to the 5th. He also dropped significantly behind in his verbal development. The stress affected everyone.
The isolation was extreme. Trauma is inherently isolating. Add to that the virtual impossibility of making lasting friendships. Either our new friends would leave–or get kicked out–or we would leave. We jumped through four shelters in less than four months: Sacred Heart House, Samaritan House, Damen House, and Decatur Place.
Beyond my own stress and hurt was the stories of suffering from all the other women I met. Horrific suffering was the primary characteristic of the homeless community that I witnessed. Trauma. Abuse. Violence. Illness. Everyone I met sat under a thick, black cloud of suffering.
- My daughter had a friend her age who had witnessed her father being murdered.
- Another women I met had been molested by an uncle during childhood and then severely beaten by a husband later on.
- Still another woman and her kids had fled a violent relationship. When the family was sleeping in the park, she told them they were camping.
There were many more. These just stood out.
Kind Gestures can Make a World of Difference
This leads to why I believe Suspended Coffee will make a far greater difference than most people realize. A kind gesture–like a simple cup of coffee from a stranger– can make the world of difference in an extreme situation. In extreme situations it’s easy to give up or to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. A kind gesture can give someone the strength to make it through the day. It can make someone feel a little less alone. It can give someone the hope that eventually their life can be better. It’s about more than just the coffee. Much more.