It could happen to anyone…

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The homeless people walking among us are invisible to most. We look past them, avoiding eye contact at all cost. I always did.  Not so much purposely it was more subconsciously. I never wanted to intentionally look into the eyes of such vulnerable human beings.  I could easily be seeing my parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles. It could be a friend or a family member that struggles with mental illness, addiction or chronic poverty. If I didn’t look, I didn’t have to feel anything or do anything for them.

homeless musicians

I had nothing personal against homeless people. In fact I once was homeless. I was in an abusive relationship and left with the clothes on my back. I was one of the lucky ones, my daughter and son-in-law took me in and took care of me until it was safe for me to take care of myself.

Whether we like to think about it or not we are all vulnerable. A job loss, long illness, the loss of a supporting partner, a few wrongly timed tragedies and we could find ourselves without a place to lay our head. It happens more often than you think.

As a twelve-year-old boy, Dr. Phil McGraw lived in a car with his father. His father was doing his psychology internship. Jennifer Lopez left home at eighteen after an argument with her mother. Her mother didn’t want her to be a dancer. She slept on a couch in a dance studio. Singer Jewel lost a job because she wouldn’t sleep with her boss. He withheld her paychecks so she ended up sleeping in her car. She became very ill when her kidneys failed and nearly died in a hospital parking lot.

Dr Phil

The thought that I could be the one pushing a rickety shopping cart has kept me volunteering and bringing in donations of canned and non-perishable foods to my church’s quarterly ‘stop hunger’ drives. Dropping those cans in that box always made me feel good. I was making a difference. I felt as if I earned a free of guilt card and was then able to move about town looking past all of those unfortunate people that walk among us. I was doing what I could do.

Homeless woman shopping cart

Giving always worked for me, until that night, the night that I first met Sophie. That night I had no choice but to look homelessness right in its’ terrified eyes. I wanted to look past it, to keep walking, to throw money and canned goods at it but it was impossible. It was impossible because it was under my roof, sitting on my sofa and wearing my pajamas.

Thirty-seven-thousand people die homeless on the streets of America nearly every year. The number has been at least this high for years and it is growing. This number breaks my heart. No human being should die alone, on a sidewalk or in a shelter. I don’t even believe animals should die alone on the streets or in a shelter. It seems at times we do more to rescue those animals than we do our own family members. Both need to be rescued.

As part of this rapidly changing demographic baby boomers are turning sixty-five at a rate of ten-thousand a day. With those numbers expected to continue until at least the year two-thousand and twenty we are likely to see a dramatic spike in the already epidemic numbers of elderly homeless people between now and then.

We need a plan.


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I’m one of Lisa’s Live Wires! Lisa is a challenge co-host Lisa Buie-Collard.

I am excited to be working with this bunch of fabulous bloggers …

Rhonda Albom –   Bob R. Milne –   Tamera Narayan –  Stephanie Faris –   Heather McCubbin –   Randi Lee


36 Responses to “It could happen to anyone…”

  • I like to put faces on homelessness on my blog for the exact reason you stated above, as well as some of your commenters. It could and does happen to anyone. I’m glad you got out of the abusive relationship, too many aren’t able to. I’m also glad you had some help along the way. In one of my posts I mentioned a good number of famous types that were at some point homeless, as well as regular folks like us.

    But for the Grace of God Go I. When I was young, my Mother said that often, and I didn’t really understand until later. It is so true. If we don’t put names on it, we don’t have to see it, and if we don’t see it, feel it…it’s easy to do nothing about it.

    Yes, we need a plan…in some areas things have improved, but I don’t think we can say we have a plan.

  • These were my exact words to someone on fb who insisted I must somehow be at fault for my own homeless state. I didn’t waste time telling him that I came out of an extremely abusive marriage to someone who is a Social Worker, and now is rather high up in an Adoption Agency. He left Gulf Coast Jewish Services, where my mother once worked, which just recently have seen their own CEO slain by her husband. Yet, hardly any due is given to spousal abuse.

    Anyway, after taking a meager divorce settlement, instead of the 1/2 I was entitled to, just to get him out of my hair, I was in the midst of buying a house from a “friend” on a Rent-to-Own plan, when she decided to go bankrupt. I spent two years trying to keep the house and buy it from the bank, arguing that I had been paying the electricity and all the bills, but the bank would not listen to me. I lost the house and at that point my health failed. I was already legally blind, and had had heart failure (when in the hospital, while married to the Social Worker, he got a girlfriend, a real prince of a guy – I left that house with two bags of clothing, and my viola)

    After my 2 month hospital stay and a stint in a physical rehabilitation center, I was placed in a homeless shelter. The hospital had provided me with a social worker, who had started a protective filing for me with the SSA and I finished the filing when I got out of Rehab. I received my SSDI in 5 months, from the date of the protective filing.

    I didn’t bother telling this guy all of this, I just basically put him on “ignore” on fb. Some people will never get it. It can happen to anyone. Mostly though, it happens to women coming out of divorces, people who are mentally or physically ill and it is not something that we put into our life’s planner. The thing is this; I helped a man who I thought loved me go back to school, after giving up a high-paying job and he treated me like garbage. I did nothing to deserve this; the only thing I am guilty of is bad judgment. With neither parent living and no siblings and no children, I had no one to speak up for me; I was alone.

    That’s okay; I have a life now; just not the one I ever expected to have. Mary

  • Erica/ modhukori:

    wow! very touched by the subject you have chosen to blog about. Will be back.

  • I live in Center City Philadelphia—right on Rittenhouse Square, one of the toniest areas in the city—-and the homeless abound. Many have health, mental health and addiction issues that need to be addressed concomitantly with housing. Each person has their own story. Philly actually has a small newspaper published by homeless people who then sell it. There is a lot of pain in there.We will never have a plan until there is a will for us to have a plan.

  • Jess:

    Great post, Doreen. I don’t know that we can ever do enough, but you’re right … homes! I realized how easily one could become homeless when a cousin almost ended up that way … and she was a teacher. It’s so much easier than we think! Thankful you’re on your feet!

  • This is a great subject and one that I’ve thought of often. It could really happen to any of us at any time. I watched a program with prominent single women who had everything taken away from divorce and they all found themselves on the street to start over. Scary thought.

  • Anne:

    Thanks for another fascinating and informative post.I never would have guessed some of those people. True confession, when I saw Doctor Phil’s picture there (before I read the words) I was expecting for some word of wisdom he’d shared on the subject. I had to reread that part like three times before it even registered.
    There but for the grace of God go I..

  • I am enjoying reading your series. It is making me ponder. How close do I want to get to this issue? How close does anyone want to get to every issue? Maybe there should be levels with a problem so each of us can lean in to the degree that we feel comfortable.

  • What a thoughtful post. I remember the first time I became really aware of homeless people and you’ll never guess where it was. Washington D.C., our nation’s capitol. First Christmas I had in Maryland with my husband’s uncle and aunt we went into DC to see the town at night. Homeless people were literally everywhere, on benches, vents, doorways, sleeping with newspaper, cardboard and sometimes raggedy clothing as covers. Made an indelible impression on me. I was twenty-four. Happy to say my son carries on the tradition of volunteering that he, I hope, learned from us, his parents. I’m glad my kids are more aware than I was at their ages, of the needs of others. Lisa, co-host AtoZ 2015, @

    • Oh Lisa, DC is still horrible. So many homeless. It is embarrassing. I think our kids a lot less afraid of peoples differences and more open minded than we were.

  • I have also been there and want to do more. I think unless you have actually been in this situation yourself you can’t grasp how easily it can happen to anyone. I cannot wait for your book about Sophie to come out I am really looking forward to reading it!

  • Should a good reminder. Thank you Doreen. I think awareness about homelessness is such an important topic and definitely needs a “plan”. It’s silly that in our country we can do something more to end this problem.

  • Fascinating. Didn’t know that about Dr. Phil. I do remember reading somewhere that Whoopi Goldberg was once on food stamps.

  • Helene Cohen Bludman:

    For many years I have volunteered in a program designed to help homeless people get back on their feet. I have had meals with them, sat and talked for hours, played with their children. It is so true that most of us are a paycheck or two away from homelessness. I thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront, Doreen.

  • Also, I’m so sorry that you were in an abusive relationship, and very glad you had a safe place to go, and had the courage to leave! We have a women’s shelter in our town, one that will take in pets as well, and it is a safe refuge for many.

  • If I remember correctly, Jay Leno and Hilary Swank have both done car time. Oh, I think most people are a paycheck or two away from total disaster. If it weren’t for supportive family members, there would be even more people out on the streets.
    Excellent post, Doreen.
    Play off the Page

  • You are right on all counts. It COULD happen to anyone and also we do need a plan. Yes. Is anyone thinking of this but you?

  • You have a way of putting things in perspective that’s very powerful. You are right: we tend to rescue pets and turn our heads to the tough stuff. You definitely have me re-evaluating my existence. Thanks for that. 😉

  • Lisa’s Live wires? A fabulous bunch of bloggers on your team!

    Dr. Phil… homeless? Who would have thought?
    Yes, it could happen to anyone… you’re so right.
    Great theme, Doreen!

    Writer In Transit

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