In the span of a few days, I had conversations with two homeless people. (Well, I had a conversation and I overheard a conversation.)
I was waiting on the platform for the train. A woman who looked homeless decided to run across the street to get some water before the train came.
A man standing nearby started talking. He said he felt bad for her, that in addition to her homelessness, she had addiction issues, and that makes everything harder. And she’s a she, which makes everything harder.
He talked about how he’s homeless, and the steps he’s been taking to get himself housed. If things keep going the way they are, in another couple of weeks, he should be able to get a place to live. He was happy with what he’d been able to accomplish so far. He shared an idea he had that would legitimately make him some decent money … if he could save enough money to make the initial investment in the idea.
Later on the train, there were two people talking—a man and a woman—though the man really more was giving prompts than participating. They were standing on opposite sides of a not-crowded train. I can’t call it eavesdropping, because I couldn’t not hear them.
While most of the conversation was about an actress and was moderately tedious to listen to, at one point she was talking about her living situation. She said she had been homeless off and on for the past ten years, and that she’s been in her current apartment for a year. She talked about how nice it was to have space where she could just lock the door and be alone.
I have celebrated anniversaries of many, many things, but “having a place to live for a year” has never been on the list. I take that for granted. Even in my barely-getting-by days, I never questioned whether I would have a place to live. Privilege.
I had also never thought about the “space to be alone” aspect of homelessness. (Honestly, I haven’t thought about most of the logistics of homelessness.)
I have, for a long time, wanted to talk to homeless people and hear their story. See what they have to say. But it doesn’t feel safe. I mean, I’m sure that most of the people who look approachable are approachable. But those aren’t good enough odds for me right now. whether that’s just a knee-jerk purse-clutch reaction or is legit, I don’t know.
And if I was them and someone just wanted to hear my story out of curiosity, I’m not sure I’d want to tell it.
So I was grateful for these two interactions to give me a little bit of insight.