This is the fourth post in an 8 part series on being homeless, by a guest author who goes by the name Dreamscaper. It’s my honor to share his story with my readers.
1. Eating out of garbage cans. I preferred half eaten bags of potato chips. If they were soggy they probably weren’t good. If they were crunchy they were probably fine. I hung out when the vending machines were changed. Sometimes the changer would give me left over snacks or snacks they couldn’t pack. I’m not sure if they suspected I was homeless and hungry. Most everyone else, including my closest friends, assumed I was still a student. Though they wouldn’t know that I was previously a student so all they saw was someone looking hungry at a vending machine.
2. I ended up joining any clubs on campus I could. The idea simply being that I needed to fill my waking hours with something to do until I could find a place I felt safe. The club I remembered most fondly was a life action role playing club. Eventually they somehow knew I was going through hard times. To “play” was a $5 fee. I don’t remember if my fee was waved or someone covered it for me. Either way, the money collected went towards pizza, soda, chips, whatever, after the sessions. I ate well. Sometimes we’d go to a 24 hour dennys to eat and talk about whatever happened during the session. I always had a couple friends that said I should order anything I wanted. One friend said he did this for a friend at a bar and they rung up a $100 bar tab together and it was good. I didn’t feel guilty asking for a burger and fries those nights.
3. Nights that I couldn’t find a building to sleep in I’d recycle cans from garbage cans that weren’t cleaned yet. Also, on weekends, I’d go through all the chairs and sofas where I was to pick up loose change. One day I pocketed $8. Every weekend wasn’t this great because it was only a week since “last cleaning”. This money I either used to watch a movie on the first showing at a theater on Sunday and try to stay in the building as long as possible. So the food I did get on my own I stole from stores. I preferred those nickel candies you pay when you take it. so I’d fill up my pockets. I also preferred shell less sunflower seeds. Nice size bag that would last all day and I could steal or pay for cheap.
One night I was sitting at a 24 hour Denny’s, pretending to study, when a homeless person sat next to me. He ended up giving me his address and drew a map on a napkin if “I was ever lonely”. Months later, I was hungry and wanted a roof over my head. I walked to his address and was yards to his door. Here I was…questioning my own sexuality and morality and willing to put everything aside in hopes of something to eat and a roof over my head for a night.
The money I did make recycling cans and finding in sofas was typically used for Sunday movies or to buy smokes. I never smoked before being homeless, but I wanted an excuse of why I was out at midnight on campus. Going for a smoke break and a stroll seemed like a good excuse. Luckily, I was never asked. During that time I started a pack a day habit that took 8 years to break cold turkey and another 6 years to stop having smoking dreams.
(Editor’s note – I am in debt to the artist Deb Hoeffner who permitted me to use the image above. You can see and purchase her beautiful artwork at her site DebHoeffner.com. This image is not in the public domain and may not be reproduced or copied.)
Next Week – Getting Rescued