"A combination of mental health issues as well as an abusive boyfriend, when I was seventeen, led me to a homeless shelter for the first time."
I never wanted to be homeless; no one wants to be homeless. Most people have a million excuses for why things like this happen. For me, it was a combination of youth and bad decisions. When you are young and have no real guidance to take the right path, you tend to make really bad decisions. A combination of mental health issues as well as an abusive boyfriend, when I was seventeen, led me to a homeless shelter for the first time. I started dating this man, that I thought was my soul mate and we were together for two years. I ended up becoming pregnant and, instead of him being happy, he turned into a monster. He tried to kill our unborn children, and me, numerous times. I had been estranged from my family since the age of fourteen, so going to them was out of the question.
I was terrified. I did not belong there. I was "better" than that. I had a lot of preconceived notions of the homeless. I thought they were all drunks, bums, drug addicts - the dredge of society. But as soon as I started hearing other people's stories of losing homes to fires, having to flee war torn countries and be new immigrants to this country, experiencing family and spousal abuse, dealing with slum landlords who kick women and children out onto the streets, I quickly realized that it could happen to anyone, and it does everyday.
Living below the poverty level, being in and out of disgusting apartments, getting into relationships with men who I thought would take care of me, being beaten and almost killed, having three beautiful children and coming out of horrible relationships have led me back to both homeless and abuse shelters more than ten times over a ten year period. For a long time, I used the shelters as a crutch. No matter how frustrating communal living was, anything was better than being alone. In a way, the staff and the counsellors were my only family. The only problem was that they were not my family, they were doing their job.
When you finally find a decent place to live and those doors are shut behind you, you suddenly realize that all the counselling and help you have received for those forty-two days fees like absolutely nothing. When you move into low-income housing, and are surrounded by one hundred or more families with all the same problems as you, and some of them don't want to change, it makes it very difficult to try and live a productive life.
Society keeps people like me in a state of crisis, not enough money to feed and clothe our children. Something needs to be done in order for people like myself, that are below the poverty line, to overcome adversity and become productive members of society.