Homelessness — A Personal Story

Darius Nearly two decades ago, after relocating from the country roads of Mississippi to the city streets of Alexandria, Virginia, my family became homeless.

Our fall into hard times placed us among the thousands every year who must rely on emergency shelters in the metropolitan Washington area.

According to housing experts, the number one reason people become homeless is the high demand for low-income, affordable housing and the limited availability of vacancies. In many cities, people have a better chance of shaking President Obama’s hand than being placed on a waiting list for assisted affordable housing. Some waiting lists have been remained closed for at least a decade with thousands of people waiting patiently, and often in vain, for a decent home.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, other government agencies and non-profit groups have found creative and practical solutions to address some of the problems. But there are things we can do as well.

For starters, we can educate ourselves and others about the issue. Many people assume the homeless are self-sustaining, or that they lack motivation to live a better life. Such beliefs are far from true in many cases.

Hard-working people with minimum wage jobs often find their earnings are not nearly enough to pay for the rising costs of food, transportation and child care, let alone shelter, according to the federal government.

The more fortunate among us can also support local resources such as the Alexandria Community Shelter, a homeless assistance agency that provides a range of services including shelter, food, housing counseling and job skills. Agencies like ACS can have an enormous positive impact on an individual or family.

Although, I was only six years of age, I had a good sense of the environment. At first, I found it difficult residing with strangers, adjusting to early curfews, and eating shelter prepared foods. I did not have any toys of my own and the toys that were available were for the community. My only true possessions were that of my family. However, as time passed, Mondloch Shelter seemed a lot more like home. The shelter celebrated all of the children’s birthdays and held Christmas parties sponsored by the Salvation Army. For the duration of my residency, Mondloch fulfilled my family’s need for a home without disregarding that “home sweet home” feeling.

Life doesn’t stop when you’re homeless. I was never ashamed to share my experiences with other people for my family’s temporary homelessness, ironically, helped make me the determined person I am today. When dealing with hardships, my mother told me to keep in mind that problems are only temporary. Your “mentality is everything,” she said.

Now, whenever I encounter someone who is homeless, I tell him to always keep a positive outlook even if it appears that life is never on his side. Circumstances can change. My family and I are living proof of that.

Have you done something to help the homeless or have you ever been homeless? Maybe you have suggestions on how to fight this national problem. Share your story or ideas in the comments section below.

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7 comments on “Homelessness — A Personal Story
  1. M dalton says:

    I really deemed this article both informative and enlightening! The first step in creating any mass change is first information. If people are more aware of what’s going on in our cities and how we can directly make a change, it would be for the better. Many people would like to help, they just don’t know how to!!! Poverty and hunger is definitely something that can be replenished in this country if there was a more collaborative effort.

  2. Kadir Mohammed says:

    Having worked in a Section 8 housing property and a resource center I am all to familiar with the difficulty families in need have finding residency or even making it on to the wait list for housing. The disappointment families have in their eyes when they see that the waiting list is closed or the fact that getting on the waiting list only means that you may have to wait months and a majority of the time even years for placement is disheartening. One thing I’ve learned from my experience is that all though resources are limited with support from people who have an understanding of the system many of these families can be helped. I’ve seen the difference resource referrals and education can make on a family without hope. I believe if enough people focus on making a difference to the homeless community that we can gradually improve the quality of living for those who are in shelters or on the housing waiting list.

  3. Charles Mack says:

    You never really know the reasons for others circumstances in life. Homelessness is something most all have witnessed but not all have experienced. Your story gives a bit of understanding and a look at the perspective of a young child on his own upbringing. Powerful. I really think community is important in helping situations of homelessness you mentioned staying with other families. A supportive and uplifting community to me is key to helping those that are struggling. Good people with good intentions. Doing what they can to help those that love around them.

  4. Brianna C. says:

    I would first like to say that this story is appreciated and truly an inspiration. I work as a career agent for Norfolk Department of Human Services, managing over 75 cases. My main population are clients receiving temporary assistance and homelessness is a HUGE barrier that they face. There is a lack of access and several hurdles that my clients face everyday just to make ends meet.
    Yes they receive assistance, but if you look at the cost of living and the size of their family…there is no way anyone can survive let alone be comfortable. In these circumstances it’s hard to remain positive and to say ” things will get better”.
    I truly believe that local and state leaders need to evaluate what is working for our clients because the cycle is only getting worse. We “fix” the problem and just send them on their way with no additional services for retention or education. I’m not saying that for all cases, but I have seen several occasions where this is happening.
    This is an awesome first step! Continue to share your story and advocate.

  5. Brianna Merritt says:

    I found this article to be very informative! I’ve been a registered nurse for 2 years and have come across many patients who are homeless and feel hopeless. I think people suffering with homelessness could use articles like this to show them things can turn around and anything is possible! Thank you for sharing

  6. Heshyar Shamdeen says:

    One way we can help improve this national problem immediately is not by creating a whole new solution to the issue, but by assisting an existing solution and maximizing its potential. For example, ACS is a perfect option for this. We can maximize its potential by helping them increase their food, man power, and other resouces that help the shelter operate at optimum strength which in turn will increase the amount of people it can assist. Simple things like conducting food drives and gathering clothes from your local neighborhoods will put this plan in motion. Volunteering at the shelter to help distribute the goods and aid the homeless is another option. These are just a few things that people can chose to do to immediately and REALISTICALLY help the problem if they really want to help.

  7. Machele says:

    What great way to share your story with others, to educate them on a issue that many Americans in our country face today! One thing that I strongly believe is that awareness is key when fighting the plight of homelessness. As you stated in your article we must educate ourselves first and then others to truly make and impact in our communities. Your story will serve as a platform for many people. Very inspirational!

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