How Did This Happen?

“That whole transition from having a nice house to being homeless – it was a shock.”

Edited by Amanda Yonushatis.

Transcript for How Did This Happen?

Part 1: How Did This Happen?

“That whole transition from having a nice house to being homeless – it was a shock.”

I’m from the area. I was raised in Portage, and I lived in Colorado for part of my life too – kind of back and forth from here to there. So, I worked 20 years in lab research, and I was married and I got divorced. So, I had to quit my nice lab research job and move back out here, and there’s nothing in my field here.

Kind of the reason I became homeless was just some poor choices on my part. I let my license become suspended and then I couldn’t do the service job anymore and so, and then the house I had was kind of in a very remote, rural area, and so no way I could walk or do anything to go to work or anything like for any other job. So, I ended up losing that house. And, kind of the thing that’s kept me homeless was I have some severe health issues, chronic pain, severe arthritis. I have multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia. It seems mostly jobs out here, things where you have to be on your feet all the time and, and I just can’t do that right now.

So, just that whole transition from having a nice house to being homeless, it was just, it was a shock, in a way and it’s like, how did this happen, and I mean, I knew how it happened, but it just, like it was kinda like, surreal.

And then the first short time I had an apartment in, in town, in Valpo. But I couldn’t, without, you know, being able to physically work, like I was before. Everything just kind of started – it was just, that’s when my health really started deteriorating. I just started to suffer from depression that I had never felt before.

Up until this past, last May, I was in an apartment for almost three years. And, I was working some part time job that wasn’t really as physically demanding. But then I had a cardiac issue and my son took his life and it kinda…I just couldn’t function. And then my girlfriend died in a car accident a couple months after that. And, just with, with my health issues, and then with just the loss, I couldn’t, I really couldn’t function. And so I was out on the streets again, by this past May. Five or six years ago, you would have told me, I would be homeless, I would have laughed at you. But yeah, I guess it could happen to anyone.

Part 2: It’s Cold, It’s Rough

“That’s what will kill you quick – that ground temp will pull the heat away from your body.”

The program that works with the churches, yeah, I had some health issues and had a seizure while I was on their property and they said because of that I’m a risk for them. And, so they kind of booted me out of that. That’s kind of why I’m sleeping in a tent in the woods right now.

Yeah, it’s it’s cold, it’s it’s rough. But I have some pads down some mats to insulate from the ground, because that’s, that’s what will kill you quick is that ground temp will pull the heat away from your body. The air temp, you know, will take a lot longer to cause hypothermia, but that ground temp will just suck the heat out of your body.

One of my lady friends that I’ve known for a few years, she’s sharing the tent with me so we can kind of get bundled up and cuddle up and share a little warmth. And, so it’s, it’s manageable until it gets to sub zero. Fortunately, we both know someone that were we can stay. They’re in subsidized housing, so we can’t live with them or stay there every night. But, on the days that are subzero, we can crash there for the night, but only those days. So, I do kind of have a little thing when it’s real extreme to where I can be somewhere warm through the night. But, once it gets up in the single digits, it’s back to the tent again – single digits or higher.

Yeah, the snow is a challenge – the rain isn’t that bad; I have a rain fly on the tent. If we get too much snow to where it’s, you know, it can make it difficult to hike back to where the tent is. And, then because, this is really the the only tent I have, it’s more like a summer type tent, it can’t really take much snow on it. So, the last time it snowed pretty good, I had to kind of go back there a couple times throughout the day, kind of clear myself a little path by pushing the snow to the side with my boots and kind of push it away from around the borders of the tent.

You know, I don’t draw attention to myself or anything. So, you know, no one really notices us going back and forth. I know some of these places where people were set up in the woods that were homeless, they’d go to the businesses around and try to panhandle and that’s how the cops found out where their little homeless camps were. But, I don’t do that. So I get EBT benefits, and then I can get food and stuff from Housing Opportunities. So, I’m set with that. And then, it’s manageable right now. Just not the ideal situation I want to be in.

Part 3: Fallen on Hard Times

“They just get thrown out on the streets.”

Yeah, I just think there needs to be more awareness of our situation and more people who are willing to help. I think that the government needs to do more to put things in place to help us and get us to a place where we’re not homeless anymore.

I know there’s a lot of money in this town, and not just the money, but a lot of resources that we could use that aren’t being used. You know, I’ve seen people, they just throw them out in the streets because they have severe mental health issues, you know, to where they can’t hardly function on their own, but they just get thrown out on the streets. I think that’s sad. So, I just think there should be more programs in place that help us with whatever our issues are. So, I think every program needs to be custom tailored to each individual. But they just seem to blanket group us all into one group. You know, “Here’s a tent and sleeping bag, go wherever.” There are things they do to help us, but it just seems that they have their hands tied with a lot of stuff – not because they’re not willing to help, but just they can’t because of regulations and laws. It just doesn’t make sense to me why they have to have those rules and regulations that make it harder for people who are homeless to get help and get back on their feet again. And then it leads to people living in tents and homeless villages out in the woods or under a bridge somewhere.

A lot of our culture has gotten to, you know, look out for Number One, and it’s all based on someone’s financial status. And I lived that. I made six figures when I lived in Colorado. Becoming homeless kind of brought up a memory of something where there was some group that was trying to do some “helping the homeless” when I was in Colorado. I just blew them off, it’s like “not my problem,” and, “they’re a bunch of bums that need to get a job.” But my perceptions and attitudes have greatly changed. I think that’s a big problem is, the general public doesn’t – they don’t understand that there’s many of us out here but a lot of us are doing our best to get back on our feet again. We’re not degenerates. A lot of us, most of us are just real normal people who’ve fallen on hard times for some reason or another.

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