Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Country club to Shelter living

Country club to Shelter living

Homeless Shelter, scary words for me.
I came to the Women’s Shelter a little over four weeks ago. I came not wanting to, but had no other choice. After neck surgery, I put $10,000 on credit cards, paying doctors and hospital bills. I knew the $600 a month I got from Social Security wouldn't allow me to pay rent, eat, and pay medical bills. I pictured myself in a card board box, living on the streets. Weeks of phone calls, and Internet searching to homeless shelters I finally found a shelter.

With life turned upside down, I signed myself into it, scared.

Awful, is a mild word for the way I felt. I blended into the walls, feeling as I didn't exist. Letting myself down, my individuality and pride gone, I became a body in a herd of other women.

Depressed, I cried most of the time, not in the open where others could see, but in the bathroom, or a corner I had found on an outside wall. I didn’t recognize the face that looked back at me in the mirror. I saw that same look on other faces: no expression, no smile, lifeless, and dead.

At first I blamed myself. How did I get in this mess? Why didn’t I save money to pay bills? Why didn’t I? Why didn’t I? Why didn’t I? How could I grow in this environment. An environment I had never seen, or even came close to.

It took awhile, but finally learned the rules, what one was allowed to do, and not allowed to do. I learned chores had to be done everyday. Everyone had a specific chore, as a family taking care of itself. Some women washed mirrors, some windows, others counters and floors, took garbage out, and other jobs. I noticed the women were happier when they had something to do, and worked together.

My chore began working in the kitchen, making sandwiches every day, bagging them, and stuffing sweets and salt treats inside. Chef D. and Chef M. helped me, telling me, a slice of meat and a slice of cheese between bread. I’d choose breads which were donated from outside groups: white, whole wheat, rye and multi grain, making sure women and children away or in for the day, had something to eat. Me included.

Unable to walk in the public world outside, due to the hard neck brace I wore after the neck operation, I found writing and working in the kitchen my outlet. Sometimes standing in the kitchen for an hour or two made my neck go into spasm, and I’d lay down afterward. I’d fall asleep with a good feeling, knowing I had given myself. Even if it were just making sandwiches.

Soon, I found I had worth. I stopped complaining and instead said my prayers, at times all night when I couldn’t sleep, and in the morning upon waking.

I became a stronger person, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was learning God wanted of me. Why do we go through these so called lessons to learn we can be a better person?

I learned there was another side to me. The side that didn’t belong to country clubs, playing golf or tennis, and having lunches out four and five times a week. I got close to my inner being, and became proud of me, even though I was homeless.

My only regret is my country club friends deserted me. They don't call, and I no longer call them. Embarrassed to tell them I’ve fallen by the wayside. They are the people who donate to shelter’s, whether it's in churches or women’s groups.

But do they really know what it’s like to live in a shelter? I doubt it.

Rose Lamatt
May 27, 2010