David Raether, a former comedy writer for the sitcom Roseanne, became homeless. He later recounted his experience falling into and escaping homelessness in a memoir, from which this essay is adapted. Though his situation is different from that of many of our guests at Georgetown Ministry Center, the feelings are the same.
It’s a lengthy article worth the read, but here are some very poignant excerpts that I believe are how our guests feel every day:
When you become homeless, you face a number of practical issues. In fact, when you are homeless, all you face are practical issues.
What supermarket has the best samples today with the most protein in them?
How am I going to deal with rainstorms dumping water into my usual sleeping spot?
I have a job interview; I have clean clothes, but how can I make sure I don’t smell?
These are the issues you deal with on a daily basis. Dreary, boring, painful issues that relate directly to your body. And that’s because homelessness is a dreary, boring, and often painful condition.
Your days are very long. The rhythm of work followed by home is gone. It’s replaced by long stretches of empty time. No company, no conversation, no deadlines, nothing.
His daily habits also depict many of the habits of our guests:
A Saturday during my homelessness went like this.
I would wake up around 4 a.m., brush myself off, and wander around the streets for awhile until Starbucks opened. I’d spend what little money I had on coffee and hope someone left a copy of the Los Angeles Times so I could work the crossword puzzle. I’d wait. And wait. At 10 a.m., the Pasadena Central Library opens. I would walk up there and surf job websites and send off some resumes and read articles online during my allotted time until noon, or, if I was lucky, early afternoon.
That was the hard part of the day. I’d be hungry. Really hungry. A week since I had a real meal hungry. I’d walk over to Whole Foods on the Arroyo Parkway, which has good food samples on Saturdays, grab a cart, and pretend to shop. (It always helps to put some items in the cart to look the part.) The fruits are by the door – I’d grab a bunch of orange slices and watermelon chunks. Next I go upstairs to where the muffin bits and cheese chunks are and gorge as subtly as possible. I’d return the unpurchased items to their places in the store and exit.
By then it would be mid-afternoon. I’d dream of lying on a couch in a warm living room, watching college football. Instead I would walk to another public library to access the Internet. As the sun sets, I’d head to a coffeehouse in South Pasadena called Kaldi where I could find someone to talk with. It wasn’t the company of loved ones, but they were decent people who didn’t ask too many questions about my circumstances.
Night. At 8 p.m. I’d return to the Starbucks. I would find discarded copies of the New York Times and start working the crossword puzzle. And that was Saturday.
Sundays were the same, and so were Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. On public holidays, the libraries closed and I needed to find someplace else to spend my days.
We try to give the homeless individuals who find their way to Georgetown Ministry Center some of the answers to the practical questions: A pb&j or turkey and cheese sandwich will have protein. GMC has shower and laundry facilities, computers, phones, and doctors.
Even more than these basic services, we try to be a place for the homeless to belong, to feel connected to others, and to feel respected and safe. We rely on everyone — staff, guests, and volunteers — to create a welcoming atmosphere. Almost every day we have programming that ranges from movies to yoga classes to a knitting group to a counseling group that everyone is welcome and invited to be a part of.
All of these services and programs together help us create positive change in the lives of the individuals we meet, like S. and J., who moved into housing within the past month. You can create a supportive and nourishing environment by volunteering in our center or winter shelter. Contact us for more information.