There was a time in my early 20s when I found myself to be homeless. My father had died and I hadn’t much wanted to go home before that anyway, as he was in the last throes of his life of alcoholism. When the college dormitory was open, it was entirely sufficient but between semesters or in the summer when I wasn’t enrolled, I had to find a place to lay my head.
Now, don’t for a minute think I was even close to the destitution in which so many find themselves. I was in the midst of pursuing a college degree, and if things had gotten too bad, I could have put aside my pride and asked for help. As it was, it was just a tight spot for about a year.
Still, I learned much from the experience. Like the importance of knowing which public restrooms were open 24 hours. Like knowing that a spacious, gas-guzzling car can function as an R.V. when needed. And like knowing that even a nice loaner apartment doesn’t work well if the electricity isn’t on.
My best friend during this time was the library where I was working. At night, I would steal away to a dark room where excess stock was stored. The A.M. radio reception was poor but kept me company. In the morning, I would sneak past the cleaning crew, always a dicey proposition. During the day, I would stash my suitcase in nondescript bushes, usually staying with a “hide in plain sight” strategy.
I was understandably embarrassed about all this. Now, though, I see that it was pretty plucky, if I say so myself, and I know it was necessary to get through those last three semesters of school.
I have fantasies sometimes of providing a home for someone who is coming up short, and I believe I’ll be able to do such a thing one day. My brief homeless life is one of those important threads that make up the tapestry of life, that help make us who we are.