I’ve mentioned on occasion that I was homeless for a period of time. However, don’t think I’ve shared my experience. It’s time I change that.
When I became homeless is a little hazy. It was during the period after I became sober, yet, hadn’t been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder. That was a six month gap so I would guestimate I was homeless for two or three months of my life. My head was spinning out of control and I was an absolute disaster. I do know I had run out of places to stay. All my “friends” were just barfly’s so, for most of them, there was no deep personal connection. A few of them did let me stay awhile, but they always insisted that I understood it was only a temporary solution. With each one it became apparent pretty quickly that I wasn’t looking for a job, so each stay didn’t last long. I was doing the best I could with what I had, but it wasn’t enough. After frying my brain for years, before getting sober, I was out of control and I truly believed that posting an application on Monster.com was serious job hunting. After all, I checked every day to see if I got responses. It wasn’t my fault there were no companies who saw what a tremendous asset I was.
One after another I abused my stay over privileges until it became just me and my jumbo duffle bag with nowhere to go. I spent a lot of times in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings because I knew, at least, I’d get some coffee, cookies and maybe a little inspiration. Possibly even a sliver of hope. I spent most of my time in Hollywood or West Hollywood because I knew where they had daytime meetings, which can be hard to find. In both communities, I knew where the best bushes were for stowing my bag so that I could wander around aimlessly.
One funny aspect is, despite being homeless, I had a therapist. Before I got sober I was in a relationship that was very violent and the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center was the only center in the country that offered a domestic violence program for those who are LGBT. The clinic charged on a sliding scale so my cost for therapy was only $1 per week. There were weeks I was unable to pay.
Finding a place to sleep was never difficult. Most of the time I slept on the #4 city bus. I specifically chose that bus, not only because it ran 24 hours, but because it ran a relatively long 18 mile route. All passengers are required to exit at each end and are then required to pay fare to go back the other way. 18 miles is a long way on a bus so it provided a good amount of rest before it was time to get off for the reverse trip to the other end. I became bus savvy pretty quickly.
On one end of the #4 line is Santa Monica and it was not uncommon to be stuck there when I ran out of bus fare. There are far worse places to be stranded and I found myself spending quite a bit of time there. The police had no patience for those sleeping in doorways or in parks at night, but they left me alone when I would sleep on the famous Santa Monica Pier. Kind of strange when I think about it. I found through trial and error that the most comfortable, and least cold, bench was the one closest to the Ferris Wheel. During the daytime sleeping in the parks is permitted, so I frequently would enjoy long naps there.
I’ve shared my daily activities and where I slept each night, but there’s plenty more to tell, including how I fed myself. Watch out for tomorrows article for the rest of my story about being homeless.