By, Emalyn Remington
My father was homeless before he died. No, he wasn’t living in a tent or a camper in someone’s backyard. He wasn’t seeking shelter from the ever changing Florida climate under a bridge. However, he was living in a spare bedroom in a trailer park with only a few bags of possessions and his dog, Daphne. Due to his health he was unable to work, a factor that heavily weighed on him. He didn’t have insurance, healthcare, a place to live that was stable and discouraged his addictions. When he died it was alone, with debt, and no real home. It may come as a shock to a great number of people, but I have also been homeless before. Thankfully, my family had a support system that allowed for us to stay in a spare bedroom or a camper or on couches. I know what it is like to fall asleep at night dreaming of walls and a bed and a room that is yours. I know that crippling pain that comes with relying on others for your existence. How humiliating that pain can be. Rob would say the same. I think that was a large factor in the choices that he made toward the end of his life. He felt helpless and depressed. A burden to society.
In January 2018, 552,830 people in the United States were reported as homeless. Of those, 35% were unsheltered. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, about 11% of the adult homeless population consists of people who have served our country in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Persian Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, and anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. According to a study in 2015-a study that also highlights the increase in homeless Americans in three short years, of the homeless population in the United States, 140,000 or 25% of homeless people suffered from severe mental illness. With the emergence of COVID-19, a crisis within a crisis has emerged as this pandemic attacks the most vulnerable group of people in the United States. Numbers continue to skyrocket particularly in urban areas where social distancing just isn’t possible, partnered with exposure to the elements and weakened immune systems. Now, it’s easy to look at these numbers and say, “Wow, that’s awful.” and not recognize the privileges in our own lives. For example, I am writing this blog entry on my laptop in my aunt’s home where I know I have food waiting and a bed to sleep in tonight. But thirteen year old me could only dream about having a real bathroom instead of a campground shower. My father couldn’t afford to look for an apartment, his body wouldn’t allow for him to have a good job- which he had plenty of in the past. But not many people that I have come into contact with would assume that me or someone so close to me that I love so deeply would have been in this position. My mother and father are two of the kindest people that I have ever known. When he was alive my father would have given the shirt off his back to someone who needed it. My mom, Shanns, is the same way. Shanns actually inspired me to write this entry because as I type, Shanns is spearheading a campaign that gives homeless people in our town necessities to get them through the foreboding Winter months. Yesterday, she told me about giving a new coat to a man who fought for our country, but now has very little to his name. When she said, “Thank you for your service, sir” his response rendered her speechless: “No, thank you for yours”.
Our society is quick to ostracize the homeless men and women that they see on the streets. We live in an age that has glamorized being perceived as a good person instead of just giving back because it’s the right thing to do. This man, who was willing to give his life for this country at such a young age, now lives with part of his life ended and changed because of what he experienced fighting for our country. And he chose to thank my mother who gave him something as small as a coat because that coat could be the difference between him freezing to death or staying warm. My mom and I also discussed how we can do more for our community with the privileges we now have, after periods where we were not sure when we were going to have a warm home that was really ours. I can’t think of a better way to honor my father than to inspire people to give back to the less fortunate members of their own communities and this country as a whole. Below I’m going to link some very important charities and organizations as well as the documentary, “SHELTER”- an award winning feature that follows a year in the life of homeless youth in New Orleans, Louisiana. I hope that you or someone you know could benefit from the resources. We are entering a holiday season that centers around ideas such as giving and being thankful and good will towards men, why not be that good that we all so desperately want to see in the world?