Difficult Transitions

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Zahara Muhammed

Becoming homeless is a transition, kind of like any move between different homes. You have to pick up all of your belongings, and move away from your friends, family, coworkers, and classmates. Your familiar scenery, streets, shops, and schools. The difference when you become homeless is that it’s an open transition — you don’t know where you’re going, and the possibilities are endless. There is usually something positive about moving, but there’s always something terrible underlying moving from a home to the streets.

IMG 2667 dm2.adjYou’re transitioning from a functioning member of society to someone that needs to ask for help. You’re transitioning from someone who pays their taxes to someone who requires governmental assistance. From a closet to a suitcase or, often, a garbage bag. You transition away from people you can trust to always needing to look over your shoulder. From bank accounts and direct deposit to counting change; having to make what feel like big life decisions simply to acquire basic needs. From homemade meals, a kitchen, and refrigeration, to food banks, food assistance (EBT), canned food, and soup kitchens. You transition away from family doctors and scheduled visits to urgent care and emergency rooms. You transition from evening tea and morning coffee to, “Lights out!” and, “You have five minutes to be out of the building.”

Where you used to get friendly nods from the police, you now get scowls and questioning. Before, breakdowns would be few and far between, and now you’re questioning your mental health often. It’s a transition from medicine cabinets, bubble baths, and evening bathroom routines, to timed showers, filthy restrooms, and poor hygiene. You transition because you have to. The world doesn’t look at you the same. You’re no longer someone people feel that they can rely on, or even trust. You can become the enemy so quickly. Now, you’re forced to prove yourself to society in order to appear just as functioning as everyone else. I find myself working twice as hard to prove that I’m normal.

No reason for homelessness is ever acceptable. People act as if something extraordinary like a natural disaster is the only excuse, and even then, I’d be met with questions like, “Where was your family?’’ and ‘’Why didn’t you have savings, or a plan for emergencies?” It’s never enough. You’re never enough. What is so horrible about this transition? We all have asked for help while moving — your family, friends, and sometimes your entire community all come to aid. But when there’s no destination address, everyone disappears. Doors that once were held open, are quite literally bolted shut. It feels like nobody wants to help “them” — those people who are experiencing homelessness. But they are me, and all I need is help.

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