My struggle on the street

(Here I am speaking at Baltimore’s Sleepout in 2012 on the streets of Charm City.)

It’s a fact that people are over the world are struggling for food, for housing, for jobs, for education, for their basic human rights to be met.   I still struggle to understand why people do what they do. I struggle to find ways to engage people to help others, to inspire righteous indignation if you will.  Here is a poem about struggle:

I struggle night and day to end this plight.

It just isn’t right.

You see many of me.

But you have never known me.

I struggle to keep my patience while standing in line waiting for food,

Waiting for clothes,

Waiting for shelter,

Waiting for a home

While I wait…

Many are cold.

Many are old.

Some die.

I ask how is this justified?

I ask when will it end?

I ask who’s willing to help? To fight?

And while I wait for answers…

I struggle.

My personal struggles have included: poverty, domestic violence, rape, homelessness, mental illness, being sexually harassed on the job, being racially profiled by police, bullying in school, discriminated against as a woman, as a feminist, as a poor person, as a homeless person.

Twenty two years ago when I graduated high school, I had no plans on becoming an advocate or an activist or anything close.  I was struggling with becoming a single parent and working. Being a parent is one of the best and hardest struggles of all time. You want to do everything right but inevitably there are challenges. It’s a full time job in itself which you can’t just quit.

I went to college while raising my son, Anthony and while working. I married for the first time in 1997 and had two more children, Anneliesia and Savannah. We were very poor and Northern Michigan small town life didn’t offer the conveniences or resources of Baltimore.  I was a victim of domestic abuse, so I was told to take the children into a domestic violence shelter. I earned a college degree and a job but no house. The court decided to grant physical custody to my husband. I was devastated and still struggle emotionally with this.

I came to Baltimore shortly after in 2001. When I arrived, I had an Acura Integra.  Things were OK financially for a while but then due to a job loss, I became homeless. My car became my home. A few weeks later, my car along with all I owned was stolen.  Yes, I was upset but I couldn’t give up or give in.

Having grown up mostly in a one -light town in Onaway, Michigan, big city Baltimore was a culture shock and education.  A park bench became my home temporarily. Next came the old city shelter on Davis Street. Safe Haven shelter was next. I learned the resources and systems from other homeless people. I wish to thank each and every one who taught me where to eat, where to sleep, how to survive.

Safe haven was my last Baltimore shelter. I have been in my apartment in the hood side of Charles Village for three years now. Housing is wonderful, yet I haven’t forgotten my struggles to obtain it. Now,

I work like five volunteer jobs on a mission to inform people that there is HOPE.  It can be achieved. It’s not impossible. I wish I could say that most people I’ve ever encountered haven’t had to struggle in their daily lives just to get by. That simply isn’t the case. The question is what you do with your struggle?  I am writing about, teaching people and empowering people with mine.

Here are some groups you can attend, join or partner with in struggle here in Baltimore:

  • The Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau is another project. We go out at the request of organizations to educate people with our real life stories of homelessness.
  • Bmore Housing for All (BHFA) is a grassroots campaign of people who have experienced homelessness and their allies. They meet each Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. at Health Care for the Homeless, 421 Fallsway.
  • Housing Our Neighbors(HON) believes that all men, women and children in Baltimore must be adequately and safely housed, all within an atmosphere of acceptance and human dignity.
  • The People’s Power Assembly helps with many struggles including police brutality, workers’ rights, racism, discrimination, lgbtq rights and more.

A version of this article first appeared on Word on the Street, Baltimore’s street paper. I am one of the co-founders. It is almost a year old and going strong.