Friday, September 13, 2013

My experience with homelessness

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Never in my life did I expect to welcome a homeless man into my home to temporarily live with my family, but here we are.

For purposes of this blog, I’m going to call this man Jester because he’s a bit of a goofball. In the short time Jester has been with us, he has taught me a lot. First let me make a clarification, because I know you are wondering why we would make this kind of a choice.

Jester is a long-time friend of my husband’s. They had fallen out of touch years ago and had reconnected via my Facebook account a few years ago. Even though I had heard about him a lot in the past 16 years that my husband and I have been together, I had never met Jester until he moved in with us.

We got a call one night from him asking for help, and within an hour he was in our home. While Titan was out picking him up, I was hurriedly getting the kids into bed and prepping the house for his arrival, making sure there were clean sheets for him on our hide-a-bed, and that there was tea ready for all of us when they walked in the door. I knew it was going to be a long night of chatting, and I was right.

I was overwhelmed with his stories of the things he had been through, including a very recent and sudden separation from his wife. It was all so heartbreaking and surreal.

Growing up as a cop’s daughter, a healthy distrust is part of my nature. I often think of things with the filter of safety and security, and I obviously had concerns about whether or not I could trust this man to be with me and the boys while Titan was at work. Since Titan had zero worries, I knew we would be okay. Since then I have been working to systematically let go of my automatic mama bear reflex around him, and I feel like I’ve kept an open mind and have actually gotten to know him pretty well. He's a very nice guy and I can totally understand why he and my husband are friends.

When you look at him, you can see that life has been hard. When you hear his story, you can’t help but feel sorry for his experiences. I often find myself thinking about how I have reacted to homeless people in the past…with a very healthy dose of skepticism. Are their stories legitimate or are they fabricated to make you feel sorry for them? Are they trying to manipulate? Do they have good intentions? I will admit that all of those thoughts have crossed my mind in regard to Jester.

What I have found is that the boys absolutely love him. They ask if he will be home when they get back from school or when they wake up. One day when Monkey was getting off the bus, before I could even say “hi” to him, he asked me if Jester was here. When I said “yes” he was visibly relieved and excited to run into the house to find him. Seeing their pure love for him is really something, and I know it is having a positive impact on Jester.

I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and that even if you have bad experiences, those experiences will teach you something you need to know for later down the line. In other words, God has a plan, even if you don’t agree with it or understand it at the time. I can't help but feel this way for Jester and have shared that with him. As a Christian man, he also believes it to be true. And, even though it is adding financial strain to our lives to have him here, I am happy with our decision and have faith that God has a plan for us in this situation as well. 

Since Jester moved in, we have been helping him connect with resources, including things for veterans and for his old hobby and sport, karate. What we are finding is that some people really do have huge hearts. Jester is using his former black belt status to get him back into training, and he is being allowed to help teach classes at the dojo where Monkey takes karate. As it turns out, both Jester and Monkey's karate teacher studied at the same place when they were younger, so it’s a great fit. God has a way of working things out! 

Jester’s heart has been so lifted since we helped him make this particular connection, and he is thrilled to be doing something that he loves and that is so positive for not only him, but for others as well. It’s also been great for Monkey, because he gets to practice with Jester here at the house. Jester is eager to learn about autism and how to work with Monkey, and Monkey has made great strides with his technique in just the past few days. I think it will be a growth opportunity for both of them and they will learn a lot from each other.

I have no idea how long Jester will be with us, but we are taking it one day at a time. Jester has singlehandedly challenged all of my preconceived notions about homelessness. And, because some of the things he has gone through hit a bit close to home, he has also helped me realize how close we all can be to that kind of a situation. It really can happen to anyone. My perspective has grown and my boys seem to be enriched by the experience of having him here. 

Who knew that the arrival of a homeless man to my door would turn out to be a blessing in disguise?      


3 comments:

Glori B. said...

I wish you a blessing on you and your house! What a marvelous turn of events. I wonder if Monkey needed a new non-parental grownup in his home life. Sounds like it's good for you all so far. May it ever be so.

Nicole Ramage said...

I've recently been homeless myself with nobody, not even community resouces to help. In Oregon, if you hace a special needs child you cant stay in the shelters because you may disturb the others there, womens shelters were full and i have no close friends or family since autism walked into our life. We had to live in a dingy motel and often had to choose food or shelter for the day because its pricy. I have learned since that some people really do just have a crazy life and to not be so skeptical because Ive een there and wish there was someone that would have helped Me.

Caffeinated Autism Mom said...

Thank you, Glori! :-)

Nicole, I ache for you. Your story brought me to tears. I am so sorry that you had to experience homelessness with your child with autism. I sincerely wish you all the best going forward.

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