I was homeless for about two years in Atlanta. It’s better to be homeless in a large metropolitan city than a small town, What really helped me to cope was I just returned from my deployment a few years earlier so I still had the mentality of watching my back and my cynical side made me suspicious of everything.
What made me homeless? I returned from my deployment in support of OIF III just before the 2008 recession destroyed the American economy and had been living with my brother. Well, I lost my job a week before Christmas 2007 because of the recession and to make a long story (a very long story short) my brother kicked me out; I couldn’t pay the rent. I went through all my savings, all my unemployment insurance, and sold everything I owned. But he didn’t want to help me.
I lived under the I-75 corridor just south of where I-20 intersects with I-75. There’s a whole tent-city of sorts under that bridge and the sad part, as if this isn’t sad enough is it isn’t just men living under the freeway, it’s families also. Every so often, the Georgia DOT run these families away and tears down the encampments.
These people, despite being run off whenever city employees have nothing better to do always returned. I stayed there briefly before I moved on.
I eventually moved to a bridge more inside the city. This was a much smaller area than underneath the interstates. The people who lived there lived closer together because there wasn’t much space. Most people would sleep there and move on until the next night although there were a few people who stayed there permanently.
There was a scrap yard nearby that bought and sold discarded aluminum and scrap metals mostly to recyclers at a higher price. The homeless people would have their shopping carts out gathering metal scraps and it seemed that it was the homeless who brought in the majority of the aluminum. This was their main income, usually just enough for some food, a couple of beers, and a pack of cigarettes, you know, the necessities.
People generally left us alone. There were the regulars who would bring us items, most of the time they gave us cash and the never asked us what we were spending the money on. Sometimes cars would stop and they would give us money or food. You’d be surprised to learn that some of the money was spent on items such as deodorant and tooth paste. One thing people don’t think about when they give us money is what we spend it on; most people think we just buy cigarettes and beer but that is a big misconception.
Our biggest worries were from the police and city workers, when they came around we knew we would be kicked off the property soon. We would just move on or return in a few days.
Some people had a nice setup with a quality tent, sleeping bag, and wifi. Along with their food stamps, disability, and hand outs, they did pretty well. But most people either lived in a cardboard box or just lived in the open. Most of us are hard to see at night as we don’t sleep in public for safety concerns but it’s the ones who sleep in public for all to see that stereotypes the rest of us.
Most people moved on either to a new bridge or to a new city. Really, death was the only escape but even death seemed to avoid us.
You don’t die on the streets. It’s just one long and miserable life…you just fade away.
THANKS FOR READING ❤