"I met my girlfriend in 2007 and have been with her since. I’m on the streets now because I have a drinking problem. I’m not allowed back in our home until I finish my program and get my act together. I have to take my medication and do groups cause I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, bipolar, and suicidal tendencies. So until I show that I’m doing what I need to do, I’m not allowed back into the house. Fortunately, we’re still on a good relationship and I stay in a tent in the backyard, which I don’t mind doing. Plus, then she can see me doing what I need to do to take care of my problems, including the abusiveness that I have. I am not proud of it, but I’m a verbal abuser when I get drunk and I’ve been told, not only by her, but by my family members that at times they wish I’d hit them, instead of saying the things I’ve said. I have to get this under control.
I have met a lot of really good people here on the streets and I’ve learned a lot of things I never knew before. I try to help as much as I can out here too. It would help a lot if I got a job, but it is so hard getting one now. The main problem I have with employment is my age. I’m 60 years old and I’ve been told many times that it makes no sense to hire me when within the next few years I’d collect retirement and leave --- that it makes more sense to hire someone in their twenties and keep them for 20-30 years. Plus, when they find out that you’re homeless that is pretty much the end of the discussion. You know, people look at you from the outside, not looking in to the type of person that you are.
I have been homeless for close to a year now. Things are getting better, because I’ve been doing my program. In fact, last Christmas, I was allowed to cook Christmas dinner at our home. Like I said, our relationship is getting better and I feel good about that. That’s great. That’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Being homeless presents many hard challenges. One major thing is finding safe shelter. Another is hygiene, because it’s hard to find a place where you can shower and also even do your laundry. Laundry and hygiene and shelter are three important things that the homeless really have it hard.
One thing I have learned from being homeless and everyone should learn is compassion. Be more compassionate towards people, especially the homeless. The homeless are not bad people. You know, we have a heart. We care also. You know, I wish people would show compassion, instead of running us off when we need to use the restroom, or tell us to get away from the front door of a business. You know, just be more compassionate. Show more compassion for the homeless out there. God forbid that one day you don’t end up in my shoes and somebody treats you the way you just treated me. We’re all just one decision, one paycheck away from being homeless.
My hope for the future is to be more supportive to my girlfriend and her family. Um, not just financially but more emotional and more caring. Like I said, that’s the one thing I did learn on the street and that is to be more compassionate to people. That is for sure one of the things I plan on taking home with me when I finally get back into the home.
The last thing I want to say is that I just want people to get to know me --- get to know Charlie, the person, not the homeless Charlie, or not the drunk Charlie, not the violent Charlie at times, not the Charlie with PTSD but get to know me. Yes, I would love to be the person that I was at one time before all of this but that person I’ve lost. And I'm working hard to get that person back. Until then just get to know me, Charlie, as I am now."
(Story chronicled in 2016)
The Road I Call Home
Charlie’s story is part of the significant project "The Road I Call Home" which aims to bring new awareness, action, resources and love to the many, many special homeless people that call the road their home. It features over 150 individuals (and counting), and includes an art exhibition of portraits, written stories, short-films and a planned future release of a corresponding coffee table art book. The project is in partnership with Gathering Friends for the Homeless.