How one becomes Homeless. A personal story

homelessI write this post today as I feel like I am stuck.  Stuck in an emotional rut. I am facing a loss and am very saddened. I feel guilt, sadness and even a bit of satisfaction. Satisfaction in knowing where my loved one is. As this was not always something that was known. I recently got a call that a family member of mine who is on the other side of the province, is dying. He is not expected to live through the week. I am sad as I love him.  He was a big part of my life for many years. However I  have not seen or spoken to him in many years. You see he made the CHOICE to be homeless.

Yes you read that right. He made the choice.

You see he was married and worked hard most of his life. Had children, siblings and even had  grandchildren. Then came a divorce, a few debts and endless exaggerations of the truth. As well, alcohol. Even when his wife and children could no longer take the stress, his siblings were always there. He always had a warm bed and meal and even a job with his family. I believe he felt like a burden and did not want to add stress to his loved ones lives. When my grandparents  passed away,  he chose to get on a bus and move across the province.  A middle aged man, packing up his bag of belongings and getting on a bus with a ticket he borrowed the money to purchase is not a good start. This was almost ten years ago. Once in a while, he would call his sister or brother to let them know he was alive. Mentioned  having a job and an apartment. His health was not good as he had stopped taking care of himself. We are not sure how long he worked for before  he was unable to work any longer. We shortly found out he lived permanently in a government funded shelter but was homeless. He told us he panhandled for money and the government supplied his medication and food. He always said he was  happy with this life. His family, my family always offered him a place to live. He declined.



The Canadian definition of homelessness

Homelessness describes the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. It is the result of systemic or societal barriers, a lack of affordable and appropriate housing, the individual/household’s financial, mental, cognitive, behavioural or physical challenges, and/or racism and discrimination. Most people do not choose to be homeless, and the experience is generally negative, unpleasant, stressful and distressing.
Homelessness describes a range of housing and shelter circumstances, with people being without any shelter at one end, and being insecurely housed at the other.

Most people do not choose to be homeless. However my family member had many options. I do not know why he did not take them. I think  he knew his health was deteriorating and he was depressed. I wish I could turn back the clock and do something, anything. He is now alone and dying and too far for most of us to get to. Some of our family is on their way to be with him in his final hour but it is not enough.

When I see someone on the street homeless, I always think of my family member. I always wonder how they got there. I ask myself if their family knows they are there, knows they are alive. Homelessness in Canada is huge. I wish it was not but if you live in a big city you know it is. Next time you see someone sleeping on a bench, asking  you for money or food or just being invisible and trying to survive, remember they are loved by somebody somewhere and have not always been homeless.  Maybe ask yourself how does one become homeless?

I am going to collect a some blankets and clothes and donate in honor of my loved one. I am going to miss him and can only hope he finally finds peace. I encourage you to do the same and donate to a shelter near you.

Do you have family or friends who have lived this life?


  1. so sorry to hear this doll, it must be so frustrating to feel helpless like that. I've watched family members make bad decision after bad decision and there isnt anything you can do. I used to work at a housing resource centre and got to know some of these people first hand. It was such a good feeling to be able to secure them housing or get them into a shelter and even more devastating when they came back the next day kicked out or the next month, evicted. They are really good people, it's so frustrating when you can't save them from themselves.
    My recent post The Great Canadian #Giveaway Link Up

  2. Oh, honey. I wish I had something to say that would ease your guilt and sadness. You said it yourself; he made a choice. I'm sure you did all you could to help him. Now you need to find a way to release yourself from this guilt.
    My recent post Fitness for Busy Moms

  3. This is such a heartbreaking reality for so many. Although I was never homeless, I was poor. I always try to keep some $5 gift cards in my purse so when I see someone on the street asking for money I give a gift card to them. Thanks for sharing your experience with this family member, it can't have been easy.
    My recent post Top 12 Birthday Party Lessons

  4. nicolthepickle says

    That's hard for everyone. *hugs*

  5. Maple Leaf Mommy says

    This post breaks my heart. I am sorry for your sake that you're not able to make it across the province to see your loved one before he passes. And I am sorry that he felt compelled to make this choice. I worked at the downtown main library for 8 years, and it was a free warm/cool shelter where the homeless congregated. A few were a bit looney, but for the most part they were sweet gentle people that I had a great deal of empathy for.

  6. mommyoutside says

    I have a family member that went down a similiar path. From the outside it did seem like a choice, a series of bad choices actually that lead him on a lonely and tragic path. The truth is, in his case at least, it was mental illness that actually led him where he ended up and it's really sad that he didn't find the right kind of health many, many years ago to help him get on a less destructive path. Mental illness wears many faces and it is so easy to miss, ignore or stigmatize…

    I am really sorry you are experiencing this, it's never easy to watch someone, especially someone we love, seemingly waste away their life. I hope that your family member finds peace soon and that you find peace with it as well.

  7. Thought-provoking post. We often see homeless people when we are downtown. I try to support our local charities, but I do know that some people choose to live on the streets. My husband talked to one fellow who was on the street because his wife had divorced him and remarried, but was trying to get exorbitant child support out of him – even though both she and her new husband had good jobs. He choose to live on the streets rather than support her. I guess I can sympathize with that, because it's again a systemic problem – the courts favouring the woman over the man in a divorce case – but surely there are better answers for both him and your family member. I hope your family is able to help your loved one and to reconnect with him. Thanks for sharing.
    My recent post Explore: Glacier Bay, Alaska

  8. Big hugs to you. I'm not sure I would make the choice to be homeless. I like that you are going to reach out to others who need help. I hope that you are able to find peace in your heart.
    My recent post 2012 stats summary

  9. Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue. We have to stop just walking passed these people and try to help in any way we can.
    My recent post Sun-Dried Tomato Vegetarian Pasta #Recipe

  10. Nena Sinclair says

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I've often wondered, when I pass homeless people, on the street, what happened to them and how they came to live that life. So sorry for you and your family, having to go through this, I hope your loved one finds peace.

  11. Such an important post Kim and one that I am sure is so hard to write. I have never had a personal family experience but I have had family members deal with addiction issues. Homelessness is a hard reality for many and one that I do not even begin to understand. I never give money to people who are homeless but I will always ask them if I can buy them some food or a coffee. I hope to teach my children the importance of helping out those that are less fortunate than us. I always wonder how they became homeless. Was it a mental health issue? Did they feel unsafe in their home? Did they lose everything and not have anywhere to turn?
    Thank you for bring this issue to the forefront. You have many people thinking about this and that is so powerful.
    Wishing you comfort in this difficult time.

    My recent post Looking forward to New Year 2013

  12. Oh my, have you hit a familiar chord. We are currently going through very similar circumstances with a close family relative. The helplessness you feel when you are trying everything in your power to help them and nothing seems to make a difference in their path to self destruction really can't be described with words.
    My thoughts are with you.

  13. Kim I am sorry you and your family had to experience this. I have a family member who is gone now but could easily have ended up on the street. Family took him in and cared for him when they found him livng in his car. He was in bad shape. It is hard and there are a lot of problems with many people on the street that don't function like the rest of us. There is a lot of illness, guilt of feeling like a burden, alcohol, drugs, there are many, many reasons that we may never understand. When I used to work downtown I used to treat a group of homeless people to lunch once a week. Some would just eat and leave, some would talk and just love to feel normal. I always bought food instead of giving money, or sometimes I would give care packages of wipes and toothbrushes with toothpaste that they could carry with them. It's so hard, and we want to help so badly but when a choice is made there isn't much to be done. I truly send you the biggest hugs across the miles to you and your family and hope that you find the peace you seek. Grieve and know that there are family members on their way to be with him, take comfort and solace in that. Remember the times that were good before all this happened. I am sure that is what he would have wanted. Xoxo.
    My recent post Eating Clean in 2013

  14. Thanks so much for sharing your family's story. I am so sorry to hear about your family member. Here in the US there is such an influx of people that are panhandling and claiming to be homeless it seems to really hurt those that actually are. I hope your family member is resting comfortably, and the message of your story sinks in with many.
    My recent post Valentine’s Day Crafts: Upcycled Photo Frame

Speak Your Mind