Homeless in Charleston
In 2018, I wrote One Week on the Streets about being homeless in Asheville, NC. It won an award from the International Network of Street Newspapers and I’m told it is one of the most-read pieces on Speak Up.
I’m now trying to write about another period of my life on the streets, this time from Charleston, SC.
I tried to start writing about a month ago. I couldn’t stay focused on what I was doing and wasn’t able to document more than a few days in a row. I’ve been suffering from depression and anxiety along with the fact that I’m just getting old. Too old to be surviving on the streets (sleeping rough) while being residentially challenged, a.k.a. homeless.
Not long ago I went to the E.R. and explained how my anxiety was affecting my life. It was causing me to lose mental acuity. I was having trouble counting change, remembering passwords on my laptop, and I even walked three blocks past a destination I was headed to the other day. My short term memory has been impaired ever since my skull was fractured in 1995. Now it seems like my short term memory is almost non-existent. I know it’s the anxiety causing it. The more anxious I am, the worse it gets. I spent about a week in the hospital and am doing better but the anxiety is still cumulative. It keeps adding up hour after hour and day after day. I’m using my journaling and making gratitude lists as my ‘go to therapy.’ No matter how anxious or down I am, those two pull me back to the point where I can live life on life’s terms and even smile a bit when I find humor in my situation. I always do.
Charleston is a beautiful city, and old. It was founded in 1670 and is known as ‘The Holy City’ It gets that name because it was and is known for its religious tolerance. There are many churches here and steeples dot the skyline. I first came to Charleston in March of 2020.
I was one of the last people to be admitted into a homeless shelter when the pandemic started. They had a program that touted the phrase, ‘Housing First’.
When I asked the director there if it would be possible to talk to someone about helping me manage my money before I received my first stimulus check he told me to ask my case manager. I told him I had been there for 60 days and still didn’t have a case manager. I was shocked that he didn’t blame that fact on Covid. He came right out and said, “We dropped the ball.” I never did get to talk to anyone about managing my money. So they put me on a fast track for housing, if you want to call it that. They offered me a room in a motel in North Charleston for at least two months, maybe longer. I got on the net and checked it out and thought I’d finally get out of that top bunk in a room of 100 men. Then I started reading some of the reviews about the motel. To be brief, they were not good at all. Rats, bedbugs, and crime were the main pitfalls of the place. That plus the fact that this was a motel where you could not enter the lobby. You had to pay by sliding your money or credit card through a slot in a plexiglass window, if that tells you anything. The plexiglass wasn’t for Covid, it was to prevent robberies. So I ended up leaving the shelter after I got my stimulus check. I slept better on the streets.
Then I got hit by a Cadillac SUV in June while I was crossing the street at a major intersection where it was clearly marked No Turn On Red. I was in the crosswalk and crossing with the light. The driver never saw me. He must have been in a hurry and was only concerned with making that illegal right turn. When he hit me it knocked my backpack about twenty feet from where I landed. I thank God there were many witnesses and that the witnesses stopped to see about my welfare and to also make a statement to the police.
The driver was cited.
I ended up getting paid by the guy’s insurance company. The money is gone now, but it allowed me to escape the streets for some time.
When it started to get cold in October I headed south to Key West and wintered over in the ‘Conch Republic.’ I left when my money was about to run out. Eleven months in Key is enough. I’d had enough of Key West. Key West was one of those items on my bucket list and was one of those I was able to check off. Key West was like a carnival on a dead end street.
I moved around some and now I’m back in Charleston.
The nights are cold. I’m sleeping on cardboard. I have two blankets.
My story is unfolding. Stay tuned.