When it's not raining, this is where a small crowd usually gathers.
Can you imagine never getting to dress up nice? Never getting to take two hours getting ready, putting on your best, and heading out for a night of indulgence and fun?
What if, in order to stay warm in winter, you had to daily layer on your thickest clothes? Unfortunately, your warmest clothes, socks, and shoes are also your most casual. You are outside every day in the elements for eight to ten hours, beginning at the coldest time of day, 6 a.m. So practicality is all that comes into your mind when, before dawn you are awoken and shuffled out the doors while it is dark, most often without getting anything to eat or drink.
All of your belongings are contained in two bags. They are likely two large, black trash bags because you can't afford anything better and few people donate suitcases. (Rolling suitcases are a most precious commodity as they allow the easy transportation of belongings.)
If you are gone from the shelter for more than twenty-four hours, everything you own in the entire world -- your two trash bags full of stuff -- is thrown away. Sometimes you are hospitalized and therefore can't get back to the shelter in time. You must start over.
When you are outside between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. if you are a woman, and 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. if you are a man, you sit on the ground -- either concrete or dirt. If you are younger and not disabled, you may have appointments and job interviews, but most of the people who just hang or lay around all day do so not by preference but out of necessity. The monotony of the day-to-day would be enough to drive any person -- even the most strong of us -- to cope through unhealthy means.
If you are a woman, having a relationship of some kind with a homeless man is your best protection. As a woman, you do not want to be caught alone on the streets.
What joy would come if you could do little things like paint your nails, put on make-up and a nice dress, and go to a party! Think instead of the days on end spent in sweat pants, with matted hair and shaky make-up, applied outside, if applied at all. Think of sitting endlessly in the dirt, numbing away the pain and hopelessness of this life.
Although you might have made choices that contributed to your being here, it's more likely things have been done to you -- since your childhood -- and over which you had no original control.
You most likely came from a home full of abuse and addiction. And from a young age, you learned only to do your best to numb the pain. There was no escape.
Garnering the courage and willpower to leave this life often feels like climbing a very tall mountain. There are so many steps to take and so many obstacles to overcome. Even if you did everything right, you must wait a long time, and as it is you are doing your best just to live another day. You never get the relief provided by small pleasures. You don't get propelled forward by tasting what life can be like, going to a party or taking a warm bath.
You are stuck.
You are lost.
You feel alone.
You want out, but the ways to out are few and the days to out are many. Some days -- most days -- it is easiest to sink into misery and feed the pain.
This is your life on the streets.