Sometimes you will see someone in the street who looks noticeably different to you. You might have a quick look and think nothing of it, or you might stare inquisitively. You might wonder what’s wrong with that person, or you mightn’t care. But these are obvious, visible differences like a funny walk or a bald spot or a burn or even a missing limb. What I have is an invisible difference and you wouldn’t know from looking at me that until recently I was homeless.
You see, I lived in my car for 3 months. You would have had no idea that I did this because I wore clean clothes, I brushed my hair and did my makeup, and I was always smiling. No one had any idea that I had fallen behind in my rent and was evicted, except my closest friend Pam. She allowed me to come to her place when I needed to and have a shower or pick up my mail, however she didn’t have a permanent space for me with her husband and dog in a one bedroom unit.
I was deeply ashamed that I lost my home. I fell behind in rent because I had to have emergency dental surgery and was out of pocket more than $1000. There was no sympathy from my real estate agent and why should there be? I know that I’m not exempt from paying rent. So off on to the streets I went. Luckily I have a fairly modern car that my late husband paid for. It’s comfortable but it’s no bed, that’s for sure. I wanted to get back on my feet but I need a few weeks to do it and when you’re down to your last few hundred dollars, you’re not exactly the prime candidate for a new rental. So I acted as normal to my friends and family, and stealthily hid my belongings in my car boot and under seats. My unit was furnished so I did not have any furniture to move around. The difference between me and the stereotypical homeless person is that I didn’t make it obvious in my outward appearance. I did not cry out to be saved and I most certainly didn’t want any one to know as I was very upset and cross as it was. I just kept calm and carried on.
I finally found a home to live in with another woman in her 60s (by complete coincidence) and I’m now out of the car and on a bed. When I started to slowly tell my friends and family that I had actually been homeless in the interim between places, they could not believe it. I had an invisible difference and if anything, I hope I helped to dispel the idea that all homeless people are scruffy or look poor. We can be among you, trying to save face and pull it together. Sometimes we are too proud to ask for help, so if you notice something that seems different about your friends, just giving them a hug or a touch on the arm can make al the difference. We don’t want to be felt sorry for, we just want to feel like everyone else.
Do you have an invisible difference? What is it and how do you cope? Tell us about it below.