Apr

18

Homeless: Not the Face You Imagine

by Migdalia Rivera

Homelessness is REAL.

In the ’90s, when I had my oldest son at 22 ½, I was making $35,000 a year. I had minimal debt, other than my living expenses: rent, utilities, transportation, food/necessities, and my beeper – Yes, it was a necessity. :) However, I did not foresee the expenses a newborn would entail, particularly a very sick newborn. Childcare, pampers, formula, clothes, doctors’ visits, etc., ate up what I made. By the time he was 5 months, I had received an eviction notice.

I was scared and alone.

The birth of my son caused friction in my family. I was the first to have a child. I was also unmarried. I was a shame to their name, a pariah within my own familia, forced to wear a scarlet letter “P”.  They could not see the need, only their embarrassment; as a result, when I approached a family member for assistance I was told to go to a shelter, while others chose to ignore our existence for many years.

I recall feeling desperate. I could not work more hours than I already did. In fact, I had to cut my hours, because my son was severely asthmatic, requiring hospitalization and medications that were not fully covered by my medical.

The thought of going to a homeless shelter with a newborn terrified me. I knew of others who had at one point or another lived in homeless shelters. It. Was. Not. Pretty. Their stories were downright terrifying.

Thankfully, two friends stepped in to help me and my son, financially and emotionally. They gave me the help I needed at the moment to pass that hurdle in my life. They helped me persevere, giving me a chance to catch my breath, and change several aspects of my life, including my career choice.

Homelessness has become an epidemic in New York City.

The Damm Family in Their Car, Los Angeles, CA, USA, 1987, By Mary Ellen Mark

According to Albor Ruiz’s article: Shame of the city is skyrocketing homelessness; up 61% since Mayor Bloomberg took office, as of January “57,000 people – including 22,000 children – were sleeping in city shelters or on the streets.” Those figures are staggering.

Hurricane Sandy, lack of affordable housing, domestic violence, mental illness and the dismal economy, have played a huge part in the homeless epidemic.

It is no longer safe to say that six (6) months of saving can sustain you during a time of crisis. It can happen to anyone, in any social economic standing. In fact, there is a larger percentage of poor middle-class than ever before!

Homelessness is not the face you imagine. It can be white, black, brown, thin, fat, young or old. It does not discriminate.

Melancholy Winter

So, when you see a homeless person, do not assume to know their circumstances, or believe yourself to be above them. Do, however, take the time to extend a helping hand whenever possible. Donate time. Donate skills. Donate funds.

Because, at one point or another, we all need a helping hand.


Want to help? Go to NYC Service to volunteer at organizations that can use your time and BLANK skills.

USE YOUR BLANK FOR GOOD.

Let’s talk! What is your BLANK? Let us know in a comment.

 

Flickr Photo Credits: Thomas Hawk- Homeless family and Pink Sherbet Photography – Homeless Children

Share and Enjoy. Go ahead, you know you want to.

    About the Author

    Migdalia Rivera, also known as Ms. Latina in social media, is a single Latina mother of a teen, tween and 2 Australian Shepherds. When not blogging, or chasing after her energetic bunch, she connects influential bloggers with brands and PR agencies via her blogger network, Stiletto Media.

    { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Alexandra April 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    POWERFUL story Migdalia…thank you for sharing your personal story and raising awareness to homelessness. You are so right when you say that we ALL need a helping hand at a point in our lives. I try very hard to ensure that I give, of time, support, etc., to those that need my help. It’s important, and I think we all have to be looking at the bigger picture and be reminded of the value and importance of helping others.

    2 Eileen Carter-Campos April 18, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Love this piece! You are so right- many assume it’s a choice!
    No – sometimes the circumstances we fall into leaves us with NO choice at all!!
    Thanks for being so real!!!
    Xo
    Eileen Carter-Campos recently posted..Back From Hispanicize 2013

    3 Alissa Apel April 18, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    It can be so hard. I’m glad there was people in your case that stepped up to the plate.

    In my family we helped my older sister out. She could have easily been homeless if it weren’t for my parents, my other sister and I helping her and my niece. Thankfully today they are doing great!
    Alissa Apel recently posted..Bird

    4 Jeanette April 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    It’s amazing what a little help can do. Sometimes it’s just a need to be heard. Give out your heart as well as your funds.

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