The average day in my life as a homeless veteran

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve gotten to live out the waking nightmare of being a homeless veteran in the United States. I’ve also gotten to observe many of my fellow veterans experience this same kind of tough existence in slightly different ways every day with no escape in sight.

It’s as terrible as you think it is.

0500-0600 Wake Up: Some of us wake up on park benches. Others wake up in cars or shelters. This is one of the toughest parts of the day for me. I’m often depressed with the reminder of where I am. We’ll wade into bathrooms of a gym or a service building and clean up. Donated toiletries and clothing are often available.

0600-0700 Breakfast: Meals are wherever you can find them. Some churches will serve them in the park. Others will use the same shelters. It’s often some fruit, bread or cereal. Donations from bakeries are often pleasant surprises if they haven’t come to close to getting stale.

0700-1000 Job searching and case work: Many of us will meet with case workers to describe our progress, or go to the computer lab to get on Indeed and look for a job.

Or continued surrender: Many of us have given up already. We’ll wander to a park or go pan handling. Some will sit down in place and try to nap. They will do this for days at a time.

1100-1300 Lunch: Once again the hunt for food begins. This is usually in a different location than breakfast as local charitable organizations try to split the load. Volunteers serve these meals and they’re usually very kind. The food is what it is. Once again donations from restaurants are appreciated.

1300-1700: Chores, search for housing, and more job interviews: If you’re staying in a shelter you will be expected to clean up. Afterwards we’ll go and check on our housing applications and beg property managers to accept them and let us move in. Most renting authorities will tell us up front that they don’t want us. We’ll also go job hunting. Simple work like food service or labor. Lack of transportation is often a deal breaker and that limits our choices.

1700-1800 Dinner: We’ll go for dinner at whereever place is serving it. Normally, the rest of the struggling community is there and you’ll see families on the edge of homelessness grabbing plates after work and school.

1800-2200 Rest or work: Those who have work will go. Others will head to areas where they’ll spend the night. There are community areas where people can watch TV. The majority decides what we watch. Many shelters are clean-living shelters, and you’ll often take a breathalyzer or urinalysis test during random times.

2200 Thinking and Resting: We’ll usually turn in where ever they’ll take us. I try to remember the happy times, usually when I was in the military. And I try to visualize better times ahead.

Then the next morning we do it all again. The weekends are the worst because progress often stops and it’s difficult to find places to spend the day. There are libraries (with time limits) or shopping centers until we get kicked out.

It’s awful and I absolutely hate it. I still believe life is a gift and to spend it this way is a terrible existence.

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  1. I wish the homeless veterans had better services. We owe them everything. They deserve to feel safe and a bed to rest their head on.

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