The Smell of Hopelessness

Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Homelessness

Oscar’s Story. He is 51 years old.

The main factors that caused me to become homeless were basically alcohol and drugs. I didn’t have the best thinking and I would try to rationalize and minimize my failures by using alcohol and drugs. I had no desire to get help because of my thinking. I was afraid to ask for help because of my insane thinking. The psychiatrists and therapists wanted to go back to my childhood and I didn’t want to let anybody in so I was limiting the help that I could get. I didn’t want to go back and face my demons. I have been homeless about 4 times; the longest time was for about 6 months.

My drug use led to my imprisonment of about three years with violations and multiple trips to the county jail. After prison my thinking caused me to become homeless again because I was in a halfway house with gentlemen who were convicted of crimes that I didn’t agree with.In my mind I thought that I was better than them, so I chose to sleep under a bridge rather than be around them. In fact, I didn’t want to be around myself.

I got down to the point where I was starving to death, not showering for days and weeks. I was eating out of dumpsters, and smoking cigarette butts that people had thumped out on the ground. I contracted Hepatitis C because of my intravenous drug use. My drugs of choice were alcohol, crack, methamphetamines (crystal meth), and cocaine. My family wanted to come and get me but I wouldn’t let my sister get close to me because of the shame and guilt.

When I first used crystal meth I shot it into my veins. I noticed that my drinking “buddies” would always leave for about 2-3 hours every evening but when they returned they seemed different. My friends looked different, they talked different, and they said that they felt different. I wanted that because I felt like I was dying inside. From the very first time, I began to feel different I had no cares or concerns. All the pain, the shame, the guilt was gone. It was like I had created a world that really didn’t exist. But in my mind, that world did exist; it was the most comfortable I had ever felt. However, the good feeling did not last. I had to start to support my new habit because the job that I had couldn’t sustain it. I began to threaten to kill people to support my habit. My family told me about the times that I threatened them and scared them. I could not be trusted. I broke into my own mother and father’s house.

I ended up getting divorced from my wife of 16 years. I began to leave and come back into my children’s lives sending them mixed messages. I started making deals with my children. Once I told my daughter that if she went back to school and graduated, then I would come back home. My daughter went back and graduated, and I kept my promise. However, I ended up leaving her again.

As a homeless person there is nothing but survival. Survival is all that there is. You do what you have to do to survive, whether it is theft or fighting or bribing. When it is cold out it is so immediate that you realize if you don’t eat or warm up soon, your heart may stop beating. I began to realize just how serious life and death truly are. I was so far gone that I didn’t know that there was help for me. I began to lose hope; I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as hope anymore. I ask God every day to place people in my life that can help. I pray that God will send someone to help me make it to another day. If I could just get a job I could make it.

I want the world to know that there are people that help, but there are not enough. I want the world to know that if you get close enough you can smell the feeling of hopelessness and homelessness. It feels like my soul was dying right inside me. But now I know that there is hope, but there is also death. You will always have that choice to make between life and death, between hope and hopelessness. These choices I believe will always keep me humble.

This story originally appeared in Facing Homelessness in Fort Wayne, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Lutheran Social Services and the Office of the Mayor in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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