My mother was 15 when she met my biological father at a swimming pool in Florida. They married soon after and she moved us to his home in Chicago when I was a baby. He drank a lot and my mother thought she could somehow change him. She was wrong.
My father was older than my mother and became violent during his drunken rages. My mother was a product of the foster-care system and didn’t have the tools to defend herself and her two kids. My little sister and I would hide when he came home.
One cold afternoon after my father had physically beaten my mom and sister, my mother packed our bags and we walked in the snow to a bus station. We fled to my mom’s hometown in Florida while he was at work. I remember holding her hand and seeing the tears stream down her bruised face. I was five years old.
Today, my mother is the strongest woman I know. However, some wounds don’t heal.
When I interact with our female Spare Change News vendors and other women in the homeless community, I’m empathetic. I think of my mother. Some women deal with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD-related issues that I’ve experienced myself, including hypervigilance or the preoccupation with possible unknown threats. Other symptoms include outbursts of anger, trouble sleeping and psychological numbing.
It’s hard to feel safe when you’re homeless.
As someone who once used alcohol to numb the psychological pain, I’m familiar with the need to cope with the harsh realities of day-to-day life. I’m sober now and, after years of therapy and a solid 12-step program, I’m able to walk through some of the irrational fears that kept me in my self-constructed, emotional prison. There is hope.
I pray for the homeless women I meet because, based on some of the horror stories I’ve heard, they have to deal with a system that’s often geared toward men. After Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh closed the Long Island bridge in October, the city’s most vulnerable were affected. And worse, as mentioned in James Shearer’s column, they’re dying.
While I’m grateful that the non-profit Boston Foundation offered an emergency $45,000 grant to help the Victory Programs search for a new drug treatment center for homeless women, it’s hard to watch a problem turn into a full-blown crisis. It also raises a red flag: Why isn’t the city helping more?
Yes, the snow is melting. However, the emotional turmoil felt by those displaced from the shelters on Long Island continues to linger. Unfortunately, some wounds don’t heal.