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16 September 2013

The Dating Life of a Homeless Veteran With PTSD

I haven't written much about dating and PTSD  for a while now. Then again, I haven't been doing any dating for a while now. It's bad enough being a veteran with PTSD, and the stigmas that get attached. There's no good way to tell a date (or even a potential date) that I lived on the street for part of last year, or that I live in a homeless shelter now. Here's why.

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You what? Really? Homeless? Wow. Oh, look at the time! I have to be to work early tomorrow. Gotta go. Tell me you'd act any different.

Unless you've directly experienced being homeless-- spending the night in a doorway, in your car, in a shelter and hoping you don't get robbed, killed or arrested-- I don't think you can even begin to understand what being homeless really is. 

Most people don't even acknowledge homelessness, and when they do they react with fear-- stay away from him, don't look at him, just ignore him. Safer that way.  He's probably mentally ill. If he asks for money, don't give him any. He'll just use it to buy booze, or drugs. He's probably making more money begging than I'll make in a year.

Still- tell me you're not most people. Tell me that you've never thought those things, or said those things when you passed a homeless person shaking a cup at you. Or you've never walked past or stepped over a sleeping homeless person to get somewhere.

Of course you have, if you've ever encountered a homeless person on the street.

Of course you will, when you do. 

Some of you will not think those things because you won't let yourself even acknowledge homeless people.

Tell me that if the city wanted to open a homeless shelter anywhere near where you live, that you'd go to a hearing to support the plan.

Of course you won't. Homelessness to me is sleeping on the street. Homelessness to you is a problem that you pay taxes to have cleaned up.

Here's an example: I live near a McDonalds that's open all night. As it goes in most cities, restaurants that are open all night tend to attract people that are up late at night, me included. One late night/early morning (almost exactly a year ago) I was sitting alone in a booth mooching a warm place to sit, free wifi and free soda refills. I had my laptop open, probably reading some tech related web article. It was that or go sleep in the car. Being that it was getting a bit chilly fucking cold outside at night, Mickey D's was a good place to be.

Next booth over, one of us night creatures had wandered in, bought a cup of coffee, and sat down. He'd parked his cart outside, not quite a shopping cart, but the purpose was the same.  He looked like he hadn't slept for a couple of days, at least not much at a time. Not just tired, but the kind of weary you get after walking far too long and not getting any closer to the mountain in the distance.

You might say he looked homeless.

He sat down and nursed his coffee for a while. The shift manager passed us both on the way to check the restrooms, which coincided with passing by the guy who had just sat down.

The shift manager wasn't checking the restrooms. The cleaning guy, the guy who cleans the restrooms at the same time every early morning, was due in within an hour.

Not too much later, shift manager came back to roust cup of coffee guy out. This ain't a hotel, buddy. You gotta go. Without a word, cup of coffee got up and left.  That's the best way to handle getting thrown out of somewhere-- silently grab your shit and GTFO. Make a fuss, and the cops get called. The cops get called, the night gets worse in a hurry. Best to keep quiet, not cause trouble.

A few minutes later, I saw cup of coffee guy sitting in the bus shelter at the end of the parking lot, propped up so it looked like he was sitting waiting for the bus instead of sleeping. I checked the time, and buses wouldn't start running for another two hours or so.

During all of this, the shift manager didn't say a word to me, didn't even look in my direction. Uniform of the day for me is college student camouflage: jeans, hoodie, ear buds, backpack.  I fit in to what some might call the "desirable element". I was there until dawn. The homeless guy? Homeless people are treated as undesirables. He was swept outside like so much dust in the wind.

I can't read those last words without hearing Kansas in my head, and neither can you.

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Doesn't quite fit into the dating handbook, eh?

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