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Homelessness: How It Made Me Who I Am

Source: http://totallyfreeinc.org/services/housing-for-the-homeless/

Homelessness is hard, losing sleep because you can’t fall asleep is harder, and your grades suffering because you can’t focus in class is even worse. Not being able to fall asleep due to constantly shivering just aggravates the problem, and being homeless during the irregular southern Ohio winter is maddening. Living out of your parent’s van because you have nowhere else to live? It was one of the most formative experiences in my life.

Becoming homeless for the first time after losing my aunt, who was essentially a second mother, was a huge influence on how I developed into the person I am. Almost all of my beliefs concerning economic systems developed into what they are based upon my experience as a child growing up in a poverty-stricken home and being homeless at least 3 times (depending on whether or not you consider living out of hotels homelessness.) My economical beliefs developed to be the kind that favors socialism and communism over capitalism because I’ve been at the bottom of the American class ladder practically my entire life, and I’ve had to stare death in its face on the coldest nights where the only things my family had to keep warm was a van that we couldn’t turn on because it had no gas. I had no blanket during sub-zero weather, and it’s a miracle I survived that night at all. Capitalism, because it cares very little about those born into unfortunate circumstances, failed me. It almost killed me and kills many homeless people daily.

Homeless people also are more prone to physical illness, mental illness, and substance abuse. They are up to nine times more likely to die, due to much higher mortality rates, and are more prone to being victims of violence. I have a mental illness, severe depression, and it went un-diagnosed until I managed to get into college and started seeing a counselor again; during the homeless periods I experienced, I was frequently physically ill.

But there is an upside to this: being homeless frequently and growing up in extreme poverty (my family has had very frequent periods where there is little to no food. For example, I went an entire week without anything to eat, and at another point, in 2015, lived off of macaroni and cheese for around a week. Suffice to say, I’ve avoided mac and cheese as much as possible during my time in college. I’ve had enough mac and cheese for about two more years at least.) taught me to be very, very kind. I try to be kind to everyone unless they give me a reason to not be kind to them. I also believe that everyone should have the opportunity to live how they want and to pursue their dreams.

It also influenced what I want later on in life, what I want to be able to afford. I want any kind of house or apartment, as long as it has a roof and is fairly close to work, I’m fine with it. I want some internet, and a basic bed and some blankets. That is all I need to make me content with life, as well as food and clothing.

If it hadn’t been for having grown up in a very poor environment, and a sometimes homeless one, I would not be who I am.

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Brandon Meyer grew up near or around Cincinnati, Ohio. He spent most of his early life in either extreme poverty, living with other people who were frequently strangers, and homeless. He is currently attending Ohio Wesleyan University and plans on being a biology major with a Women's and Gender Studies and English double minor. He wants to be a high school biology teacher after he finishes his schooling. He has a passion for social justice issues, with the strongest affinity towards issues facing the poor, the mentally ill, and the queer communities.

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