This piece was originally written in March 2018 as an essay of sorts for the Arts magazine “Sea Change”, published at Cape Cod Community College in May 2018. As predicted below I did have to move on and am now living with relatives in a completely different state.
(Posted to Medium, Saturday, May 4, 2019)
Currently I’m living in a Winter rental house on the shore of a Cape Cod, Massachusetts tidal river. Across the small river is protected natural land. I can tell what the tide is doing just by looking out the glass sliding doors to see what direction the river current is going. There are ducks and gulls, raccoons and coyotes, hawks and owls and crows — not all at once of course. It is not lost on me how lucky I am to be living here. Seeing all of this on a daily basis makes my heart sing.
But a few months ago my sense of home was quite different. And a few months from now this will likely no longer be my home. In a sense I have been “home-less” since 2009. That’s not to say that I’ve been walking the streets or sleeping rough at night. I have just been always living, since then, with family members or in rental property that I could not call my own.
There is something about being unable to control your place of living that wears on the soul. “We don’t want you here anymore” are some of the most painful words anyone can hear, even if they’re not said and only felt. There are people who travel all the time and love that life. There are more and more now who live in camper vans or RV’s or trailers, even out of their cars, and prefer to live that way. And there are many moving to so-called “tiny” homes. But I am one who needs a home base, someplace I can rely on to always be there.
I had a house of my own once, before the Great Recession of 2008 and later. But I was living at the epicenter of that recession, the state of Michigan, and work was becoming harder and harder to find. I left my job in 2006 and was never able to get another job like it that paid a living wage. I went through the pain of not being able to find work, having my car repossessed, and losing my house to foreclosure. I had worked for ten years to get the house but in the end I never really owned it at all. I saved what I could of my belongings and moved on.
Recently I’ve seen a number of news documentaries about the refugee problems in the Middle East and Europe. And news reports about the deplorable conditions in Puerto Rico after the massive hurricane of 2017. The current political climate feels that we should put up impenetrable walls and kick people out to go back “where they came from”. I feel the pain of people going through these things. I’ve never had it as bad, and don’t claim so, but I have some sense of how it feels to no longer have a home to go to.
I understand now the drive and need to reduce one’s belongings, live in a smaller space, have less impact on the world around you, and be more self-reliant. More and more people are coming to that realization. It is preferable to come to that on your own and not have it thrust upon you by job loss, war, natural disaster, or fuming politicians. In the end we all still need a place to live, someplace to call home.
It seems contradictory to me that a country that claims to be the greatest country in history, the United States of America, accepts that there are people physically homeless on its streets. That we seem to do nothing about poverty or territories like Puerto Rico that have lost the basics of modern life like electricity or even running water. That we seem to somehow not understand the desires of people coming to our country simply because they want a better life than the one they’ve left behind.
For me, I’m thankful that I have a roof over my head, a place I can call home, for however long that may be. But times shouldn’t be so hard that a job isn’t able to provide enough income to pay for a place to live. If you work forty hours or more in a week you should be able to have a home to live in. If you no longer have a home because of war or natural disaster you should be able to count on other human beings to show compassion and provide help. If you are trying to find a better life in a new place then people shouldn’t stand in your way because of racist ideals and concepts.
So, yes, the repercussions of the Great Recession are still being felt today. Many never got back what they once had. You only have to see the widening gap between rich and poor in our country to see where it led.
Today, when you walk out the door of the place you live and go to work or school or go shopping try and remember that it can all be gone tomorrow. For many people in the world today losing their home has already happened, and they can never go back to what it once was. Don’t take for granted that you have a place to live. For many having a home is not just a dream but also a fond memory.