On the Street | Faces of the homeless, previously homeless and those still struggling
by Lisa Kane
He was homeless before he was even born. His mom found out she was pregnant while she was living in a tent. Half of her pregnancy she lived outside in that tent. Since than she has worked so hard to give him a good life and a home.
Meet Hunter and Ellen.
Age: Ellen – 23, Hunter – 8 months
Hometown: Madisonville, Kentucky
What brought you to Akron?
I came to Akron with some friends, the wrong friends, for what was supposed to be a two-week vacation. I chose the wrong people to come with. They ended up stealing all my money and leaving me stranded here with nothing and not knowing anyone.
Occupation/Previous Occupation/Source of income?
In Kentucky, I worked in a factory. I have panhandled here. I’m not too proud to do it. Sometimes it is the only thing people can do to make money they desperately need.
Why don’t you have a “job”?
My hands kept going numb and I didn’t have a lot of feeling in them. I went to the doctor and found out I have carpal tunnel. Currently I am not working because I had to have surgery on my hand, and I can’t work. Before the surgery, I was out looking for jobs and going on interviews.
How long were you homeless?
It was going on two and a half years. Hunter was born in September and I didn’t move into a place till the beginning of August. I stayed at the Haven for a little while. I also stayed at Access for a month. Hunter’s dad and I moved into an apartment before he was born. They didn’t take care of the place and it was just disgusting. They had bed bugs and I just couldn’t keep my baby in that environment. It’s hard to find a place you can afford if you are already facing hard times.
I ended up going into the Family Promise Program. It’s a really good program. It’s a 30-day program. They gave me an extension and let me stay for 90 days while I was waiting for H.M. Life. H.M. Life helps with supportive, transitional housing for single parents.
What lead you to homelessness?
Being stranded alone here in Akron by the people I came with.
Do you have family?
None in Ohio.
Where did you sleep last night?
In my new apartment! When I was homeless I slept in a tent in the woods over by Luigi’s.
How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
Usually around six hours.
Did you usually have 3 meals a day?
No! Most of the time I was lucky to get one meal a day.
Did you feel safe?
Yah, I did for the most part. There were other people who lived in the woods there too.
What is your biggest fear?
When I was in the tent it was someone taking all my belongings from the camp. Now, it is losing my son.
What could people find you doing during the day?
Another negative about being homeless is just being bored. You don’t even have enough money for basic needs so you can’t do things. You don’t have a car. We all would get up as early as possible to find some place to go with heat, especially in the winter. Then, you don’t want to go back to the tent too early. It’s depressing, and boring, and cold. We always tried to stay somewhere as late as we could.
Where would you go?
The library. You can use the internet there. Fast food restaurants. When it was warm I would just go on walks or go to the park and sit
What are some of the daily struggles being homeless?
Food, shelter, staying dry, staying warm. It’s all about layering. You need to have lots of layers on to stay warm.
What 3 words would you use to describe being homeless?
What do you think is the leading causes of homelessness?
Not enough people willing to take a chance on someone. Veterans, people who may have something bad in their past, people trying to get clean. If they have no one to believe in them or give them a chance they won’t get anywhere. Like if someone does go to rehab to try to get clean. When they get out if they have no one to believe in them or give them a chance, they are back on the streets and probably will go back to using drugs.
How do you feel people who have never faced homelessness view the homeless?
They look down on us. They think every homeless person is there due to drugs or alcohol. They don’t understand that a lot of times that’s not true. That’s not why I was there. A lot of people out there lost their jobs when the economy took a dip. They got stuck in a bad situation, like I did. It makes me mad when people look down on the homeless. If you don’t know someone’s story don’t judge them. I actually yelled at someone at the bus stop once. They saw someone panhandling and said, “the city needs to clean up all these homeless people.” I said, “I was homeless for 2 and a half years! You don’t understand! No one wants to be out there. Bad stuff happens to people sometimes!.”
Did most people show you kindness or treat you rudely?
Both. The worst are the people who only act kind when other people are watching. They act so caring when they are with their church group or whatever. I’ve encountered some of the same people when they weren’t with the group and they acted like they couldn’t even stand to be in the same space as me.
There are other groups that were really nice and always a big help, even after I was out of the tent. The Snow Angels, Walsh Jesuit, and Hoban always were a big help
Is there anything else you want to tell us, or want people to know about you?
Not really anything about me specifically. I just want to tell other people who are currently homeless to not give up. There are lots of resources out there. You just have to go out and find them. You have to keep going and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not worth the help.
We’re happy to tell you that Hunter and Ellen are no longer homeless! They just moved into an apartment. Ellen worked hard, and is still working to make a life for herself and Hunter. I witnessed all the hard work. She would have to get up early to leave the churches they were staying at to catch the bus, with her baby. She went to sell her plasma to earn extra money. She went to job training classes and parenting classes. These are just some of the things that I witnessed personally. I LOVE that one of Ellen’s three words to describe being homeless was “fixable.” I’m proud of all she has accomplished to fix her situation. Keep going Ellen and Hunter!
How to help If you want to help Ellen and Hunter specifically, you can mail a check or money order designated for them and Akron Snow Angels will use it to purchase items like baby diapers, wipes and such. They also accept general donations and all the money goes to help people like Ellen and Hunter. Akron Snow Angels PO Box 107 Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44222