A year ago, yesterday, I exited the New York City homeless shelter system. Being in the homeless shelter system was a life-changing experience for me. The New York City homeless shelter system seems to have a lot of similarities with the prison system. People who are in the homeless shelter system for a bevy of reasons, including upstanding citizens who have fell victim to New York City’s vicious cycle of gentrification, are treated like inmates; basically, dehumanized and “institutionalized.”
It’s a process to mentally, emotionally, and physically shake off the despicable trauma of the NYC homeless shelter system. When I read Wu Tang Klan’s U-God’s memoir, a passage in the tome regarding adjusting to life after incarceration reminded me of adjusting to life after being homeless.
In his book, “Raw: My Journey Into The Wu-Tang,” U-God states: “You need about the same amount of time back in the world as you served in jail. If you did three years inside, you’re gonna need three years outside to get your head on straight. You have to catch up with the world that’s kept moving on while you’ve been separated from it. You aren’t just gonna walk out the gate and pick up your life right where you left off. You gotta readjust yourself, reestablish your routines, and above all, get used to the freedom of not being locked up, because that’s one of the biggest things every convict has to overcome.”
Despite the traumatic and extremely negative experiences I had in the NYC homeless shelter system, I appreciate what I learned and experienced there. My experiences in that system armed me with a effective and potent tool for helping others. I will never forget what I experienced, and I will not stop speaking out about it until things are changed, and greater numbers of people are helped.
To commemorate my anniversary, I have set some new personal goals. Me and my husband will also go to a shelter this weekend and give back, directly, to the people.
Lots of Love,
-The Homeless New Yorker