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Women in the homeless and drug world

He was shocked out of a deep sleep with her screaming at the tops of her lungs.

It was early morning and still pitch dark. As his eyes slowly focused he could see her holding a golf club over his head. He was about to be teed up as the first hole in an early morning golf scramble.

“You either give me your fucking drugs or this club is coming down on your ugly head,” she screamed.

His heart started pounding. He saw Tom out of the side of his eye making a beeline for the door. “I don’t need this shit even if I have to sleep on the fucking sidewalk,” Tom muttered as he headed out the door.

“I don’t have to give you my drugs. This isn’t your house. This is a bando,” he said.

She was barely 5 feet tall and couldn’t weigh more than 110 pounds soaking wet. But her size didn’t matter. She was all business when she needed to be.

I opened the door. I let you in. That makes it my house. Now give me your fucking drugs.

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There are these alpha women I get to meet here in this community.

One of them once punched me in the face.

She was the only person to ever lay a single finger on me. I am treated so kindly by these homeless people it is embarrassing. (For the record, I have no anger or resentment towards this woman. If anything, I blame the system for failing her in such a colossal way that she has become severely damaged. Her anger is a product of a broken system.)

I often wish sociologists would come down here and study these people. These homeless people have been stripped of virtually all social norms. Everything has been taken from them. They have lost all their possessions, all their family, all their friends. In a way, they have become pure, raw humans.

You get to see what a human looks like when we aren’t dressed in the complexities of modern America.

Homeless women are astounding.

So many of them are strong, fearless and brave.

It makes sense when you think about it. How else are you going to survive?

A friend of mine doing life in prison once wrote me in a letter, “If you act like a victim you will become a victim.”

These women never come across as victims.

And that’s on top of a background that often includes incredible torture and abuse.

I know a beautiful, young homeless woman who was once captured, held in a basement and became a sex slave for a man and his friends. She lived in that basement naked and tied and endlessly raped for weeks until she was able to finally escape.

When that woman walks into our day center it’s like a house on fire.

She’s yelling at people. Other people are yelling at her.

She refuses to leave her bag on the front desk like every single other human being has to do.

If she is able to stay in our facility for 2 hours before we kick her out it’s a good day. She can actually be incredibly kind and sweet. But she can also become a warrior in a flash.

And that’s what this comes down. These women are warriors.

They are often smarter, can be more brutal and more emotionally strong than most men I encounter.

When a “strong” man in this homeless world strikes out he usually attacks the weak and old. They often are cowards.

For women, everyone is bigger than them. They stand up to everyone no matter their size. No matter their reputation.

A woman in the wild is a fierce adversary.

It’s impressive. But it’s not actually different than what I’m seeing in middle class society. Because I can see the incredible strength in the women of the homeless community so clearly and directly, it makes the strength of middle class women easier to see.

Women, across all classes and all sectors of society are often the ones stepping up and doing the hard, brave work needed for their families and their organizations.

But ultimately, in the homeless community, the physical brute force of men becomes no match for the smaller frame of homeless women.

“Lifetime risk for violent victimization for homeless women with mental illness is 97%, making sexual violence a normative experience for this population (Goodman, Fels & Glen, 2006).”

What that means is: if you are a homeless woman you will be beaten. You will be raped.

But the fortitude and resilience of homeless women is something I don’t see discussed in studies of homeless women.

The strength and bravery of homeless women is a power of true inspiration. They are remarkable people in the face of a brutal, cruel world.

 

 

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