Charles says it was the looks on his children’s faces as they watched their mother beating him that finally moved him to file for divorce.
“We had many fights, Charles says. “Once she took a knife to me, and I wound up with 58 stitches. My kids would ask, ‘Why don’t you defend yourself, Daddy?’ And I told them that a man doesn’t beat a woman.”
Fifteen years ago, when his daughter was two, and his son just an infant, Charles lost his eyesight for two days. Though he did not kno it, his vision loss signaled Type 2 diabetes.
With no health insurance, Charles did not see a doctor. One month later, things got worse. Charles remembers, “I was working 13 hours a day pouring concrete. We’d lost twins at birth and I was worried about the new baby. A month later I went into a diabetic coma for eight days. It stripped me of my energy. I’ve never been the same man.”
Because of his deteriorating health, Charles thought it best to give his wife power of attorney. When they separated eight years later, she sold both the home his grandparents had given him and the home he and his wife owned together. “She took our $20,000 in savings and our two kids. I just didn’t have the energy to put up a fight. I lived out of my car for five month before coming here to the Coalition.”
Charles recalls his desperation. Homelessness meant avoiding arrest for vagrancy, finding a place to shower, and trying to communicate without owning a phone. “It’s shocking how people treat each other on the street. They may have been decent people, but a couple of months out on the street turns them into something else.”
When Charles got to the Orlando Coalition for the Homeless, he was seething with anger. It took five more months before he was emotionally able to participate fully in the shelter’s programs. “Finally,” he says, “I had to make a priority list of what needed doing to get my kids back. Their mother’s already been charged twice with neglect,” he says.
With training offered through the Coalition, Charles earned a security license and now has a job. In a few month he plans to move into an apartment, and then to petition for custody of his children. “It’s like I’m rebooting myself,” he says. “Though when I leave here, I’m coming back to teach an ongoing class on how best to take advantage of all the shelter offers.”
Once Charles was at a gas station with only two dollars. A woman walked up to him and said, ‘Here’s five dollars. Put this in your tank. She gave me that money out of her heart. I used to give money to homeless people, too, but in the spirit of, ‘Here, man, take this and get away from me.’ Becoming homeless myself has changed my perspective.”
Some people are homeless for things they couldn’t do anything about. It can happen to you, too.”
Note: This narrative is one of thirty such stories to be included in a book to be titled, “Homeless in a Land of Plenty.” I have been working on the project since August, 2016. By the end of June, I will have completed visiting some 50 cities from Portland, Main to Seattle, to San Diego, to Orlando.
Note: This narrative is one of thirty such stories to be included in a book titled, “Homeless in a Land of Plenty.” I have been working on the project since August, 2016. By the end of June, I will have completed visiting some 50 cities from Portland, Maine to Seattle, to San Diego, to Orlando.