“Why are you homeless?” I asked. “I lost my business, I lost everything.” She said. It was a Thursday morning before my meeting with my financial aid. I decided I wanted to do an interview with a homeless woman that I know. Allison Jacobs*, she’s about my height and she has really nice Dolce and Gabbana frames. Very posh if you ask me. She has a suitcase that she says holds her “clothes and toiletries to get her by.” If I was to see her on the street walking I would have thought she might be going on a trip or coming back from one. She doesn’t look homeless and that’s the scary part. Everyone has a deception of homeless: an individual begging for money on the side of the road with torn clothing and an “I’ll do whatever I can do for money attitude.” Then we have the drug addicts who are homeless because they spend all of their money on drugs because they think that’s all they have. Then there is Allison a woman much like many individuals who have lost everything and are still holding on to the little they have to prove they aren’t what they are, homeless. Homeless, to refresh your mind the Oxford dictionary refers to this adjective as: a person without a home, and therefore typically living on the streets. This has been a topic of interest for some time now, and I want to get more in depth with the issue. I want to shine a light on what it means to be homeless in America after having it all.
Chloe Ridore: What was it like growing up?
Allison Jacobs*: I had everything, my parents took very good care of me. They taught me to be independent and self-sufficient. The only terrible thing that happened was when, my older brother abused me for several years.
CR: You mentioned you were abused as a child can you elaborate more?
AJ: I was sexually abused by my older brother.
CR: How did that affect you then and now?
AJ: Back then it affected me deeper than you’d imagine. I felt worthless, I constantly asked myself “why, why did this happen to me?” Now, I feel rejected by my family they didn’t believe me then and they surely don’t believe me now. It hurts, it hurts that something like that could happen to me and the people close to me can’t even face it. Even now, many years later.
CR: Do you have kids? If so how many? Did your abuse affect the relationship with them?
AJ: Yes I have four children. Because of my abuse I managed to be over protective of them because what happened to me I didn’t want it to happen to them. I think they hate me for it.
CR: I don’t think so. When and what was the highest pinnacle of your success?
AJ: 1999 when I developed my business from the ground up.
CR: How successful was the business?
AJ: Very, very successful, working with very successful businesses. Doing mergers, biddings and everything in between. In spite my success I always helped everyone, whenever they needed it.
CR: What happened to your business?
AJ: It collapsed, in 2010 due to the recession
CR: Would you say that was when you became homeless or after that?
AJ: After that.
AJ: I became homeless after I sold everything I had, got sick and got divorced all in the same year. I had some money but of what I had my ex wiped out of our joint account.
CR: How did you feel when you were homeless?
AJ: Ashamed, embarrassed and why did this happen to me? A person of who didn’t lose the sight of helping others is now in the position that I am in. All I have is broken promises and worthless dreams. No family or friends want to help me.
CR: So what you mentioned reminds me of the response you gave when you got abused as a child. Why is that?
AJ: I loved my brother, and I loved my business. I lost them both. The aftermath of both hurt me.
CR: What does it feel like being homeless?
AJ: Overwhelming, stressful, not knowing when you’re going to eat or sleep. Sometimes I get interviews for jobs and I can’t get it because I have no permanent address.
CR: At least you don’t have to pay taxes
AJ – CR: both laugh
CR: Is being homeless as bad as it seems?
AJ: and more! Because the people who are supposed to help you aren’t really helping you. They view me and many others as a number. There’s been many of times when people give donations the workers will take the good food and leave the stale food for the people who are in the shelters. They look down on us.
CR: Has this experience made you a better person?
AJ Yes, I’ve met numerous people and I’ve made a lot of connections so when I do get on my feet. I can help them and watch them grow with me.
CR: I’m happy for you, you’ve gone through a lot and still managed to look past the bad
AJ: of course, this is an epidemic that the world needs to help solve. It’s only getting worse, it needs to get better!
CR: Are you always this positive?
AJ: I try to be. My faith that I have in God keeps me going and helps me ride through the rough times. I hope my story shines light and shows that, there are people out there just like me and that you’re not alone. You can be standing next to a homeless person and you may never know. Just like me, it could happen to you, never judge a book by its cover.
*Some names have been changed in this article to protect the privacy of the individuals involved