When I found out my wife and daughter died I sat in my living room with a loaded 9mm gun in my lap. I sat there trying to think of why I shouldn’t kill myself. But I didn’t kill myself because I knew that as a Catholic man, if I committed suicide I would go to hell and never see them again. And I wanted to see them so badly.
I lost my house later that year and I’ve been living on the streets since. It really sucks and it's really hard being homeless. Even if you sleep on a ton of blankets, when you sleep on the sidewalk you wake up with so many aches and pains. Also, because I was shot in the torso, I have a colostomy bag and other medical conditions so it’s hard for me to take care of myself out here. I have a military pension and Tricare, but I still owe the bank a lot of money on my mortgage so they garnish my pension.
I save every penny I get. The first thing I do – even before eating – is get off the streets for however long I can afford. Usually it’s for one or two days at a time. I also use the money to head to Bridgeport, Connecticut to visit the grave of my wife and daughter. When I had a car I used to drive there every day but now I take the train there once a week. When my wife and daughter died I called the cemetery and told them what had happened. They gave me two plots next to my great grandparents, grandparents and childhood friend. So my wife and daughter are literally surrounded by their whole family, which I always thought was beautiful.
There are a lot of regulars that take have taken a huge interest in my well-being. Matt, an attorney from White and Case, bought me a computer – a Lenovo two in one. Mark works for a company a few doors down. We go to church and pray together and he is a constant source of strength for me. Amanda is an insurance coordinator for a company around the corner. One time she bought me a brand new jacket from Kohl’s that cost $231.
A few months ago I had a sign that said, “In desperate need of a Metro Card.” A little later that day a man walked up to me without saying anything, handed me an unlimited ride MetroCard and walked away. Ever since, on the third of every month, he drops off an unlimited ride Metro Card. He says, “Good morning DJ. Here you go.” And keeps trucking. I don’t even know his name.
There are so many people I can call or text at any moment. They’ve all become dear friends and tell me they love me and that I ground them. Before they met me none of them helped anyone out but by helping me, caring for others has become a part of their lives. I’ve met all their husbands and wives. I’ve been to their homes. For me, being a homeless guy and having all these people take me in and trust me, it’s just the most amazing thing.
There are actually a lot of good things happening in my life. A few months back I finally applied for my GI Bill funding. Soon I’ll be getting my first $3,800 payment which will cover my housing allowance, tuition and books. So in a few days I actually won’t be homeless anymore. I’ve also recently started going to school at Berkeley College. This semester my classes were mythology, English, statistics, sociology and math. I just took my midterms exams and got four A’s and a B.
I’ve been through a lot and there are a lot of things I still need to do for myself, but I’m finally doing them. I’ve already got my room picked out in Washington Heights and as far as I’m concerned there will be a happy ending to my life.
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