Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Homeless And Now Gone, But Not Forgotten

Yes we have all seen them, the drunken bums on the street corner, begging for a dime for a cup of coffee. Sometimes we even put some money in their cap or cup, but we walk away knowing that we are just contributing to their next six pack; or their next hit from crack cocaine. But how about the other 90% of the homeless? The people you pass in the street every day, the people that look just like you or me? Everyone of them has a unique story, and there are many different reasons that someone ends up on the streets.

Sometimes the most unlikely people find themselves in this situation. And sometimes really bad things happen. That fact came knocking on my door last week. Let me explain.

Diana Peterson died, and to the best of my knowledge she never stayed at the Calgary Drop-in, to the best of my knowledge she never even visited Canada. She lived a slightly wild life, but she loved her family, and would do almost anything for them. Hurricane Katrina ripped away what few possessions Diana had. Much has been written about FEMA, and how they failed. They did not fail for Diana. They relocated her, put her in a large apartment, paid the rent, and even furnished the place!

FEMA also helped Diana find a job. OK, it wasn’t a great job, but it was enough to get her back up on her feet. Most people would have loved this second chance. Actually for Diana this was her best chance ever. She had spent years chasing rainbows that had always ended in disaster. This was her one great opportunity to break out from a bad situation. This was the chance of a lifetime.

Diana loved her kids, and when her son Roger seemed to be in trouble in Washington state, Diana did what every mother would do, she went to him.

She had no money other than enough to buy the bus ticket, but being the caring mother, she had to find her son. On arrival in Olympia, Washington, Diana became part of the homeless system. No money, no place to live, she had no options; ‘the street’ was the only place to go.

Diana died last Sunday; she died from complications with pneumonia. She died alone, no friends, no family, with no one around her that cared, but the doctors and nurses. Her family had no idea that she was sick, they had no way to find her, they tried sending emails to the organization that they thought was helping her, but they received no replies. She died lonely. Diana was not a bad person, Diana was someone you would have walked by on the street and not have tagged as homeless. She was just like you and me.

Unfortunately Diana did not share any information with her family, no one knew where she was, or the dire situation she was in. Diana had a great support system, the family was there for her, but she opted to not use it. The world has lost a good person.

Homelessness is something that can happen to anyone.

Oh, I guess I should explain the reason for this article, Diana was my sister-in-law.

Simon Barrett


emmy said...

My heart goes out to you for your loss. I am too trying to fight off homelessness. I lost my mom in October and since then I am struggling through the Court to save my little tiny apartment. I lost my job and I am so afraid that I can't sleep at night. I feel sadness when I read your story. I feel really bad that she died lonely.

joanneheathermary said...

Simon, my condolences to you and your wife. That is so sad to hear.