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home : commentary : actnow November 17, 2017

A day in a life with no home
Kathy Magnuson

I've been praying a lot. I think I deserve to have an apartment. I've been working my butt off.
- Dureen

by Kathy Magnuson

She's learned how to make it work since 2014, parking on Minneapolis streets where the police won't bother her, she says, "if they know you are not doing drugs or drinking." She parks in places where she feels safe and her "windows won't get busted." She's never been harassed that way.

In the mornings she goes to a Burger King or Super America station that has a bathroom where she can brush her teeth, wash up a little and put on deodorant and lotion. She doesn't need to take a shower every day unless it's hot.

Breakfast is next. She's figured out there are plenty of places where you can eat for free. There are also fast food restaurants that have dollar menus, and food shelves where she can get snacks.

Next in her daily routine is to search for housing. She calls about apartment vacancies in the mornings because she thinks they are more likely to answer the phones then. "I try to keep busy by looking. [I'm] not giving up on the apartment search but there are so many barriers. A lot of places are just after your application fee. There's nothing you can do about it," she says. "Sometimes I cry and get physically sick. I just want to give up. That is not an option for me. Drugs and going back to that lifestyle are not an option. I have a granddaughter and I want to stay alive."

Some weekdays she goes to a support group where she can talk with other women in her situation. She can eat there, too. Sometimes she hangs out at one of the city lakes or a park.

She works with a street outreach worker from a local social service agency. Sometimes they can help with bus tokens or prescription co-pays if they are only a few dollars. She was offered hygiene products but turned them down so they could go to someone who really needed them. She has a teddy bear to keep her company in the back seat of her car.

Dureen shared that one of the hardest times was when she recently left the hospital after cancer surgery and had to sleep in her car. With her blankets and bottles of water, she "made it comfortable enough so it was okay."

"I've been praying a lot," she says. "I think I deserve to have an apartment. I've been working my butt off."

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Sometimes people will say to her, "I get it. I know what you are going through." Dureen's response? "They won't get none of it until they experience it. If you have never been homeless you don't have no clue. Some people sleep under picnic tables, in hallways of apartment buildings or in the park. I slept in Powderhorn Park one whole summer. You can't tell me you know what that is.

You may have seen it, but you don't know it."


If you are homeless or know someone who needs help: ststephensmpls.org/need-help

Homeless shelter listings and supportive housing: shelterlistings.org/state/minnesota.html

Experience St. Stephen's Day in the Life Program to engage with and be educated by people who have experienced homelessness: ststephensmpls.org/programs/human-rights/day-in-life

Learn about the legislative agenda of Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless and how to become an advocate:

Where do you see women connecting and making change in your world? Send me your story, magnuson@womenspress.com

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