“Wherever Brian is, that is home”. Cheri’ said. Ten years homeless, she and her husband, of 32 years, moved to Muncie just a few months ago because of a house that was left to the family. Their “rent” is to do repairs, one of Brian’s many talents. I met Cheri’ about 4 months ago at church. She connected by sharing her poetry with me. I plan to do another blog just on how she has used poetry to process her journey and find healing.
Cheri’ and Brian raised their 4 children in a huge house. He drove a Lincoln. She had seven cars to choose from when she went out. They traveled all over the world. They were raising and home schooling their four kids and at times, they took kids in who were not so fortunate. In 2004, the corporation that Brian and Cheri’ worked for went bankrupt and her children (ages 11 to 17) went to live with their grandparents while they moved on with nothing.
“It was the worst moment in my life,” she moaned.
They lived under bridges, couch surfed, found old hotels, when Brian was able to make some money working in car washes and pawn shops. She laughed when she shared the story about living in a plastic toy club house in someone’s back yard. Brian said that they had ants in it at one point. The problem was solved instantly by moving their “house” just across the yard. They used plastic bags to cover the windows. They also were able to live for a while in a trailer they bought for $200. After 6 months, the trailer park closed down. Through county insurance, they were able to go to rehab because of some stubborn addictions that were a huge part of why they were continuing in such need.
At one point Cheri’ ended up living in jail for a year. She had received and concealed a stolen car, by putting her license plate on it. She had plans for Brian and her to live in it. Choice after choice, it was an agonizing journey.
“There’s room to grow in your struggles and problems can be solved. The main thing is to have faith in God. Don’t give up. You have to do it!” Cheri’ shared.
Hearing this heart-wrenching story, I bemoaned the fact that many people, including myself, don’t understand the plight of the homeless. “How could this happen?” is a common question. Many times we avoid even talking to them.
Cheri’ admitted that most of it stems from drug and alcohol addiction. It is not something you overcome very easily.
I asked Cheri’ what she felt about those who “have a good life with all their needs met.”
“Everyone is alike. We all have struggles and worries. Paying bills, trials with family and friends, sickness. It is all in how you deal with your struggles.”
She says she doesn’t get envious of others. She admits that she gets the “I wants…” At this point she has grown in character and learned patience.
Brian and Cheri’ still struggle a lot. They live on $750 a month. They have made the house a haven and arranged it nicely. They live without hot water. They heat gallons of it on the stove to take baths. Brian rolls cigarettes with cut up pieces of toilet paper roll covers. They find old furniture out by the road amongst other things and sell through the internet. Brian says that he feels rich when he sees his treasures all ready to sell. He also walks the streets finding scrap metal to cash in on. He puts it in a grocery cart and pushes it 4 miles to the metal exchange. Every dollar is valuable. They have no car. They get their groceries once a month when they have a ride to Aldi’s. I get the idea that they actually enjoy being creative and resourceful with what they have.
“We feel accomplished, because we are providing for ourselves.” Cheri' said.
What about their dreams? Cheri’ wants to be a writer. She has a novel in her head. Just needs a keyboard. They also dream of either a tiny house in New Mexico or a vehicle in which they can travel all over the United States. Cheri’ says she is a gypsy at heart.
As I got ready to leave, I left with a superman stocking for my grandson. Cheri' had caught on to the fact that he might like it. I was honored to receive it.
She wrote her first poem in 1982:
Life is like a rose
In the beginning
Things are sweet and cheerful
As time goes by
things become thorny and weary
Before you know it
Your being is etched in stone
Like being pressed in a book
Life is like a rose.
I will share more of her poetry in another blog. The poetry, itself, has been a healing agent and an emotional stabilizer for her.