Despite my mother having gainful employment, we spent a lot of time living in the car. I have slept with frost over me, slept on the wet street and in the sweltering night. Homelessness for me is a huge trigger. It makes me recoil, makes my mind want to run and never think about the horrors of it, the way it strips you of dignity and humanity. The way people hate you, judge you and look down on you. Routine homelessness in my childhood and young adult life with my mother, has left a scar that opens into a wound during the winter time.
When I’m cold I can’t breathe because I can see myself lying under a blanket in a broken down RV with no electricity, no water, no heat, no lock on the door. I could see my own breath, see the frost build up on my blanket and hear my sister cry curled up beside me. We were so close to one another I couldn’t breathe. There with us should have been my teddy bear, the last possession I owned, but it was lost in the car we’d slept in that ended up being stolen. Homelessness is a horrible trauma I wish on no one at all, so why have I refuse to offer my home to my sister in need?
I’ve lost my dignity and empowerment on several occasions when dealing with that family but I will not trade my sanity or fragile stability even for a moment. For this reason, I didn’t and won’t offer my big sister a place to stay.
To add insult to my injury, I won’t store any of her belongings at my home. I had to completely draw a line between me and her because the only person with something to lose, and lose by emotional rape, is me. If there was ever a risk that I’d lose all my art supplies and doll collection because I couldn’t store them and had to leave them behind, I’d be devastated. I know my sister doesn’t want to lose her knitting materials. She feels about yarn the way I feel about things, there’s comfort in seeing them, in having them around. So why did I allow the possible loss of her most valued possessions?
The only way my sister would come here is if she had no other recourse. I’d be the last ‘thing’ she’d do. My sister despises me. I hold the position of scapegoat. The woman hates me and is very vocal about it. I can’t invite someone into my home who is emotionally violent and who is physically threatening. Two other people refused to allow her to stay with them because of her toxic behavior; a result of growing up how we did, but toxic behavior nonetheless.
What can I do? I can offer resources. If there’s one thing I am its resourceful. I can’t give her a place to stay but I can give her a wealth of information of where to turn. My hope is that she gets into a shelter that sets her up with a social worker and other resources that will help her find clean, suitable housing where she can grow.
I have stopped hoping my sister will come around and see me as anything other than a ‘nasty dog’ as she so often calls me. I have stopped hoping my sister will speak to me with a civil tone or even call me by my name. She still won’t use any name at all when speaking to me. She still desires to strip me of that basic human right to a name, to identity. I have given up hope that I will ever have her as a big sister, but I will not given up my right to a peaceful home, sanity and sustainable dignity.
The boundary, though difficult and painful to set, was one of self-preservation. I feel like crap for setting it. It’s one of the hardest family decisions I’ve had to make in recent years.