Letter to the Editor: Person standing next to you in line at the grocery store might be homeless

Homeless

I caught the June 9 “The Streets of Quincy” podcast (on Muddy River News) and had to comment.

Up until a month ago, I was homeless and living on the streets of Quincy. I’m going to be 60 years old. Seniors age 50 and older are the fastest growing segment of homeless people, largely because of a lack of affordable housing and income not keeping up with rising rents.

I’m originally from Springfield. Last July, I lost my job. In October, I lost my apartment. I spent the month of October living in hotels, homeless shelters and on the street. Towards the end of the month, my ex-fiance’s ex-wife offered to let me move in with her and her son in Berwyn until I got back on my feet. 

She came down to get me and I moved to Berwyn. The situation quickly deteriorated and turned into a domestic violence situation. Four months after moving in with her, I managed to get out with the help of friends and ended up in Arlington Heights, where I ended up in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism.

I was far from home, away from my support system, and knew no one with no transportation and no income. I had my 12-year-old black cat. Only one domestic violence shelter in Illinois accepts pets. That happens to be Quanada in Quincy. 

After being discharged from the hospital, I ended up going to a domestic violence shelter in Aurora, when I got a call that there was a bed available at QUANADA — which is how I ended up in Quincy. 

While staying at QUANADA, I reached out to every social service agency in Quincy looking for housing options since you can only stay at QUANADA for 45 days. During that time, I continued to look for work (crickets) and started rebuilding my business as well as applying for grant monies to open a patient navigator practice with a friend of mine who operates a not-for-profit in Rock Island, which would have entailed moving to Rock Island. 

Shortly before my time ran out at QUANADA, I had secured housing in Camp Point through Two Rivers, an organization I cannot say enough good things about. While waiting to move into my apartment, I had to vacate QUANADA and ended up living on the street, the Salvation Army (where you’re only allowed to stay for a month), a hotel and the lobby of the abandoned Welcome Inn (long story). 

I am a nine-year stage three endometrial cancer survivor and was recently diagnosed with an aortic root dilation. My specialists are located in St. Louis. 

I have two college degrees and ran my own freelance writing business for seven years. I’m a freelance health journalist who primarily writes about women’s health issues. I’m currently building a subscriber base for a paid subscription-only newsletter for gynecologic cancer survivors and starting a patient navigator practice.

Since I lost my job last July as a lab processor in a COVID testing lab, I’ve sent out more than 500 resumes and applications. I’ve had three interviews. It’s not that I don’t want to work. It’s that no one wants to hire me. I’ve got $5 to my name. I would like nothing better than to have a job and income coming in so I can stop relying on help from others. 

The biggest misconception that people have about the homeless is that we are all drug users, alcoholics and lazy and don’t want to work with mental health issues when the majority of us have simply fallen on hard times and no longer have a place to call home. Personally, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs (unless you count prescription meds), and I don’t have mental health issues. 

To look at me, you would never have known I was homeless. It’s dangerous to make assumptions without knowing a person’s story. For all you know, the person standing next to you in line at the grocery store or walking by you on the street just might be homeless. 

I know I never expected to be homeless at my age.

Roberta Codemo
Camp Point, Ill.

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