NetHomeless

Christmas Is Out of Reach for Too Many People This Year

Another Christmas season is upon us, and another new year.

Last year, I had a rather decent holiday season because I was house-sitting. I was able to do my favorite holiday rituals, and I made a big deal out of it. It was the first time in years that I had an opportunity to do so, and when you are in my boat, you learn to seize the day when you can.

Those opportunities are so rare. This year there will be no celebration. I will be lucky if I can be in a hotel room for the holidays, have a decent dinner, and watch my annual viewing of my favorite Christmas movie (The Muppets Christmas Carol, if you’re curious).

Last year I brought my little Christmas tree out of storage and set it up at the house sitting. It’s tiny but more than enough for me. I carefully dug out a handful of favorite ornaments and cried as I hung them. I knew this was not my house. But I would pretend to forget that for a few days. I had peace and a good meal and watched my movie on a big screen. For a short period, I felt like a normal person.

My version of a perfect holiday night may sound lonely for some people, but to me, it is heaven. I was able to FaceTime with a few key people, and that’s enough social interaction for this autistic girl. The rest of the night was about peace and just enjoying the moment.

For me, Christmas isn’t a religious holiday.

I am more inclined toward Yule than Christmas. I love the idea of a season dedicated to remembering kindness and compassion. Yes, it’s sad that there needs to be a season dedicated to the idea rather than just being the way people are with one another by default. But never the less, it’s a good thing to force kindness and compassion into the spotlight, even if for only a short time each year.

holiday wreath

Homeless Loki was commissioned to create this artwork for a homeless community.

Sadder still, the commercial side of things completely corrupts the holidays. Consumerism is really what the holiday season has become about. People trampling other people and not looking back because they’re in some frenzy to nab cheap merchandise is a horrific representation of everything wrong in the world.

For homeless people, the holidays are as individual to them as to anyone housed. Depending on the individual’s situation, the holiday season can be a time to look forward to or dread. Maybe the holiday season is a time to look forward to a holiday meal served by a local community center and receiving a gift or two. It could be an utterly lonely time, and you feel like the whole world is celebrating except for you.

In my area, there is a local Christmas parade and celebration. There are also different charities and community centers that offer food and warm beverages.

In 2019, there was a free Christmas party in town as well. Anyone could go into a local establishment for free hot coffee and a show featuring a live band playing music. At that moment, I was no different than anyone else there. No one knew who I was or that I was homeless. I was just a person.

This year, I have no idea if they will resume that party or not, but I won’t go. I am just getting over being sick, and I don’t want to do indoor events like that. I’m very run down and exhausted from too much overbearing stress.

This year, I cannot worry about the holidays, but I hardly think I am alone. I’ve heard people talking about basically canceling Christmas because they can’t afford it. The current cost of living crisis is affecting everyone who isn’t certifiably wealthy.

The other day, I was in the supermarket to buy a box of tissues and some drinking water. I cut down an aisle to get to where I wanted to go when I rode the scooter past a lady standing in the aisle. She turned to me and held up a child’s sippy cup, and asked me, “In what universe is this cup worth $30?”

That launched a discussion about the price of everything.

She revealed that she was a homeless mother who’d just gotten put into a hotel. She went to a local help agency, and they gave her an emergency housing voucher, which is absolutely useless because it doesn’t cover any realistic rent by 2022 standards. The few places that were advertised for “only” around $1200 or $1400 wouldn’t accept her because the landlords told her she had to make at least three times the rent per month. So she was stuck in a disgusting, run-down hotel until who knows when.

She was heartbroken because Christmas was canceled for her, too. Food stamps do not even come close to covering monthly groceries. She uses most of her money just to buy groceries, and nothing remains for Christmas.

I fear this story will play out across America this year, and I fear that 2023 will only bring even more horror and pain. I don’t know of a system that actually works and will fix everything wrong in this world.

While my outlook is bleak, I would like to wish everyone all the best for the holidays this year and into the next. I am grateful to my readers and Invisible People for their tireless work advocating for homeless people. Thank you to those who ordered scarves or handmade bags from me. Every order helps. I also want to thank my patrons who help me survive month to month. I couldn’t do it without them. Thank you all so much.

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