Prompted by a passerby's opinion, Street Sense vendor Vennie Hill reflects on her life's journey and invites readers to a different perspective on homelessness.
By Vennie Hill
I was working one day and ran into a young man, about 20 years old or so. I pitched my Street Sense line to him, trying to sell a paper. He looked at me and said, "No. I don't like the homeless." He proceeded inside the store to purchase something. When he came out, he said, "I'm sorry, but the reason I said that is because most homeless have done something to make themselves homeless." He gave me a dollar and walked away.
I continually ask myself: Could I have done something to make myself homeless? So, I begin to think of the road I have traveled to get here.
At age 16, I quit school and got my first job as an office cleaner. At 18, I took my first drink. I also lost my virginity, not because I wanted to, but because of a stupid pact I made with my cousin. At age 21, I tried my first drug, trying to follow behind others instead of being myself and using my mind. We said we were "celebrating my 21st birthday." After the second puff, I passed out and woke in a tub filled with cold water.
My dreams growing up were to be a teacher, a preacher, to sing, to type, to be a writer and to be a Marine. After four years of trying, I finally got typing down pat. You see, I have really big hands and fat fingers. But I was determined not to give up, so I didn't. I became quite good at it. Then one day I was drinking in the sleet and the rain while wearing some very cheap shoes. I slipped, fell and broke my left wrist. So what? Why is that relevant to your journey?
I have realized the rest of my dreams in different ways. My teaching came into play from helping my nieces and nephews with homework and school assignments. I preach every day. My singing? Yeah, I still enjoy it, but it is no longer a passion. As you can read in this story, I'm working on my writing. The Marine thing died when I came out of Job Corps weighing 210 pounds and in no kind of physical shape.
I've always considered myself to be a good person. I grew up going to church: loving and praising God. I returned to school in 1994, received my GED, got my data entry certificate and graduated at the top of my class.
So, I ask myself again: Why am I homeless? My answer is that I believe that God has us all on a path to follow, good times and bad. I've had more bad times than good, but I am blessed. I love me, I love the Lord and I love people. Not a day passes in which I don't thank God for the food I receive, the air that I breathe, my family, my friends and my life. I picture myself as a trainee: I'm training for God! I believe to fight a war, you have to be strong. I was very weak and quiet growing up. But to fight this battle and battles to come, you have to be mentally strong. And I don't think that I was. I'm not saying that I'm the strongest now, but I know that I'm not weak anymore. Yes, I still cry over certain television shows and movies with sad endings. But I wipe my tears today and I move on with my life. Do I think that I am ready yet? No, but I'm getting there.
I wake up every day and go to work to keep a roof over my husband's head and mine. We don't have children. Yeah, we have our ups and downs, but I do my best to make it work, and it's not easy. We go out every day and try to find employment. They say that there really aren't any jobs, but you know that if my God is like your God, that isn't true. I know that my time is coming; we just have to keep the faith.
I've made a lot of wrong choices in my life, but realizing that has helped me make better ones. So, if you happen to see me walking and talking to myself, remember that I'm not crazy; I'm just talking to God.
So why am I homeless? It just might be that I've made some wrong choices in my life, or it could be that God has chosen this path for me. Either way, I know that by leaving this up to him, I will not be homeless for long.
So, remember that everyone makes mistakes. We may not be able to change them or correct them, but we surely can learn from them. Now, until next time, may God be with you and may he bless us all.