Being a writer is what I love. But, if you ask anyone from my childhood they’d tell you they never thought I’d make it. I grew up in a small town, my family lived in poverty. From the beginning, the odds weren’t in my favor.

In 2008, I left my job as a camp counselor to move in and take care of my mom who had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. She died in May 2009, at which point I moved in with my dad who would die in August 2010 of cancer. I never had a large family, all that was left was my sister and baby daughter who because of my financial situation I didn’t have custody of. My family was dirt poor and there wasn’t a nest egg or college fund there wasn’t even money for a traditional funeral. After my dad died. I didn’t have a job, money saved up, or a place to go. My sister had helped me out for a few months but she was pregnant and had her own struggles. It became a realization that I would never be able to pay her back. At that point, I had no other choice. I threw away everything I owned except for what I could fit in a gym bag and a backpack. Photos, memories, clothes, furniture, family heirlooms. In a day it was all piled into a dumpster. I didn’t pay my rent for the upcoming month and instead boarded a plane to Panama City Florida. I met up with a friend in Florida and stayed with her for about a week. But, it was a small town outside of Panama City and there were no jobs or resources, and an abundance of cockroaches. It occurred to me very quickly I couldn’t improve my life there. So I headed to a shelter. The shelter allowed people to stay for 15 days at a time. But being new to a state, with no good shoes, or clean clothes 15 days wasn’t long enough to find a job, and when I did find a job I couldn’t meet the requirements for wearing good shoes. I spent 3 months in this cycle of staying in the shelter, looking for odd jobs, and going back to the street. When I say sleeping on the streets I mean literal streets. Dirt driveways, abandoned houses, small wooded areas. Never did I feel clean, or safe during those times. Every day was a struggle, I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from, I never had the courage to stand on the street and ask for money, or steal. I just kind of existed.

While in Panama I met a guy, together we saved enough money to take a bus back to Vermont. He wasn’t from Vermont, but I was and I knew the resources were better. Together we stayed in a shelter for a while, got jobs, and rented a small efficiency. It wasn’t long before the relationship became abusive, and after a year I left and braved homelessness again. This time I didn’t leave Vermont. It took another 3 years to find any stability at all. I bounced around from apartment to apartment, job to job, state to state, relationship to relationship. Trying to grasp anything that felt like home.

In 2017, I was diagnosed with C-PTSD, It’s believed that I’ve had this stemming from childhood, but giving up all of my things and living on the streets triggered it leading to the abusive relationship made it spiral out of control. Therapy saved my life. I found work in a psychiatry unit in a hospital but had to leave for trauma triggers, I found a stable apartment that I’ve held onto since. I stayed in therapy and started advocating in my community to end the stigma often associated with poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, and other trauma.

The best part about this story is that it gave me the inspiration to chase my dreams. If it wasn’t for the past trauma, I’d have nothing to write about through all those years in therapy. And I never would have remembered how much I loved writing in school. It never would have occurred to me that people would want to read my stories. I never would have known that there was this incredible thing that not only could I do, but I loved to do. I’ve contributed to blogs, newspapers, magazines, and published books. But what I’m most proud of is that I wrote my own book. I have yet to publish it because I still live in poverty, but this goal is my driving force, and what I work towards every day.  

I hope that my story will do two things. First I hope that it will inspire struggling people to keep going. Someone told me that “There will come a time where your trauma gives back to you” I’m living proof that is true. I also hope my story will help end stigma. Not every homeless person is lazy or struggling with addiction. Homelessness can happy to any person, at any time, for any reason. Being homeless means you don’t have a home. But you’re still a human and you still have value to offer the world.

Find me on Facebook & Instagram @CreativeMindOfJasmine

Jasmine DeLude