Engaging with the civilian military disconnect that many participants talked about, there is an aspect of loneliness that comes with that disconnect that is exacerbated by a homeless situation. All interviewees expressed feelings of loneliness even when they had someone to talk to everyday. Their current situation keeps them feeling like an outsider in society and causes loneliness, depression and secluding themselves. Those who have family, speak to their family when they are feeling lonely. Others talked about taking solace in religion for a sense of belonging and hope.

Ami Rokach conducted a study on the causes of loneliness in the homeless population and found that loneliness was generally caused by feeling one or a combination of “personal inadequacy, developmental deficits, unfulfilling intimate relationships, relocation/significant separations, and social marginality.”[1] While homeless, one must focus on merely obtaining the necessities needed to survive, and not on personal development, making friends, or mental upkeep. Not only is there not time to do any of those things, as basic survival can be extremely time consuming, their marginalized position in society can make it difficult to make friends. [2] About half of the interviewees related that they did not have trouble making friends, but still felt lonely and distant from those friends, their family and society. When asked about having close friends, Calvin said, “Well I can’t say a close friend, we just have a mutual bond.  So yes, there’s a couple of people I mess with everyday. I try to speak with everybody, I try to get along with everybody…”[3] This shows how even while living in a place where you are in close proximity with people who share a similar story to you, it is still hard to establish close friendships.

   

Difficulties of not having a Home

A home is something many people take for granted on a day-to-day basis. For the participants, the struggles of not having a home are real. Many talked about missing the ability to have privacy, freedom to come and go whenever they pleased, and the ability to cook their own food when they wanted. Rokach talks about being homeless as being more than just not having a roof over your head. Many people do in fact have a place to sleep or go at night, but she deems a more useful definition to be the “lack of a secure and satisfactory home.”[4] This idea engages with the difficulties many felt they had when dealing with homelessness. When talking with Evette about the difficulties about not having her own home, she talked about her experiences living under the bridge and the difficulties she faced adjusting to that situation.

The hardest thing about not having a home is being able to get up in the morning and wash your face and brush your teeth. The things that you do naturally, is taking for granted when you’re outside. There is no get up in the middle of the night and get a drink of water, unless you have water that you already transported down there. I think that’s the hardest part about being…of not having a home, is just being able to go to the bathroom. We did a lot of outside bathroom so that meant carrying handy wipes, that meant carrying toilet paper. That meant going into public restrooms and things like that and actually washing up.[5]

 While the participants in this project are currently housed through transitional housing or a HUD-VASH voucher, they still lack their own “secure and satisfactory home”[6] to be able to have comfort, privacy and enjoy simple comforts like cooking. Cordell talks about how even though he is has a place to live at Liberation Family Services, he still feels like he does not have a true space and home of his own:

Just being – just not having my own space.  You know? Having a roof over my head? You know? Like here, there’s like – how many – I think there might be twenty-five, twenty-seven people here now. You have about twenty, twenty-five different personalities. SO you have to learn how, you know, everybody’s pretty much on meds. So you have to, you know? Somebody might be having a bad day and you know, you gotta be flexible. You gotta be able to you know, think on your feet. [7]

 

When asked about the difficulties he faced when he was street homeless James discussed the mental difficulties the accompanied the physical discomfort and how it is easy to get down on yourself and lose hope.

…homelessness was a beast. I mean, us being in the military, homelessness was something else. Something to experience. When you have to struggle, and live in the cold, live on concrete at times, and have to walk to get slips to go to certain places. That was something else. And then you have family members that put you out, knowing you ain’t got nowhere to go. And sleeping in cars, sleeping in trucks or whatever, that hits you. You wake up the next morning, knowing you need to do what you need to do to provide for yourself, you don’t have no rest, you’re tired, hungry. That gets you. And you feel like you wanna do something to somebody, or even do something to yourself, but you gotta pick yourself up and say I’m stronger than this.[8]

Not truly having a home of their own is something that these veterans find difficult to deal with in their own ways. It wears on them both mentally and physically and these discomforts can quickly turn into barriers for them as they try to deal with their situation.

  

[1] Rokach, Ami. “The Lonely and Homeless: Causes and Consequences”. Social Indicators Research 69 no 1. (2004). 37. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27522129.

[2] Ibid., 38.

[3] Golf, Calvin. Interviewed by Kelsey Glander. Richmond. Video. March 17, 2016.

[4] Rokach, “The Lonely and Homeless.”  37.

[5] Lewis, Evette. Interviewed by Kelsey Glander. Video. Richmond. March 16, 2015.

[6] Rokach, “The Lonely and Homeless.”  37

[7] Tolar, Cordell. Interviewed by Kelsey Glander. Video. Richmond. March 17, 2016.

[8] James. Interviewed by Kelsey Glander. Video. Richmond. March 16, 2016.