The Face of Homelessness: LaShell Walks

This is one of the new articles I have written for the Metropolitan Nashville Homeless Commission.  Some of you may remember that the Commission has given me the wonderful opportunity of interviewing some of the homeless to tell their stories.

LaShell is homeless, and although her descent into homelessness began several years ago, her circumstances reflect the crisis so many Americans are facing today – layoffs, consumer debt; and eviction and foreclosure. 

Americans are finding it harder and harder to relegate the homeless to a character sketch that feels comfortable.  We are finding as a nation that not all homeless are mentally ill, or addicted.

Some of them, like LaShell, look an awful lot like us.

The Face of the Homeless: LaShell Walks

LaShell hobbles through the streets of Nashville trying to find her way back to the life she lost.  She leans heavily on her crutches in an attempt to ease the pain in her knee.  All that remains of her once full life fits easily into the shopping bag on her back.

LaShell walks on as best she can, and as she walks, she prays.  “I can’t take too much more of this, God.  I’m tired.  I’m hurting…”

There are so many steps before and behind as she moves like a shadow between businessmen wearing expensive suits and women tapping text messages into their cell phones with perfectly manicured nails.  No one notices her.  No one wants to hear what she has to say, but if they did, she knows just what she would tell them.

“Never overlook someone else, because you could be up today and down tomorrow.  Never take what you have for granted.  Be grateful for life, regardless of how hard it is.”

So far to go.  So much time to think, remember, regret…

She doesn’t understand just how it could have happened.  How could so much have changed in three short years?  She had always, always worked.  She had an apartment, a car, enough to eat, family, and friends. Then, a layoff slip and a few bad decisions, and bit by bit she fell so far that the way out seemed impossibly out of reach.  First, she lost her apartment, and then her car.  It did not take much longer to lose everything else.

Some nights, she sleeps at her daughter’s home; other nights she stays with one of her sisters, but she is a burden, it seems, to everyone she loves.  So, most nights she lowers her weary body into a bed at the Women’s Mission.

But during the day, LaShell walks.

She shuffles through the streets of Nashville, trying to find her way back home.

By Sherri Gragg

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