“I’m homeless because of my health. I have 2 more operations to go, then I’m finished living in the streets. It has been 5 operations up till now, and many tests and doctors. I have been to 7 hospitals in Brussels, stayed in 4 over 4 years, it has been an eye-opener.
I’ll see the world through different eyes after the experiences I have been through. I used to think I was different from most people on the streets, because of my health and had no control over the way things happened. An example: because of my health (my spine is a mess), my nerves are trapped, causing my legs to lose all feelings. When they get like that, I lose my balance and fall over. I can’t get back up, it’s like gravity is pulling me down. My only chance is if someone helps me or I have to crawl to a place I can pull myself up. But as it happens nobody helps me. ¨People just walk around me, give me dirty looks like I was drunk and drank so much I fell over. What I feel like at those moments is not something I can write down. I can’t understand how people could do that to me.
When I think about it: I’m 55 years old, I am not dirty, my clothes sometimes get a little grubby but not too dirty as I get them washed, so I must look like the other people, the alcoholics I mean. I don’t think so, but I’m classed with them, I stopped drinking 20 years ago. Another example: I get my medical card renewed every 3 months. The person doing it asked me if I drink. I said “No, I don’t”, the truth. They then asked about if I take drugs. I said: “I take methadone as a pain-killer”, the truth. It was made as a pain-killer because a lack of morphine during World War 2. Nowadays, it is also given to drug addicts. I only agreed to take it because I didn’t want to take morphine. My pain is bad. I said to the doctor: “The problem is being classed as an addict, but my pain is so bad I agreed to try it and it eased the pain.”
Anyway, back to the story. They then began giving me a talk on the danger of drugs and ‘what was my son going to say about it’. I couldn’t believe what i was hearing, but she automatically assumed I was a drug addict because of the methadone, even after I said what I took it for. The chemist was another one. Not nice to me, treated me like a drug user. It was only when I had to increase the dosage (the pain got worse), he questioned me on the increase. He had no right, I had the doctor phone him to say he shouldn’t question me on the increase and to tell him it was as a pain-killer. Since then, his attitude has changed, he is nice and treats me the same as everyone else. So being homeless because of my health, I seem to be classed as anyone else living on the street.
I see the gypsy girls with anything from babies to infants of all ages, one day a girl, another a boy, always different ages, always asleep, never getting food, never changed nappies. I have been told it costs 25€/day to hire them children. Just seems to be a way to make money, as some people do with dogs.
I suppose I am the same in a way, I use a sign for money, only what I need isn’t much, it is to get from one doctors appointment to another. The same with the hospitals. These days, with all the others on the street it is hard. The only good moments are with people I’ve got to know that see a little further past the clothes and signs and help me through the bad times. I know it will end one day. They keep me going for as long as it takes, hopefully not too much longer… I hope I can be understood, because the feelings and emotions have taken a battering and I’m a little mixed up, and like I said: I will certainly see the world through different eyes.
Just to end on another note, I have been punched and kicked by alcoholics and others, saying I’m in their place. I’m not, it is not right to beat someone up on the pretence they saw someone give me money – not a lot – but to be agressed does not take much. It seems to get harder, not easier. (People, it takes all kinds to make a world. I’m learning the hard way.) I did nothing. People told the Police it was the other, the Police listened to me, and were kind and sent him on his way which is all I could have asked for I suppose. (I would have liked to have seen him in jail for beating me up for nothing.) He could have injured me a lot with the problems to my health. My only chance was that I protected myself a bit as I was in pain.
Since the world is going backwards, I often wonder what I have done wrong in life to deserve all that is happening. I don’t think I am that bad, but someone thinks otherwise. If there is a god, he does not like me. Why, only he knows. One day I will be able to ask him. Till then, I will always be wondering why. Maybe I shagged his wife or daughter while he was out without knowing – if not I will do one or the other or maybe both to get him back for it. (Just a bit of English humour!)
Society classifies people by what they wear, look like, what they’ve done, how much money the jobs pay… not many people seem to see the real people maybe they do and just pretend not to? A “Hello!” is all it takes – it costs nothing – or a smile. People mistrust action like that: one morning, out of 10 people only a young girl talked to me when I was asking for a street for a bookshop. Before I finish: the strangest thing. One time in hospital the doctor asked if I drunk. I said “No”. He looked at me strangely and asked me again. About drugs/medicine: I take only what I get proscribed from the doctor. Again, as he thought I was lying, I said “You have my blood test with you, so you have the answers”. So that’s the proof I didn’t do drugs! “But you’re homeless, all people like you drink, take Valium and other drugs, so you must be the same”. “Why must I?”, I asked him. No answer. He probably never met a person like me. It will always stick in my mind, because he had the proof there and didn’t believe it. What he saw or didn’t want to believe, because normally a type of person is the same in his eyes – if you can work that out I would like to know because I can’t.
If I had known what I know now, before it all started when the doctors told me they would help me return to normal so I could work again, I would have said “No”, but hindsight would be a wonderful thing. Good job we can’t see into the future and chose what’s good or bad or what to avoid, it would be boring I suppose. At least the way it is, we live and learn. They didn’t teach me things like that at school and I was taught to respect my elders.
On the street, old age, a show of weakness of any sort like kindness leaves one open for abuse and to be bullied by the strong.”
Homeless in Brussels