In the summer of 2014, my husband and I were both homeless.
We were living in a single-family house in a small town in central Florida.
We’d spent the previous year at a shelter for animals, but it was too expensive to stay in that long.
So we rented a room at a friend’s house, hoping that the new neighbors would be nicer.
But we had no idea what to expect.
We slept in our room.
The first few nights were rough.
I remember waking up with the lights off.
The air conditioning was broken.
The walls were covered in dust and debris.
We didn’t know what to do, so we slept on the floor in the kitchen.
The kitchen was covered in a large pool of vomit and feces, but we could see the water was hot and clear.
After the first night, we realized that the pool was full of food that had been left out on the kitchen floor.
We realized we could never eat anything again.
We needed to find a place to eat.
The next few days were hell.
Every night we’d wake up with an empty stomach.
Every time we’d see a stranger on the street, we’d vomit and scream.
The smell of vomit hung in the air for days.
The smells and sounds that had previously made us sick, were now making us sicker.
And when we got hungry, we would go hungry.
Every day, we spent more and more of our time eating garbage and cleaning up the vomit that had accumulated from the previous night.
It was a vicious cycle.
By the time we got to the shelter, the staff had already decided that we had to move, and the shelter would take us in.
A few days later, we were sent to a homeless shelter.
We spent three nights there.
One night, I got so ill that I was sent to the ER.
It wasn’t that bad.
I had no fever, and I was given antibiotics and fluids.
A week later, I was transferred to the hospital.
At the hospital, I had severe stomach pain.
It hurt for a while, but I was able to take a couple of small bites to relieve it.
I was vomiting blood.
I asked to be put on antibiotics, but the nurses told me that I needed to go home and eat a bowl of rice.
When I went home, I sat down and ate a bowl.
When we were back at the shelter in July of that year, I noticed that the staff was more concerned with the feces than the food that we were feeding.
When the staff asked if I wanted to get some more food, I told them no.
They told me to go to the kitchen and get some food.
They were not taking me seriously as a human being.
And that night, the food was too hot to eat and too filthy to clean up.
I started vomiting.
It made me sick, but not to the point where I wanted anyone to see me sick.
When my friend came to pick me up, she was worried about me, so I started crying.
It got to be too much.
So I started throwing up.
It happened so frequently, I would vomit on the sidewalk and walk home, unable to walk anywhere because of my vomiting.
My stomach hurt, and my skin would turn purple and discolored.
I couldn’t even get to the bathroom because of the vomiting.
I could barely walk.
I got into a fight with the staff.
They beat me up so badly that I lost my temper.
They even punched me in the face.
It took me two weeks to get well enough to leave the shelter.
The staff was furious.
The night before, I came home to vomit again.
The doctors said I needed more antibiotics.
I didn’t have the stomach or the skin to survive, so they gave me a little more food.
But the next morning, I started to vomit more.
My body was so sick, I could not eat and was vomiting up blood.
It felt like I was going to pass out.
I vomited everywhere.
I’d pass out in the shower.
I even vomited on my own furniture.
At this point, my boyfriend had come home from work and was helping me with my hair.
He said, “This is your turn to go in there and get your clothes.”
So I walked in and vomited.
Then I had to go into the kitchen to wash my hands.
The nurses said that I had a case of stomach flu.
I took a look at my food, and it was really sick.
I thought, “I need to get a bed.”
I went in and got a bed.
When they asked me if I needed a bed, I said no.
I said, I need a bed because I can’t get to my room.
I’ve never had a bed before.
And I don’t want a bed right now.
I wanted the bed so bad.
The bed that was waiting for me was filthy and cold. It smelled