Becoming homeless

Robert Smith’s journey on the streets becoming an all-too-common scene
Jan. 12, 2013 @ 07:27 PM

Robert Smith, 51, is homeless.

He spends his time looking for work and volunteering at the homeless shelter that he is grateful to call his temporary home.
Smith, who has been homeless since August 2009, said Open Door Ministries has offered him another chance at life compared to other shelters where he has stayed.
“My first experience was in a homeless shelter in Greensboro. I was there 67 days. After that, I came to High Point and stayed at Open Door Ministries for 18 months as a volunteer. I left in July 1, 2011, and stayed in Greensboro and Burlington before returning to High Point,” Smith said. “I have had three heart attacks, two stints and three hernia operations. I’m taking blood pressure medication, cholesterol, fluid pills and am in the process of trying to get me a lawyer for my disability.”
Smith is just one of the growing numbers of homeless in the city, mirroring a trend that’s being repeated throughout the country since the economy turned sour in 2008. These days, agencies and advocates that assist individuals in crisis say they are even seeing entire families forced to the street.
Smith became homeless when his girlfriend of 10 years died. He had lived in her home.
“When she passed away, I stayed there for a while, but could not find steady work. So I had to go to a homeless shelter, and that was a rough experience.”
Smith vividly remembers his first night in the shelter.
“I just kept thinking, ‘Why me Lord?’ I tried to get my job back, but they would not hire me back,” Smith said. “I was, and still am, fighting with trying to get disability and have gotten two denial letters back so far.”
According to Smith, when his time is up in one shelter, he goes to another. He said it makes it hard for him to try to find housing and get his life pulled together.
“If you are trying to get a job, go to school or trying to get disability, most shelters will work with you,” Smith said. “Being homeless is frustrating, and it gets on your nerves because you have people around you who do not want to help themselves or you.”
Smith’s only income is $200 a month in food stamps. He said he has filled out 150 applications in High Point in hopes of finding work. “My daily challenge is to try and get out of here. I am trying to get the process going so I can receive disability and have something to live in,” Smith said. “I am not able to work, and I am not sure anyone is going to hire anyone my age.”
Smith credits the shelter with helping him find some sense of stability.
“Open Door Ministries has helped me a whole lot,” Smith said. “They are the best shelter that I have been in because they care about people and try to help you if you are trying to help yourself. As I have gone to different ones, I have realized that you have got to help yourself so others can help you.”
He asks those who do not give that person standing on the corner a second look or believe that people are homeless due to drugs or something bad they have done. 
“Homeless is the worst thing to be,” Smith said. “If a person who had a home knew what it was to be homeless, they would turn the page and change their minds. They should try it and understand how rough it is.”
cdavis@hpe.com | 888-3657