Photo by Mischa Webley

Leo Rhodes, Houselessness Advocate; experienced homelessness off and on for thirty years.

“One of the biggest misconceptions of homelessness is that everyone’s on drugs, alcohol, mentally ill, because the decision- makers are catering to that. They’re saying we need to [treat] the most vulnerable, people that have problems, so people like me who are clean and sober are stuck, put way back on the back burner. It’s hard for us to see other people that have vices go and get rewarded with housing, when we’re trying to really be outstanding citizens. But it only takes one homeless person to screw up and all of a sudden we all get labelled as that. 

“I had high walls, thick skin and I wouldn’t let it bother me.”

The hardest thing about homelessness is the psychology of it all. People are downgrading you, saying yes you can sleep here, no you can’t sleep here; you can rest here, no you can’t rest here; you can eat here, no you can’t. The psychological part of it, that’s what people don’t understand. It gets you down, and you have to bring yourself back up. It’s a constant thing. 

I pushed a lot of that away in order for me to do what I had to do and it took me a long time to settle down once I got housed.  I had high walls, thick skin and I wouldn’t let it bother me. Then when I went inside I said I’m gonna take one day for me to grieve all the homeless people that I knew that died and suffered out there.

It took me five days when I finally got inside and it was so bad that I went into this deep depression because of that. But the walls got thinner, the high walls came down, and there was this tidal wave of emotion that came down on me.”

— Interview by Mischa Webley, NECN Staff Writer