Trauma is very often at the core of homelessness, just as it plays a critical role in mental illness. If you have never heard the back story of a person that is or was experiencing homelessness, these details will probably open your eyes very quickly. The narrative is even more compelling when trauma occurs in fragile youth.
Randle Loeb has first-hand experiences with trauma and homelessness and has used his background to help advocate for a better understanding of this complicated issue. Below, he answered a few questions and raised several more in this on-going dialog…
Q: As an advocate for homelessness issues, can you explain how you came to be involved with this cause?
Randle: At birth, I was manic depressive and lived through this until I was diagnosed with this and other related issues at 48. There was early childhood trauma that I never understood. I was deemed retarded by teachers in school and peers bullied me. I was the youngest of my class and this did not help.
When I did become homeless in the mid 90’s, the trigger for the losses was related to my youngest child being in a near fatal car accident at home in Philadelphia. She was nearly 16, returning for her purse at the YMCA when her boyfriend was instantly murdered. At the time Leila was carrying a baby. She was about to enter her junior year of high school.
Relationships had always soured in my life particularly with my children’s mother and there was no communication regarding anything. When I found out about my daughter (a former colleague and friend told me) I was in Denver at the time. I rushed home but when I returned to Denver I felt defeated spiritually and personally. I lost everything including attempting suicide for the next 6 years culminating in a coma at a major hospital with an overdose of sleeping medications.
I became a public speaker and advocate because the whole thing of being unsafe and unstable is senseless. I speak to groups throughout the region and the country every week. I usually speak to children and ask them what they think and I hear from them that the circumstances of people’s extreme generation to generation poverty is bewildering. None of this is possible here [and] that it has always been this way is even more gripping.
Q: Do you classify yourself as homeless right now? Or how often throughout your life have you experienced homelessness?
Randle: I was out off and on about 20 years and not at the moment, no – I take care of a place in exchange for an efficiency.
Q: What have you learned about yourself from this experience?
Randle: To survive, to trust few far and in between, to be resilient, to have faith to believe in more than my own worth and dignity, to do without, to smile, learn to listen, be still, not give in, find refuge, be forgiving, that we all live in the shelter of one another, that working together no matter what matters more than anything, that one’s life is a gesture that like Shakespeare said is “a flickering light” and like Edna St Vincent Millay “that my candle burns at both ends and will not last the night but oh my friends and ah my foes what a lovely light,” and finally to forgive and live with compassion and teach as much as possible and live with the idea of teaching until the last.
Q: What do you think are some of the key strategies that would make a significant impact for the homelessness community?
Randle: Not permitting people to be wayward and do nothing; have housing and purpose with that housing for every single able person and even if you’re aren’t able that you are permitted to do something in community – the community action agencies of the 60’s was a significant motivation for people to thrive. SHARED LIVING ARRANGEMENTS would help and safe havens and ready, willing and able programs and programs like Bridgehouse, and places that people could forge ahead with school and community like Ft. Lyon, in Lamar County. THESE MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE in the world, places like Safe Haven, Catholic Worker Houses, options for every single human and family there is no matter what. And with these all, trauma care and motivational interviewing as a foundation for building a sense of being able to move on.