Scott Benner: My Experience with Homelessness
November 17, 2016 16:44
From November 12th-20th, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week will take place. This week is meant to bring awareness to people across the country who face hunger and homelessness each day. The facts are staggering: 578,000 Americans are homeless on a typical night, 49 million are at risk of suffering from hunger, and 1 in 5 children live in poverty, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. For many of these people, being without a home can be heart-wrenching. But for some, art allows them to find a home within themselves.
I became homeless after a series of events. I’ve thought a lot about these events since then and it makes me realize how easily it can happen, a lot easier than people might imagine. I often tell people it was a perfect storm of bad luck….
The beginning of the end was when the owner of my company retired. That led to a stream of new owners coming in and bringing their plans to change things that didn’t work.
My team shut down operation on Friday the 13th, 2009.
After that and without much success, I began looking for work. During this time, my wife also experienced unemployment, but for the most part she was able to keep working. We had a house and we were doing what we needed to do to hang onto it, including drawing money from my retirement.
The next blow was a two parter.
In January of 2012, I was diagnosed with a neurological condition called Horner’s Syndrome. This causes cluster headaches, periods of confusion, and exhaustion. I was in the hospital for a week and then was at home in bed for 6 weeks with oxygen and pain medication. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the end of my working days.
Then around May of that year, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. I became her caregiver and we dealt with a grueling round of treatments and recovery that went on for about a year. She recovered and is doing well today. But by this point our savings were gone and we decided to sell our house and separate.
This is when I hit the street.
At first I thought I would be able to live a simpler existence and find some kind of work. However, as the summer progressed, it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be employable. As my funds dwindled, and the weather got colder, I sought shelter at Father Bill’s in Quincy Ma.
You begin to realize how much you value your personal space. You begin to realize other people want space too. A lot of people have issues or have suffered in one way or another and you can see their pain. I think that there are people who for a variety of issue are chronically homeless and a larger portion of homeless are transitioning through a series of bad events.
In the spring of 2014, I settled into a routine of drawing at the library during the day, since you have to be out of the shelter by 7:00 am. It’s been a hobby I’ve enjoyed since I was young. This hobby accumulated into my connection with ArtLifting.
I have to mention that I have been fortunate, l have a talent for drawing and I was blessed to have Liz and Spencer Powers turn their dream into a reality and that has changed my life. I know my situation is unique.
Reflecting on my experience with ArtLifting, it’s made me realize what it’s like to do something I love as opposed to just working. I would urge other people to be open to anything and everything, if you have a talent, find out if it can provide you with a living, it may bring you more than you ever realized. It gave me my life back, I have a purpose now.
The reason I tell that story is to point out that anything is possible and in that situation, you need to be open to anything.
By Scott Benner
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