As a product of a dysfunctional family, I find fulfillment in sharing my personal heartache to help others going through difficult times.
Coping With a Parent Who Is Experiencing Homelessness
My father is homeless. That statement doesn't touch my lips often, but it crosses my mind daily. It's a terrible, painful thing to admit because, as a daughter, I felt a responsibility for it for so long. I have also felt that others probably feel that same way when and if it ever comes up. If they do, they never say. I have to give a little background just so you understand where I am coming from.
About My Father
Growing up, my father had his problems (got angry, manipulative, controlling, opinionated, and had bad credit), but he was also present, worked hard, and provided for us. It all went south for me as an adult when he got into some drugs, but mostly heavy drinking. Due to mild substance abuse problems, bad decisions (both life and financial), and perhaps untreated mental illness, he was constantly trying to manipulate me to benefit himself.
I had decided to love him from a distance over the last 7 years, but I had to go no contact for the last 2 years. Although it will break my heart everyday, I know it is for the best right now—and maybe forever.
If You Have a Homeless Parent, You Are Not Alone
A lot of people will have parents with various mental and/or substance abuse issues, or they'll just plain not get along for one reason or another. However, the added stress and stigma of your parent being homeless is incredibly isolating, so I wanted to share my thoughts just in case you find yourself in a similar situation.
Here are the 5 main things I want people knew about having a homeless father.
- Allowing It to Happen Was a Last Resort
- I Have Tried Talking and Helping
- I Would Change It in a Heartbeat If I Could
- It's Not My Fault
- I Still Love Him
1. Allowing It to Happen Was a Last Resort
Although my father is not welcome in my home today, it wasn't always that way. I would bet that is what anyone would tell you if they have a homeless parent. At some point, I trusted him and liked for him to be around. Without the facts, most people can't understand how someone who brought me into this world, raised me, and loved me could not be staying in my spare bedroom or on my couch.
Everyone's particular scenario will vary, but for me, I have learned how he will be if I allow it. He will disrespect my home and my rules, not work, drink heavily, break the law, and continuously manipulate me. My mother threw him out due to these behaviors before I did, and my brother did the same thing after I did. It's always the same. He doesn't think he needs to change, and he is right; he doesn't have to. Likewise, we don't have to put up with it.
He made a series of choices, and things only got worse. It's not like my mother, brother, or I didn't give him a place to stay and much more. We tried everything in our power before it became harmful to us and our own families, and we had no other choice than for him to find another arrangement. If he could have simply acted and behaved in a way that is acceptable to others living under one roof, he would have had more than one option, but he didn't. So it wasn't my (or my mother's or brother's) first choice; it was most definitely a last resort.
2. I Have Tried Talking and Helping
When I do have a chance to talk to others about this, people will often ask, "Have you tried talking to him about his issues?" in an effort to help. The answer is, "Of course!"
I have tried talking nicely, crying, yelling, reasoning, bargaining—all to no avail. If he's not willing to change himself, I sure as heck can't change him. We are all a product of our choices. Yes, we have certain circumstances and events that are beyond our control, but it's the way we respond, act, and decide to deal with what we've been dealt that makes all the difference in our outcome.
I have tried every which way to help him, and continuing to do so without something changing would be insane on my part and not help him. So, yes, I have exhausted communication with him for him to overcome this, as well as my resources to help him any more than I have.
3. I Would Change It in a Heartbeat If I Could
If he was the man I remember growing up, I would be elated to allow him into my home. He has good qualities; he enjoys having fun, he can hold an interesting conversation, and he can cook better than anyone. However, the man he has become is a stranger to me. As he got older, he became more of a loose cannon, which makes not only living with him, but also going anywhere in public with him, a drain and a hazard to my own emotional well-being.
Read More From Wehavekids
It's not fun to cut anyone out of your life. This has actually been the hardest thing I have had to deal with, and I gave it so many chances to be different. I tried preventing this outcome, but when someone is determined to destroy their own livelihood, there's very little you can do. What will be will eventually be, even if it is delayed. I don't just wish it could have been different; I know I tried everything I could for it to be.
4. It's Not My Fault
I guess what all people who find themselves in this situation want is to not feel like it's their fault—because, honestly, it isn't. We are ultimately responsible for ourselves, and I didn't make my father homeless. I made a decision for him to not live with me, but that alone did not make him homeless. It was a series of decisions that got him and him alone in that position.
Have I felt guilty at some point? Absolutely! But just as we all should, guilt shouldn't be a motivator for things we decide to do. It leaves us subject to manipulation and doing things not because we want to, but because we feel we have to, and it leaves us drained.
Sure, there are times when we do things that we don't want to do for the benefit of others; it's part of being a kind, compassionate adult. However, there is a limit. While I don't feel guilt about this much anymore, I do feel sadness at times and the loss of what could have been if things were different.
5. I Still Love Him
People think I hate my father. I don't. I love him as I always have, but I need to respond to his behaviors, learn from what's going on, and let him deal with the repercussions of his actions. The idea of codependency is hard for many, but it's really quite simple once you grasp it.
When we enable someone, it's like having a muscle that we never work, because we want to protect it from tears and strain. However, in the process, if it doesn't ever get worked and experience those tears and strains, it never gets strong or grows. If the muscle has to lift or support something, it simply can't; it hasn't had the opportunity to work for the strength and ability to do so.
We can't protect adults from things that they are going to have to grow and learn from. We can't counteract their choices forever. If so, we are doing them a bigger disservice than allowing them to experience pain and struggle that, with their perseverance, will make them strong. I love my father so much that I realized, when he lived with me, he wasn't doing the necessary things to get his life back.
I love my father, but I also love myself. I had to respect myself enough to know that the situation was bad for me to be around.
Share Your Experience!
The best way to not feel alone is to share your experience with others!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Jess B
Thank you. on August 06, 2020:
It’s a late night of worrying, and I truly felt alone. Thank you for sharing your experiences in such an eloquent way - book marking to read again and again.