Autistic and Homeless: Psychological Impact

At the time of writing, it’s nearly 2 months since I moved out of my last stable residence. The physical impact of my “Adventure” has so far been imited, thanks to the help of friends offering me their sofas and spare rooms. The psychological impact, however, has been much greater and has surprised me in its intensity. This will likely be published some time after writing, as I’m awaiting decisions from the local authority as to whether I will be housed, and any income I might earn from Patreon pledges could affect their decision.

The intersection of difficulties from homelessness and autism (and my closely linked depression and anxiety) is particularly nasty. Many of the things I rely on to cope as an autistic adult are simply not there. I guess I’ll start with a brief summary of my circumstances.

I don’t drive, so I rely on public transport, walking or lifts from my very patient friends to get me from A to B. Public transport is hard.If I have to be there at a specific time, it’s even harder. First, you have to decipher the bus timetable, a grid of numbers. I’m dyscalculic, or at least very easily confused by large streams of numbers, so this is pretty much a useless endeavour. Instead, I use a combination of sat nav and transport apps to try to figure out which stop I need and at what time. This works well as long as the app is correct in its placement of stops and has accurate timetables. If a service is cancelled, redirected due to roadworks or has special operating rules around holidays, the app doesn’t get the memo. It turns out that the only place this info is posted is on the actual bus. Catch 22, how can I see the poster if I don’t know where the bus is!?

I try not to stay for too long with any one household, I don’t want to outstay my welcome or make things tense. This means a lot of moving around. I can’t unpack, nothing has its own place. I live out of three shopping bags. One for food, one for clothes, and one for everything else. My camping gear lives in a friend’s shed when I’m not using it. I identify strongly with the stuff I carry with me. It doesn’t have a place, neither do I. I feel as confused and tumbled as my belongings, tossed into a loose bag and carted back and forth, jumbled and disorganised. I can’t set out visual reminders to do things, I can’t set things out in ways that help me to be productive. My brain feels scrambled, I fid myself spending a long time ignoring everything because the mental energy required to reorganise daily is more than I can afford. I miss structure.

I miss predictability. Knowing where they are going to be every night is a thing a lot of people take for granted. The stability of where gives them a lot of freedom to be spontaneous in other areas, such as when they go out or when they accept guests. I’ve run out of energy for pre-arranging my sofa surfing a month in advance, much to the annoyance of my current host. I just wantbto stay put. I don’t want to think about drifting back and forth between houses that can only offer me a couple of nights, and only “maybe”.

I’m exhausted, emotionally as well as physically. The waiting for an answer is infuriating. If I knew what was coming next, I could at least work towards a plan. Right now, there’s nothing I can do that won’t seriously impede my ability to cope should the opposite decision be made. I’m frozen in place, and that’s more tiring than it sounds. It’s an anxious hopelessness that gnaws constantly. I should be doing something, but there is nothing I can do. It’s affecting my organisation. What’s the point of repacking and tidying if I might be housed soon? What’s the point in reorganising my bag and trolley system if my application gets refused and I buy a caravan and start saving for a seasonal pitch? Generally, what’s the point?

I have a little bundle of hope to hang on to. I met this lovely fellow when I was camping. Like me, he’s homeless. He’s staying with a very nice foster family, but he’s been in a kennel all of his life waiting for a forever home. We clicked straight away, and the rescue charity responsible for him say they would consider rehoming him with me if I had a caravan. He’s a kind of Spanish hunting dog, a little like our greyhounds. He’s lazy, loves cuddles and loves his food. He’s untrained, but highly motivated by treats. He’s my kind of dog.

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Alt text: a liver and white, medium dog with large, upright ears and a long nose. His eyelids and nose are a pinkish shade of brown. He has gold eyes and is looking off to the left with his tail held high and slightly curled.

Unfortunately, as I don’t already own a pet, it’s very unlikely that I will be housed anywhere that will accept him should I want to adopt him. Shelter (the homeless charity) have advised that I get my GP and the dog’s charity to write statements about how important it is to my mental health that I be allowed to adopt this lovely boy.

I’ve done two of the four required visits before I can adopt. Two more and (providing I have a suitable home) I can take him home for a four week trial period to make sure we’re a good match. This is all that’s keeping me from completely giving up right now, honestly. I promised him when I met him that I would do everything I could to take him home with me, and look at that face! Could you break a promise to that beautiful pair of eyes?

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