Homelessness, doctoral-level intellect, starvation, mind games, pride, torture--all come to the fore as a middle-aged Ph.D. confronts homelessness in Philadelphia. Will she overcome the trials that beset her or will her faith be sacrificed?
Dr. Ni's Author Spotlight
Dr. Niama L. Williams writes books that describe her life to give others reassurance that their thoughts, perceptions and feelings are not abnormal, insane or unique. In this text, she tackles the bear of homelessness as a Ph.D. with no job and no savings. Her armor thickened only by faith and 11 published books under her belt, she takes on the women and leaders of Sheila Dennis House and barely survives, yet leaves ennobled, empowered, and sure that she will never run away from a fight again.
Niama Leslie Williams, Ph.D.
Copyright January 2011
The night is dark and the prison bars firmly in place. I have done nothing other than love a man who did not want to marry me, refuse work that would not satisfy me, adequately compensate me, or would rob me of the night hours for writing time. I am tired of beating my head against the economic dragon for I live a life behind bars simply because I am homeless and unemployed.
This afternoon I wrestled verbally with a prison guard—that is what they have become since Ms. J-----‘s departure—about the taking of my medication.
I have no rights here, few privileges. I am awakened Monday through Friday at 6:30 a.m. and must be out of my room—shared with nine others—by 9 a.m. Breakfast is 7:45 til 8:30, and the med line opens at 8 and closes between 8:30 and 9.
We are to shower every day—EVERY day—dress professionally or business casual, and be out of our rooms til 4 p.m. Saturdays we get to sleep til 7 a.m. and stay in our rooms til 10—for GI—cleaning our rooms top to bottom for ten o’clock inspection. Sunday is the only day we can sleep—unless you are a churchgoer. Sunday we can lounge if we’re willing to diss the Lord.
I have lost interest in dissing the Lord because He is about to deliver me from this place. I did not win the fight about medication; I simply withdrew and didn’t take my meds for a few days. The idea that I have no choices in this environment drives me to drink sometimes, and sometimes I rebel. We are to take meds 7:45 til whenever they decide to close the line after breakfast; noon til whenever they close it after lunch; 4 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Because I write until late in the evening (after coming in for ten o’clock curfew) or stay up sitting in quiet prayer til wee hours of the morning, I struggle to get up for 8:30 med line. In short, I don’t get up for 8:30 med line. I struggle to wake up between 8 and 8:30, and my objective is to get showered and dressed so that I am safely out of the room by 9 a.m. Most mornings I’m not out until 9:30, sometimes 9:45, thus meds at 8:30 is just not my priority. My nighttime prayer and quiet time is that vital to my sanity, as is the writing I often do, seated in the bathroom in the late hours—when my roommates don’t complain about the bathroom light keeping them too cold because of the sucky non-heating system in the building.
So being pressured to take meds at a restrictive time, instead of ask for them when I am ready to leave the building for the day between 9:30 and ten o’clock as I always had been doing until the new sheriff came to town, was just not going to happen. Instead of arguing further with Ms. C----- I simply retreated and didn’t take meds for a few days. Let them write me up; I’d risk it.
Now, today, I am joyous as I anticipate departure. I have waited, waited patiently for God to move, and now He is granting me such blessings that I have no adequate cup to hold them. I asked Him, repeatedly, Lord, what am I doing wrong? when finances refused to work out for Joseph and I in Norristown. We separated and I continued to not do well, remained unemployed and scraping by on cash assistance and food stamps.
Then God took away the chiropractor who wanted me to ghostwrite her book and introduce me to all of her connections as well as the entrepreneur who wanted me to be her administrative assistant as she built her third company. When those two situations blew up in the very same week, I realized God was clearly communicating I was to hide behind no one else; I must step forward and claim the intuitive counseling practice that He’d given me the talent and inclination for and stop futzing around. I was to take the leap of faith, email my friend Daniel, tell him what I needed in a building, and let him work.
It took me almost three weeks, but I finally followed God’s instructions, holding my breath. I was so afraid of what Daniel would think: me, looking for a building with no clients, no money, nor any visible means of income. Yet he was receptive; remembered how determined I was to help high school students in Norristown and now focused on women in shelters and on public assistance in Philadelphia. He saw right through, via email and phone, to who I was, saw the burning spirit of the Lord deep within me anxious and aching to get out and manifest.
The spirit of the Lord determined that North Philadelphia and its residents would not remain unchanged; that we would go in and we would convince people that yes, you can have and do the work of your dreams. Wendy’s does not have to be your future, neither does Walmart.
I emailed him and he accompanied me to my second meeting with the Philadelphia President of SCORE. Poor Mr. C----- was still adjusting to 44 counselors under his purview and had not had time to read the two business plans I had submitted, nor the request for support he had also asked that I compose. Nevertheless, Daniel got in there and proposed a church he knew of with a school attached that was not currently being used. Nervously I texted him the week after the meeting to ask if he’d need two or three weeks to check with the priest in charge. He calls that Saturday and says the priest initially said yes, though he was away at a meeting in Florida and would have to speak with Daniel in detail when he returned to the city.
A week, a week and a half since I began this story of frustration and rebellion and God has already turned all of the tables. Today I asked for my medication, prepared for battle, and received nothing but accommodation. This weekend I shall be honored by a friend’s organization, a group of deeply powerful spiritual women who are religious leaders, for greeting my life of challenges and continuing to let the light of God within me shine and shine brightly.
The father has intimated that I may move into the rectory at the church currently not in use, and wants to know what other space I might need for my programs. The wonderful friend who set this up, gorgeous Daniel, may want me to ghostwrite his story of coming up from welfare and struggle in North Philadelphia to heating and air company ranked 4th in the state.
When one finally lets God have control of one’s life, when one truly lets Him have the reins and becomes willing to wait on the Lord to move, ah, be ready when the Holy Father puts the petal to the metal! He will always stun you with what He puts in place if you wait on Him and don’t try to control and manipulate and get involved in machinations.
Only the Holy Father knew that deep within my spirit I was wishing I could find a way to live among those within a religious community because I ached for an environment in which I could go into the church and pray at any time, not just for the small window of mass allowed at St. John’s.
Answered prayer. Garth sings about unanswered prayer, but tonight I write about prayer not even uttered that God brings forth into reality. Concrete reality. Glory be, all praise to Him, and hosanna to the highest!!!!!