D.C. Native Gets Fresh Start After Years of Homelessness and Drug Addiction

Posted: May 6, 2013 by thehomelesspage in Uncategorized

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D.C. Native Eric Lynn Thompson stands in front of a downtown CVS he slept in front of for years while he was homeless

By Heather Curtis

46-year-old D.C. native Eric Lynn Thompson has slept in homeless shelters, parks, prisons and on top of subway grates, but until last November, he had never slept in his own place. After years of homelessness, Thompson’s childhood friend and his wife rented him their basement.  He moved in November 17, 2012, five days before his birthday.

“I can say this is my bed right here. I ain’t even gotta get out in the morning if I don’t wanna. That’s good. Like I said, I’ve never had my own place. Never had my own place,” Thompson said.

Thompson first became homeless in 1997, the day his family buried the sister who raised him. Thompson’s mom was killed when he was around 2-years-old. His dad died when he was nine, and one of his sisters took over parenting duties. The day of her funeral Thompson got into a blowout with another sister whose house he was living in at the time. When she kicked him out, Thompson went to a shelter for the first time in his life but quickly decided he would rather live on the streets.

“The reason I don’t like shelters is because people don’t have no respect for you. You don’t have no privacy. You don’t have no peace. I caught crabs, bedbugs, I caught all that in the shelters. So I told myself that I wasn’t go back to a shelter unless I really had to,” Thompson said.

So Thompson took his chances on the streets, but luck wasn’t with him. He wound up addicted to crack and marijuana and was sent to prison after committing what he refers to as a drug-related crime.

After being released from prison on September 16, 2011, Thompson was sent to a drug treatment program and then spent six months in transitional housing before finding himself homeless again.

In what seemed like a lucky break, Thompson’s brother invited him to live in a house he had in D.C. for $300 a month. But less than a week after moving in, he woke up to learn things weren’t as they appeared.

“I look out the window, I see a white guy in the backyard, and he look and he was like ‘is this 810?’ I was like ‘yeah.’ He said ‘what is you doin’ in there?’” Confused, Thompson called his sister-in-law who told him to leave out the back door. Thompson later learned the house never belonged to his brother. The stranger in the backyard bought it at auction the day before he moved in.

“My brother and his wife set me up like that.” Thompson said. “That was my brother and his wife did that to me.”

Broke and homeless again, Thompson crashed on his brother’s couch for a week before renting a room in a friend’s place.  When that didn’t work out either, his childhood friend and his wife offered him their basement for whatever price he could afford.

He now pays $100 a week for rent. Even though it’s not much, Thompson said it’s a struggle to make rent some months, even though he has income from selling Street Sense, a bi-weekly D.C.-based newspaper written and sold by the homeless under the guidance of professional writers. He used to sell  the newspaper before he went to prison, but back then he was only interested in the money, not the other benefits Street Sense provides for the homeless.

I look at it totally different now. I don’t look at it as just money, cause the money was for drugs. That’s where I was at. Now I meet a lot of people,” Thompson said.

And the relationships he’s making with his customers are helping him in many ways. When he got called for an interview for a temporary security job, he knew he needed a suit, but finding one that would fit his 6 foot 6 inch tall body would be a challenge. One of his customers gave him a suit that belonged to her extra tall husband.

Between his security work and income from selling Street Sense, Thompson is able to support himself.

“It’s still going good. I know it’s got some downfalls. I just gotta keep doin’ what I’m doin.’”

But doing that could be a challenge.

“I’m used to seeing bad things happen. You know everything going right, going right, going right, and I’m just expecting it’s gonna blow up any minute.”

Still, Thompson is trying to stay hopeful about the future.

“I walked past the guys on the grate the other night, you know what I said, cuz there was like five guys sleeping on the grate, and I used to do that. When I was leaving, I said God, please keep me on the path that I’m on now so I won’t have to sleep on these grates no more.”

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