Living on Faith

My fall from middle class to homelessness


I have been without a home for a year now. Calling myself “homeless” upsets some of my friends. “You’re not really ‘homeless’,” they say uncomfortably. “You’re not living under a bridge or pushing around a shopping cart.” True enough. However, I don’t have a home. I scramble for the occasional housesitting job and couch-surf the rest of the time.

After years as an executive director of nonprofit agencies, most of my belongings are now in storage. The things I really need to feel like myself—clothes, music and boom box, spiritual books, belly dancing gear and Pilates mat—is in my unregistered 16-year-old car.

I have no income and don’t qualify for unemployment, which is another story. I have borrowed money from almost everyone I know, and currently have about $4 to my name. No bank account, no credit cards, no husband, no family.All that is true, and yet I’m sitting in a beautiful park right now, looking at ducks in the pond as they stretch, quack and splash. They seem content. I hear teenagers loudly talking, “You know what would be hella sick? To lay down turntables all over here and play all day!” I smile at their exuberance.

The sky is blue. I ate a healthy meal earlier, and I am going to get a massage later, a trade I’m doing with a friend. When I breathe in and feel my body, my feet are warm, hands a little stiff, and I inhale sweet honeysuckle as the soft breeze rustles the life around me.

Even without a man, home, money or job, I am still happy. I recall that as a child I wanted to be a saint and, later, a movie star. I wanted to be extraordinary, to perform miracles, to prove love was the most transformative energy in the universe. I wanted to have the sweet smell of enlightenment surround me, or short of that, a lot of Chanel No. 5.

Perhaps that is what I am becoming: the movie star of my own life, and a miracle worker facing the truth of having nothing but faith.

Michele Rocha is a former nonprofit executive director in Sonoma County and is since back on her feet as an administrative assistant—with a home.