I barely slept for the full two years I was homeless. One night, I searched for places to sleep in all the wrong places, including the top of a plastic slide in a playground. At about 3 a.m., I curled up on a portion of soft, thick grass. But an hour later, automatic sprinklers came on, drenching my feet. I sloshed to the edges of a wilderness park, where I finally found a generous-size wooden bench. I changed my socks and fell in and out of sleep for the next two hours, waking up to my own violent shivering.
Sleep deprivation haunts unhoused people, worsening the trauma that sometimes caused their unsheltered situations in the first place, as well as any mental and physical illnesses they have. Bobby Watts, chief executive officer of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, says that “sleeplessness in homelessness is a public health crisis.” more