Homeless During COVID-19: “I Wash My Hands, If I Can Find Water. I Don’t Want to Die.”

WDET’s Laura Herberg spoke to Jerome Driskell, a man currently experiencing homelessness who has been squatting in abandoned houses during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home” order. Listen to his story.

I’ve been out here for about a week. 

Staying away from people, right about now. I was in an abandoned house, it was city-owned. They came in and just shut it down. I had the lights on illegally, I felt like I was living good!

But you never know, you can be up one minute, down next minute. I’m going to make it though.

“I wash my hands, if I can find water. I keep some soap, and I try to wash my hands and face at all times.”

Right now, I’m just riding around trying to keep warm. That’s what a lot of people are doing, riding the buses, trying to keep warm. Sometimes the bus drivers can be rude if they know that’s what you’re doing. You wait for the next one, and just keep going around, keep going. Then go to a shelter and get you something to eat or something.

I called the shelter to get in but all the shelters are crowded.

I’ve got a little abandoned house I found, I’m going to go in, I’ve got a blanket, cover up and keep warm. If it was warm, it would be no problem. But it’s kind of chilly, dropping down to 32.

You can’t cook or regularly eat, I lost about 30 pounds. I don’t have no stove or refrigerator, so I have to go in these little gas stations and buy a hot sandwich. They’re $4 or $5, and all you get is like $200 on your Bridge Card. In about two or three weeks, it’ll be gone. 

I wash my hands… if I can find water. I keep some soap, and I try to wash my hands and face at all times. I keep my gloves on. You see, I got a mask on. I don’t want to die, like the next man.

Hopefully, this plague will be over. I don’t know when it’s going to be over, but hopefully it will be over.

But you’re just trying to survive, what can you do?

Jerome Driskell is currently transient and moving between abandoned houses during the coronavirus pandemic. This is his experience as told to WDET and edited for clarity.

Click on the player above to hear his story in his own words.

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  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.