The Illusionist

May 19 2014

Ethan won the Listserve lottery; he generously gave me the opportunity to use it to tell my story.

I’m French and homeless since 3 years. If you meet me, you wouldn’t even guess as I’m a pretty good illusionist: you might think I’m going to the airport for business with my suitcase following me everywhere. You might even envy my styles! Perfect hygiene is dignity…

I graduated a master degree in marketing in my 20s’ and immediately got my first job. For 10 years I worked for famous brands and even if it was not well paid, I was very happy about it as I’m from a very low class family. Everything was going well until the 2008 financial crisis. I got fired and couldn’t find another marketing job. No choice to change my career orientation: I became a fashion retail store manager. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, it was very badly paid, luxury brands are the worst - but still, it was paying for the rent.

I don’t know why but I entered a bad life cycle: that same year, my flat had been robbed twice in a row, administration lost my social security number files and I started to have health issues. If being robbed really helped clearing up some space in my studio, not having a valid social security number anymore gave me a very hard time! It is required to have a legal job, public health assistance, health insurance and basically, everything that involves administration.

It happened that I needed medical care for transit issues: my body processes very little food. Many times I had to go to the emergencies in the middle of the night to get ‘fixed’. Each time, I paid without health assistance reimbursing. I went out of money very quickly and had the bank paying for the medical bills while I was dealing with the administration to solve this ‘out of control’ problem. My health got worse. I lost my job. Without any social security number, no indemnity.

You do the math: I couldn’t reimburse my bank and its charges, I couldn’t pay for my medical fees, rent, charges, phone, transport, food, etc. I applied for the ‘bankruptcy status’ to get a chance to start over but I was denied this status because of the social security number missing. I fought for months…


I remember closing the door of my flat, walking down the stairs of my building. It was around 4am. I was leaving everything behind because I had no one to help me moving my stuff out and that I failed in selling them. I put the keys in the mailbox and walked down random streets with this visceral fear I had nowhere to go.

I went to many organizations that are meant to help. They have their priorities and without this number I can’t get any financial help. My only options are to be an illegal worker as I don’t give up on my dream of having a tiny house lost in the mountains. When no job, I spend hours in public libraries, the remaining time is about finding a safe place to sleep.

I turned 34 three days ago. When homeless, friends tend to forget you.

Write back through Ethan email address. Share your positive vibes, your favorite songs, favorite books.

Ethan Reeves
[email protected]

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