Jewel Says She Almost Died When She Was Homeless Because ER Wouldn’t Take Her

Jewel revealed that she almost died once when she was homeless because the ER wouldn't take her. David Livingston/Getty Images

Pieces of her past. Jewel opened up about her experience being homeless and living on the streets in an interview on Friday, Oct. 9, and revealed a near-death experience that changed her life.

“I almost died in an emergency room because they didn’t see me because I didn’t have [health] insurance,” she told “Thankfully, a doctor had seen me get turned away. I was dying of lead poisoning and he gave me some antibiotics and saved my life.”

Not that everything immediately got better from there, however.

“But then, the car I was living in got stolen,” she continued. “And when you don’t have a physical address, much less of an education, it’s very, very difficult to get a job and break that poverty cycle.”

The 41-year-old Alaska native has been very open about her hardships in the earlier part of her career, including the tussle with her boss that left her jobless and homeless after she refused to sleep with him.

“For me, the hardest thing was being treated as if I was sub-human — as if I didn’t matter,” she said of being homeless before her big break with her debut album, 1995’s Pieces of You. “I remember washing my hair at a bathroom sink in a Denny’s, and I was using the hand towels to dry my hair. And people looked at me like I was absolutely disgusting. I wanted to yell at them and say, ‘I’m human! I may not have a house, but I matter!’”

It made her more determined to change her life and push to make her music dreams a reality. And now, the “Hands” singer is choosing to channel her rough childhood into other positive projects.

Her upcoming album, Picking Up the Pieces, which she likens to “having a conversation with [her] 18-year-old self,” will include some songs that she wrote during those difficult moments.

And her work with ReThink, an organization dedicated to changing perception about public housing and homelessness, aims to show the public another side to the homeless stereotype.

“There are stigmas that these people are lazy, or don’t work, or do drugs,” she said, adding, “I don’t want anyone thinking happiness is beyond their reach because they don’t have the right job or economic background, or a home.” 

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