OK – here’s the thing. I was homeless once. I’m not now, but could easily be again, I suppose…these days I think almost anyone could. For all those who thought I became a millionaire after writing books – so not true! We live paycheck to paycheck – just like most people.
Because I do a lot of speaking at events for the poor and homeless, I often get a lot of questions about the logistics of being homeless. How did I do things? How did I shower? How did we eat? How did we make it through?
The first thing you have to know about being homeless is this: It’s not the end of the world. No, really. It’s really terrible. Especially if you are in an unsafe situation…but it’s not the end. So, giving up and giving into hopelessness is not the way to go! The most important thing you can do when you are about to be homeless or are homeless is accept the situation for what it is.
Accept that you don’t have a place to live. Deferring the thought – or drinking your way through it – is not going to get you a place to live.
Now, when I first realized that I was going to spend an undetermined amount of time sleeping in my car, I took stock. What did I have? Did I need blankets or a pot to cook on or a lighter? It’s important to rid yourself of the crap that isn’t useful – I carried around a TV set for months…I still have no idea why.
Find your local social services office and apply for every type of emergency help you can get. If you are homeless, they can’t deny you food stamps, for example. I didn’t know this – and because they said I made too much money, I didn’t get them.
Talk to other homeless people. They will know where the food pantries, medical clinics, shelters and other helpful places are. I didn’t do this – I wish I had.
Truck stops are fantastic. You can get a shower and sometimes even rest for a bit in the lounge. Libraries and laundromats are also excellent, entertaining and warm.
If you can’t find a regular job, consider doing odd jobs…like lawn mowing or snow shoveling. You’d be amazed at how innovative you can be when you need cash.
Don’t be a victim. I know this is hard. And I certainly had my moments of self-pity…but letting that self-pity in can overwhelm you and take you to a dark place that’s hard to come out of.
Try to be “normal.” Well, at least as normal as possible. I used to take the kids for walks to the park and beach, to the library’s story time and even out for ice cream (once in a while). I tried very hard to pretend that we were just a normal mom and kids…you know what they say – “Fake it til you make it.”
Keep trying. At some point, you are going to want to give up. You are going to be sick of filling out forms, looking for a job or house or both and just plain sick of it. Don’t stop. In this you cannot fail. You must keep working to make your life what you want it to be.