There are a lot of misconceptions and stigmas around homelessness that need to be shut down. Contrary to popular belief, not all homeless people are there because of “blowing rent money on drugs and booze.” In fact, many are just average people trying their best, going through a rough time. The top causes for homelessness are lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, and domestic violence. Some might think, “Well just get a job.” but nearly 50% of the American homeless population are, in fact, employed. Having a job doesn’t make you immune to the risk of homelessness.
Maintaining a job without having the amenities of a home is incredibly difficult. Charm fades more with each day you spend sleep deprived, unwashed, hungry, dehydrated, cold, and exposed. Of course, how likable you are also heavily determines what benefits and help you get. Gender, race, education, and physical abilities heavily influence how kind or uncaring people will be. (If you aren’t comfortable giving money, but still want to help, try giving socks, blankets, hygiene products, and food. Volunteer and get active in your local homeless outreach programs.) “Just stay in a shelter. The government can help.” Government programs aren’t really that helpful. For instance, with food stamps, a majority of the food available needs to be cooked and prepared. Not an easy task when you don’t have a stove. Also, most shelters are dangerous and filthy. Shelters are hot spots for theft, bed bugs, and lice. Not to mention, most are severely overcrowded. Unless you get there before 5pm, all of the beds are likely full.
For many, the safest bet is finding refuge in well lit places that are open 24/7 - for me that was Walmart and laundromats. For food, some grocery stores usually have lots of samples on the weekends, and with the crowds, it’s easier to get a little extra. For internet access, libraries, McDonalds, and Starbucks were helpful to me. And for showering/hygiene, try to get into gyms, truck stops, or hotels.
If you have ever been homeless, please share some insight into that experience. What do you wish people knew about homelessness, and what tips do you have for others in that situation?