Dec 21 2011

In November, 2011, I joined BlogHer.com and haven’t looked back. What fun to be a member of a blogging community that shares life, love and bad things, too! This post by “Dorid,” written last January really stopped me in my tracks. What heartfelt advice. And…how nice to have a list in case something happens and heads are not clear. Just get out this post and start plodding ahead…

BlogHer.com’s “Dorid”

How to Prepare for Homelessness

I’m no stranger to homelessness. Sadly, so many people are too familiar with it these days. Battered women, families who’ve lost their income, men who’ve lost their jobs of 25 years and have searched until their unemployment has run out to no avail.  The economy and the social situation in this country seem tailor made to result in homelessness.

In my case, it’s merely red tape.  I’ve been out of work as a result of chronic illness (Lupus) for years, and rely on my social security and housing grants to make ends meet, but this month I was faced with a clash between the apartment complex and the Housing Authority that threatened to leave me without shelter.  As I went about making arrangements to be homeless, I realized that there were a number of things that could be done to minimize the impact of homelessness and make it more likely to be a temporary rather than chronic situation.  For some, homelessness becomes a trap.  I wasn’t about to let it become a trap for me and my family.

 How to Prepare for Homelessness

1. Sort through all your papers. Know what’s really important: ID, legal records, school records, social security and insurance information top the list. There are also some publication-ready critiques I have taken out of my file cabinet (which is now empty) and into a small carry-file.

2. Sort through any possessions that have sentimental value. This one is harder for me. The last time I was without shelter, I at least had my car. Last time I was without shelter was when the girls and I moved from Buffalo to Florida in ’03. Our car broke down a few weeks before the move, and we had to sort everything into three suitcases. I’m afraid we could be there again.

3. Figure out how much you can reasonably carry. There’s a reason you see so many homeless with shopping carts. When I had a van, I was able to keep things like the TV, dishes, and small appliances. If I’m out on New Years Day, I won’t have room for any of those things.

4. Which brings me to the next must: Maximize your carrying space. Rolling suitcases, small shopping/laundry carts and the like increase what you can save. It also makes it more tiring to carry and drag around.

5. Know where the motels, shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries are, and what you need to have/ do to get in. If you’re looking for a shelter, call in advance to find out when they start to line up and if you need some sort of referral to get in. Also make sure that you know what ages and genders they take. Some places only take families, some only children, some only men, and so on. Try to plan around breaking up families… that part might be hard.

6. Have transportation. Get a monthly bus pass. Some agencies will provide them for the homeless. Sometimes, however, any money you get should go toward transportation. Having mobility means having choices.

7. Don’t LOOK homeless. Looking homeless is looking vulnerable. If you look like you’re shopping (or on vacation) by staying clean and fairly well dressed, you’re less likely to be harassed or robbed, and it’ll be easier to impress prospective landlords.

8. Put your money in a roof. Most landlords want to see you pay no more than 1/3 of your income in rent. Let’s face it: Hotels cost a lot more than that, and so do most apartment homes in decent neighborhoods… at least if you’re on Social Security. That doesn’t mean YOU have to agree to that. I’ve paid 1/2 of my monthly income in rent before, and more than that on a few occasions. The thing is, if a landlord lets you in with that little income, he’s more likely to be a slum lord type. If you’re well-dressed and well-spoken, however, you can sometimes convince some of the nicer places to allow you to rent despite the risk.

9. Prepare to be homeless longer than you think. Stupid people think that being homeless means you live cheaper. Unfortunately that’s not true. Hotels on cold nights when you can’t get a place, or buying a tent or the like: those get expensive. Only people who have no income will lie under a bridge in below freezing weather. The rest of us spend most of our income keeping our kids warm and bathed. A sleazy hotel with the basics costs about $200- $250/week, almost twice the rent for a studio here. Saving money when you’re homeless is a lot tougher than most people think.

10.
Join a gym. OK, this sounds counter-intuitive. Some gyms have free short term memberships. Some insurance has free memberships included. Being a gym member means free hot showers and bathrooms.

11. Find a home for your animals. Pets don’t do well on the road, although most homeless I know take better care of their dogs than they do themselves. Cats, birds, and other pets don’t do as well on the streets as dogs might, and shelters don’t take animals. Long term stay hotels may or may not take pets. Best to look forward if you’re at risk for homelessness and find a good place for your pet in advance.

12. Find something to do besides sit on the street corner with a sign. (That will just get you arrested anyway). Volunteer. After all, you’ve got no where else to go, and doing something good for others will keep your mind off your own plight. It’s also important to keep relationships with individuals. Humans are social animals, and being homeless can be isolating.

13. Pack mostly what you need NOW. That means you don’t need to be using up valuable space in your cart or suitcase for that cute little swimsuit if it’s January. You can worry about finding another cute little swimsuit in summer.

14. Keep your cell phone on. Communication is almost as important as shelter. You’re going to find home searches a lot easier with a working phone. If you’re looking for work, having a phone is vital. Go to a cheaper plan, or go to one of those local carriers if you have to, but keep the lines of communication open.

15. Remember to pack your self esteem. Being homeless can happen to anyone, especially in this economy. And yes, it’s going to be crushing and painful and stressful and ugly. But if you go into it feeling defeated than you’re beaten, and it’ll be harder to get back up. Remember, you do NOT deserve this, and you’re worth better. Keeping that in mind will help you get through this, and will be invaluable when it comes to negotiating homeless services or acquiring a new home.


Dorid’s post is so poignant and direct. When hardship happens, direct is good, because many decisions have to be made quickly.

Dorid regularly posts at her blog, The Radula. I love her sharp wit, displayed in even the name of her blog. A radula, she explains with the illustrated panache of National Geographic, “…is a rasping, flexible tongue-like organ in the mouth of gastropods.”

 

To donate to Dorid use:

DONATE VIA PAYPAL

Please note: PayPal now disallows the use of the “donate” button except for registered NFPs with tax exempt status. Please select the “Personal” tab, then select “Gift” and use the email address doridoidae@gmail.com

Thank you!

 



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Dec 17 2011

 

Being proactive to initiate change for the better
while being patient enought to wait until things
change
is the homeless person’s balancing act.

Homeless people, and their increasing numbers, have
been largely ignored by mainstream media. Now the
problem is so noticeable, coverage is more frequent.

InvisiblePeopleTV is a YouTube Channel that profiles
homeless people, giving them a face and a voice
reminding us that many are just one paycheck away.

Here, in New Jersey, homeless folks living in a camp,
sometimes for months and years, discuss their
situations and what led to their predicaments.

You can see each person has a story to tell and value as a human spirit. Listening to these dialogues makes me feel so fortunate. In addition, I can’t help but think we can learn from each person profiled in these news clips. Many of us are just one medical emergency away from joining them. Never forget that most bankruptcies are filed due to inability to pay medical expenses and not because of spending beyond one’s means.

A contemporary book author, Chet W. Sisk, was a successful entrepreneur of an advertising agency. Suddenly things changed, as they often do, and he lost everything. Mr. Sisk began volunteering at a homeless shelter and claims that’s where his second life began. His book, “Seven Steps to Success: I Learned from Homeless People” is not only an informative eye opener, but also a reference for making it through difficult times.

SUMMARY: This is the journal of what happened to one man who hit rock bottom and lived to tell the lessons learned, the insight gained, and the visions revealed after spending time with homeless people. This is the true story of a man who lost the world and gained his soul.

To preview this book that will change your outlook, hover over this link:

Seven Steps to Success: I Learned from Homeless People

Two articulate Amazon reviewers give us heartfelt praise for “Seven Steps to Success: I Learned from Homeless People:”

“This thoughtful work should be read by those fortunate enough to have a place to call home and by those looking to find that place. Read this book first, all the way through, marking your favorite pages and passages. Return to the book for inspiration, strength and courage. Looking to conquer a challenge? Do so with “love and light” in your heart – and with the thoughtful advice you’ll find in this book.”

“A book about more than the physical state of homelessness. “Self empowerment, letting go, and moving forward”. Chet encourages you to look within, while allowing you to reflect on how you got there without placing blame or guilt. Chet offers tools for self exploration at the end of each chapter while encouraging you to find the lesson in each life’s event. The stories as told by the homeless helped to offer some insight into their plight. Well written and thought provoking.”



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Jan 08 2011

What a glorious story of being homeless while holding
out with hope and a positive attitude.

 

It was an inspirational moment when I viewed this first video on YouTube.com last week.  What a neat person and what a story. But, as the week went on, the story and the video’s posting on YouTube got better and better. This is a perfect example of keep love in your heart, knowing what you want, visualizing it and making it happen. Seeing this was a great way to begin the New Year. See what you think!

 



Standing on a street corner with a sign advertising
his abilities has changed Ted William’s life. He has
gone from homeless to famous, literally overnight.

 


CBS and the Today Show both picked him up and
interviewed him giving him more national exposure,
a new job and a new home!



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Dec 06 2010

 

In the best of situations, children will see
living outside of four walls as an “adventure,”
depending on the attitude of their caretaker
adults and the level of deprivation.

For most Americans, the deep poverty of homelessness has always been an “other world” phenomenon. It was something that happen “over there” when we used to read about children living on the street in India or begging for pennies in what we use to consider “third world countries.” It was something that we associated with being mentally ill, perhaps, people who “didn’t fit in” to the regimentation of having a regular job and living in a regular way. “Bums” we called them to separate ourselves from them even further, as if the warm bed we could return to at night wasn’t enough.

Now, however, many of us are being taken down a peg as we realized that, “but for the grace of G-d, go I.” People who fit in “just fine” to the system of regular jobs and regular houses are being left high and dry financially so that, all of a sudden, their regular jobs are gone and their regular house soon follows. It’s a shock. Hard to understand that we don’t have a right to own what we consider is ours.

So, now with new foreclosures and all sorts of financial losses, people who used to point fingers at those who are poverty stricken are realizing, well, gee, it can happen to anybody. It happened to me. Truly nothing is promised to us and we must learn to survive losing what we consider most dear.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness was working on helping those without a permanent address before the housing crisis and economic crunch. Now, they are in full swing easing the burden of many at every level of society and ranging from rural to urban locations. The National Alliance to End Homelessness web site has many visual aids to demonstrate the numbers and locations of homeless persons to better assess the need. For instance, this pie chart shows the geographic distribution of homeless in the United States.

Here is a Shelter Calculator that assists social workers with the relationships between shelter demand, length of stay, and minimum required shelter bed inventory. Wow! So much to think about for all those people needing comforting.

Homeless people, like any other group of individuals have varying talents and abilities when it comes to digging deep within their spirits and summoning up the endurance to pull through hard times.  A positive attitude sure helps as you can see from this woman named Pat Peplin. She wrote a song about Living at Walmart. Not only is the tune catchy, but hey, if I ever have to look to a homeless future, I’ll go live with Pat. I know where to find her. Does the National Center to End Homelessness have a geographic locator for Walmart parking lots?

Pat Peplin sings her ballad with
an endearing sense of humor.

WOW! Just what I need to find Pat! A WALMART ATLAS. If things get much worse, I’m a coming, Pat. Leave a light on!

All those who want to go live with Pat Peplin, hover your mouse over this link to preview the Pat Peplin locator:

Wal-Mart Atlas



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Nov 16 2010

It seems many homeless people have pets to
cuddle for mutual warmth and comfort.

Homeless. If you live in any kind of urban setting, you must have seen homeless people. People who live on the streets, trying to figure out how to survive another day obtaining the basics of food, water and shelter. The indigent poor and the “by choice” freedom seekers: there have always been those who lived outside of society’s demands for a regular job. There have always been those that preferred the freedom to choose a living experience, even if that selection lacked security and comfort. Now, however, the numbers have increased significantly and the face of homeless people has changed. In addition to those who might be considered a little off beat, we find families with children experiencing urban survival in its rawest form.

Homeless is like old age. You can’t begin to know what it is like until you have experienced it, stared it in the face and realized, up close and personal, it has happened to you. Homeless is something that happens to others, until you realize, putting two and two together, that with the mortgage crisis, you are just a stone’s throw away yourself. Not a pleasant feeling. And the belief that friends and family will sustain you in your crisis lasts only as long as the last phone call telling you they have problems of their own and “can’t help right now, maybe later.”

The prospect is startling. The realization daunting and the means to remedy the situation can be illusive and far in the future. Where at one time, I, myself, would have thought homeless people unconditionally mentally ill, without direction and just plain “should have planned better,” now I have a compassion that daily reminds me, “There, but for the grace of G-d, go I.”

In today’s economic climate, it is good to consider the possibility of being homeless, yourself. Whereas, in better times, it was pro-active to plan for only vacations and retirement, now it is also prudent to examine the “what if” of being without shelter or the means to feed oneself and one’s family. Even if your mortgage is paid in full, the possibility of bio-hazards and social upheavals cycle the options closer than ever before. It is better to think of solutions and alternatives before you need them and figure you never will, than the other way around. As my Marine husband was taught in Boot Camp at Parris Island, S.C.: “It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.”

With all of this in mind, why not examine the situation for yourself, as it relates to you? And, for those of you who can relate, all too well, to what I am talking about, let this be your guide that you are not alone and have a compassionate ear leaning toward you. Discussing possibilities and options will familiarize you with realities while leaving you better prepared, should things turn out unpleasantly.

For an introduction, here is The Shelters and Soup Kitchens Directory listing facilities in the United States offering aid and sustenance to those who need it. You will surely find a facility near you. And, now being proactive about your own possible homelessness, you might want to consider donating goods, services, time or money to insure life saving options are there, should you ever need them.

A compassionate trucker interviews a homeless couple.

To preview this moving book, hover your mouse over this link:

The Visible Poor: Homelessness in the United States



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Nov 04 2010

Successfully living in a car is a result of attitude
and how one feels about it. Do you see it as a shameful
humbling? Or a temporary adventure with a positive resolution?

There are free spirits that love living on the move. They avoid any fixed address, always looking for the new adventure just around the next bend. Then, there are those “not so free” spirits that find they have no other choice when life changes happen and live in their vehicle because it is the only address they still own and have a right in which to stay.

It has to be unsettling to the “not so free spirits” to find that, for one reason or another, they haven’t a bed to sleep in for the night, or even, sometimes, a roof over their head. Those who have vehicles realize that they can sleep in the car, SUV or van “to get through” until things ease up. Without a second thought they take to the road, intent on living in their vehicle, but not realizing that any unfamiliar living space has its requirements and, in this case, literally has its “rules of the road.”

Having been a Girl Scout, I think it is wise to be prepared and consider the mobile apartment options before the need strikes. That way, small necessities can be gathered to insure an easier transition to the sometimes fishbowl life of vehicular living. But, hey! Why listen to me when the voice of experience beckons from the other side of the Internet. Let me introduce you to Chris Damitio, author of Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond when he says:

"I've found that parking in secluded areas is almost always a mistake. The best places to park are places where there are people around and plenty of vehicles moving in and out all the time. I've parked in cul-de-sacs and had people report me to the police because it was "suspicious" to see a car parked there. Oddly, I've parked in residential neighborhoods where I didn't know a soul for weeks on end and no one thought anything of it. I suppose they all thought I knew someone they didn't know. My bus was robbed behind the liquor store in Fairhaven. (If the thieves want to return the disks with my photos and writing on them you can send them to the Bellingham Weekly.)"

Now, that’s the type of practical advice I’m talking about. Good to know the ins and outs of mobile street living. For instance, one should be aware that some municipalities have ordinances prohibiting sleeping in cars, while other areas, such as large box stores almost encourage sleepers and their vehicles. Always good to know where you’re not welcomed and where you can expect the welcome mat out.  Becoming descerning in one’s choice of a rest stop is far easier than rousing up half asleep to the shine of an police officer’s flashlight in your face. And, wouldn’t you know they are always snooping around right before the alarm goes off?

So, now that I have introduced this concept of transient living, both with and without choice, let me introduce you to a range of experienced viewpoints. “Johnnomads” has made a YouTube video for your information and delight, while Craig S. Roberts has written a book and has a web site:

In this YouTube video by user johnnomads, a love
for mobile living is shared by someone who says
he is “houseless, but not homeless,” by choice.”

If you are considering living in your car, whether
for fun or necessity, you might be interested in
this book of practical observations by Craig S. Roberts.
If so, to preview, just hover your mouse over the link:

Ten Consecutive Years Living In Cars: Living, Traveling, Camping, Attending College and Performing Surveillance in Cars—and Loving It!

Or go and enjoy his web site.



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Oct 22 2010

 

Sadly, the number of homeless people is increasing

When one thinks of homeless people, it is easy to understand the level of poverty putting a person on the the streets would cause extreme hardship. Food, water, bathing and so many other things that we take for granted become luxuries. But, I did not understand the danger of living in such an unprotected manner, just out in the world without shelter. I never dreamed that aggressive individuals would feel a need to harm and physically abuse those in such a miserable, vulnerable position. Here in Maryland, we had a homeless man killed where he slept in the grassy, wooded area of a highway cloverleaf.

As Brian Levin, advisor to the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and director of the California-based Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, states in the article below, “Homeless people have become a socially acceptable target of aggression.”

US Senate urged to act on rising attacks on homeless

WASHINGTON — The US Senate was urged Wednesday to require that violent attacks against homeless people be tracked and formally reported as hate crimes, which could lead to stiffer penalties for the perpetrators.

Senator Ben Cardin (Maryland) said he was “shocked and horrified” by reports of 43 homeless people killed in 2009 alone, compared to 27 murders a year earlier.

The victims were specifically targeted by their attackers, including cases in which people were strangled, beaten to death with bats or set on fire, experts and family members of the deceased told a Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing.

Cardin urged support for his “Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act” that he introduced a year ago that would allow authorities to track homeless attacks along with other hate crime categories such as race, religion and sexuality.

“The homeless, just because they’re homeless, are being victimized and that has to stop in America,” said Cardin, who chaired the hearing.

Acts designated as hate crimes lead to harsher punishments for those convicted. For example, a second-degree felony would become a first-degree felony, with a maximum sentence bumped from 15 to 30 years in prison.

To read the entire article, click here.

It is hard to imagine this would be a problem, with teenagers being the main protagonists and advertising their cruelty by posting videos of their cowardly conquests on YouTube, but that is where we are. Apparently it is happening all over the United States. Here is some coverage of the situation and then comments by those who are determined to stop the violence. To watch, click play:

Heartless cowards are beating up homeless people, sometimes to death.

 

Hard Lives, Mean Streets, just released in May, 2010, has a well documented look at the dangers to one of the United States’s most defenseless populations. If the subject interests you, hover your mouse over the link below to preview the book:

Hard Lives, Mean Streets: Violence in the Lives of Homeless Women (Northeastern Series on Gender, Crime, and Law)

 



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