Homelessness wasn't ever something I expected to be writing about, though why not? Let's help each other.
1. Seek Inner Peace Always
If you've ever been homeless or worked with anyone who is homeless, one of the biggest causes of it becoming a long-term crisis, is mental health related.
Before my sons and I ended up homeless ourselves, I did a fair amount of volunteer work in Seattle, doing outreach and things like soup kitchens for what was a fairly small homeless population at the time.
So as someone who has been on both sides of this fence, I can assure you that things like depression, anxiety, hopelessness, frustration, resentment, and bitterness can keep you homeless much longer than someone not struggling with those emotional issues.
Especially if you are either alone or you have to share space with kids or teens.
There are many reasons that people and families end up homeless, especially in this economy; and there will be many more reasons coming up as boomers continue to age out of the workforce and add to the falling economy.
Usually it's a combination of things that include career, physical health, mental health, and local and national economic dynamics.
Which don't necessarily get worse or better when you're homeless.
Many of the same problems you faced when you weren't homeless will be the same things you'll need to overcome when homeless.
You just have the added adventure of not knowing where you'll be able to safely shelter every night—especially if you're in a state like ours that kindly takes on refugees from all over the world, filling up the shelters in nearly every county.
There are so many things you might encounter when homeless, that are unknown and can test your mental health.
Which makes it even more important that you find a way to make your Emotional Home—the most consistent thing you feel—be Inner Peace and Gratitude.
That can be greatly helped by seeking therapy, mindfulness tools, and quiet places for meditation.
Thankfully many states and counties provide free mental health access these days.
Seek them out.
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They will help.
2. Talk About It
In American culture, it's very common to be conditioned to not talk about anything that could be seen as shameful or not "polite" conversation.
It's also very common for those of us who end up experiencing homelessness to end up homeless because we found ourselves in abusive familial and romantic relationships that we didn't talk about.
In being open about these experiences, you give people a chance to help you if they can and want to.
You will find that there are more people who won't help and will bury their heads in the sand; and yet nestled throughout the world are plenty of good people who do help.
That being said, of the people who can and want to help, the resources you'll need to get yourself up and out of homelessness once you're in will likely tap out the resources of even a handful of people.
And of the agencies tasked with helping homeless individuals, most of them are tapped out on resources.
So you need to get good at being social, and being open to talking honestly and easily about your situation.
Not just because you can't reach people who can and will help if you don't, but because there are plenty of people who will help you, but only after they test you out—with the most common test being the honesty and openness test.
Which makes sense.
I mean, can you imagine a friend or acquaintance coming to you and saying, "Can you please help me while I get out of homelessness without asking me anything about why I'm homeless or what's going on in my life?"
You'd think that person was crazy too.
The other importance of talking about your situation is about personal healing and acceptance.
Often we don't talk about the unhealthy situations we're in, because we haven't fully accepted we're in them and we're often not owning our own part in how we got into them.
In my own personal situation, I was surrounded by family and in-laws who were emotionally abusing me and my children.
It was hard to finally accept that they were sabotaging most every chance I had at successfully getting myself out of their house with my children, and into a stable career and living situation that wouldn't require any further unhealthy entanglements with anyone.
What was even harder to admit was that they weren't sabotaging me—I was sabotaging myself.
Not intentionally, obviously.
The truth is the truth, and the real importance of seeing and owning such a truth is that it allowed me to recognize that I had everything within me to succeed; so long as I stopped making excuses for not getting out of unhealthy situations where I was constantly falling and failing, just because I felt bad for others and felt morally obligated to stay.
At the point that I realized that in every step I grew and held myself accountable; going to therapy, exercising more (100 lbs. down!), correcting my credit, placing and holding healthy boundaries, and working a lot more, was creating contention and upset with unhealthy loved ones—and that it wasn't going to get better for them if I stayed in unhealthy cycles with them.
That's when it became clear that my children and I would soon be very literally homeless.
Abusive relationships of all kinds often promise you the world when you're enabling the drama triangles, and then quickly withdraw everything once you prove you won't engage in unhealthy behavior or abuse.
At that point, it was either a choice to go back into the abuse to avoid homelessness, or dive in headfirst and figure it out with the knowing that every step forward, through good times and bad, has a much higher chance of succeeding in cultivating a humble happy life, then I'd ever have if I stayed entangled.
Because I have two sons, that choice was less easy—homelessness alone; not a problem.
Homelessness with a teen and a young child; that's complicated.
Because they were also getting abused and neglected by those around us, and because I was failing as their parent by being wrapped up in what I've referred to as "pirate nonsense"—placation, manipulation, excuse-making, drama—I couldn't just blame everyone else and find a solution that helped my children have a healthier living situation.
The only way to do it was to create it.
And that meant creating it from scratch.
In order to do that, I had to be able to own my parts in the unfortunate situation.
Thankfully, as icky as it seemed like it would feel at first, to own what was mine to own in the mess actually felt very empowering.
I was able to feel what many famous self-help gurus talk about: the understanding that when you accept accountability for any situation you stay in—even if you didn't get into them consciously, knowingly, or even by any choice given to you (such as with adoptive or biological family—then you can accept that you have the power to get yourself out of those situations.
Accepting that years ago, and working towards living in that energy, helped me get out of abusive situations and get through homelessness by helping me release what's known as "learned helplessness."
So that when I talk about what's happened to me and my boys, I'm not doing so from a place of acting like my life won't ever get better unless others care for and support me.
When I talk about it, I don't treat it like it's ever a permanent reality of my life.
Because it isn't.
Because I won't allow it to be.
I wouldn't even if I didn't have children; though having two sons motivates and inspires me even more.
Not just to provide for their immediate needs; also to be aa good an example as I can be, of how to move gracefully through heavy situations and circumstances of all kinds, and come out into the light at the end of the tunnel with at least half a smile on your face and a decent sense of humor in your heart.
Which is another reason that talking about things is also important; especially if you have children with you.
Being able to own your parts, and talk about anything that's happened to you, will help ensure your kids can talk about hard things without shame and will grow up to be accountable through your example; resulting in them being more psychologically healthy and much less likely to end up homeless later themselves.
3. Get Resourceful
When everyone was too busy or too wrapped up in the own projections to help when I told them emotional abuse was turning into physical abuse; I turned to social media—Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and a few smaller sites.
When I couldn't get work, I retrained myself in several new career choices.
When we almost had to walk hundreds of miles off a blizzard ridden reservation with a 31-year-old cockatiel, I turned a backpack and a cat bed into a warm little cave.
Before I faced off with my family, I made sure I knew where safe parks were to sleep, with reasonable bathrooms and porta-potties.
I also made sure to gather as many small camping supplies as possible, just in case we ended up without even the shelter of a running vehicle.
When I was told by DSGS that working even just 10 hours per week meant no support and no food stamps, I reached out to food banks and started utilizing dollar store food better.
When rent was out of reach and the only arrangements I could afford meant wrapping myself up with hazardous new people, I found us a motorhome and paid off its price in manual labor.
4. Go Rural
Big cities might seem full of resources, but they typically aren't.
The more populated an area is, the bigger the local government is, and the less likely they'll have enough resources to help everyone—whose first thought is often to head to the big cities.
My boys and I have found that the further into rural areas we've gone, the more safe places there are too park and sleep undisturbed and the more work there is that can be gained the old-fashioned way—an in-person meeting and a handshake.
There's also less likely to be as many people seeking resources from local community assistance organizations, and often there are fewer NGOs and more locally funded organizations that do outreach for those experiencing extreme levels of poverty.
In all the years we lived in bigger cities, trying to stay above the poverty line and trying to get assistance to avoid ending up being homeless, I've found that being in rural areas has helped us far more then staying in or near big cities.
5. Get Survival Tools
Each situation is different, so you'll need to pick wisely for your situation. For myself and my sons, we've managed to be able to hold onto a car throughout homelessness, which has helped in terms of being able to store things.
That being said, when you're sleeping in a car with children and pets, you must be mindful of space and weight on the car.
You must also be mindful of what you'll be able to take with you if the vehicle ever cannot drive; a situation we've also been in a couple of times.
Some examples of useful survival tools that we've kept with us in all situations;
- A stroller: picked up from a buy nothing group that we can use to transport our pets and a few on-hand items.
- Blankets/sleeping bag
- Warm clothing
- A box knife
- Sanitary wipes and hand sanitizer
- Folding camping kitchen pans
- Cell phone chargers and a big power bank
- Jumper cables
- Can opener
- Flash lights
- 10mm socket and wrench
- Emergency camp fire starting kit
- A backpack
- A notebook (has saved us more times and in more ways then you might think)
- Small portable electric heater
- Extension cords
- Cooking accessories for long haul truckers that can be plugged into a cars 20 amp lighter outlet.
- Reusable cups
- Duct tape
- Super Glue
- Books to read
- Playing Cards
- Chess set
There are many tools that can make a difference in your time getting through homelessness.
Remember that you need more then just tools for shelter, eating, and elimination; you also want tools to help you play and find ways and time to enjoy yourself.
I know that might seem like a tall order when you're homeless or about to be, though it's even more important while you transition through such situations; it will help you maintain decent mental health, which is what will help you come out of homelessness and stay out of it.
Share Tools, Tips and Resources
These are not the only tools, tips and resources that can help you.
Though it is my sincerest hope that between now and the time I'm able to write more articles that you'll find some thoughts and ideas that can help you transition through and then out of homelessness easier.
It's already a challenging enough situation on its own; the least we can do is share information and help each other out.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
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