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Five Easy Steps to Avoid Homelessness

Kawika Chann is an online writer who has worked with the homeless.

Many American families are just one tragedy away from homelessness.

Many American families are just one tragedy away from homelessness.

You May Be Closer to Being Homeless Than You Realize.

Sometimes we forget how easy it is to find yourself in a financial jam. If you live on your own and you're barely staying ahead of your bills, you could easily fall prey to being homeless. Even if you have a two-income family without a large savings parachute, it doesn't take much to offset the fragile balance.

Like so many families in America, you live paycheck to paycheck with little chance of putting together any kind of a savings plan. Families usually have a month's worth of income to live off of in case of an emergency—but that’s it. Their financial status is such that if one thing goes wrong—like if the car needs a new transmission—all reserve savings will be lost. If one of the wage earners loses their job, it will only increase the tension. The monthly bills keep coming, which means you'll have to scramble to make rent or mortgage.

This is a typical ‘homeless formula’. It's a myriad of mishaps and expenses that hit one after another, usually stemming from one major disruption like job loss, death, addiction, hospital bills, etc. until all your bills are behind and you find yourself facing your first homeless night.

The Homeless Numbers

For the nearly 600,000 Americans that were or are homeless in 2018, the formula is formidable. 17 people in 10,000 is homeless. The numbers could easily be doubled if it were not for families that have been ‘doubling up’ – two or three families to a home. For most families, doubling up is a blessing in disguise. The children can afford to save for their own home, and the parents get to spend time with their grandchildren. If you have this situation available to you, consider doubling up until you can increase your financial strength.

1. Avoid the Surprise of Being Homeless.

You should know that anyone can fall victim to homelessness. The trick is to take the necessary steps to avoid becoming a victim. If you fit the scenario above and understand that anything can happen in life, you will be further ahead than those that think "this will never happen to me."

You have to undergo a change of thought. You need to unscrew your pride and do anything you can to get through a hard time. If you look at how you can get the best bang for your buck now, it will be easier to keep your head above water later.

Remember, the first night of homelessness is terrifying for someone who has always had a roof over their head. Let this fuel your need to get your affairs in order.

A homeless hoarder on the move in the city.

A homeless hoarder on the move in the city.

2. Know Where You Stand Financially.

You should know exactly where you are financially—this means you should know how many expenses you have verses income every month. If your expenses come out to more than your income, you need to take your scissors out and start cutting the fat from your monthly bills.

Someone wiser than I once said, “If you’re in a hole... stop digging.” These are good words to live by. It means to stop spending any more money that will cause your expenses to outweigh your income. A common mistake struggling people make is that they are oblivious to their financial disposition. They don’t know where their break-even point is. They don’t know what their base average monthly expenses are in respect to their monthly cash flow.

When you know what your base monthly expense is versus what income you’ll make at the end of the month, you’ll be more apt to resist foolish spending. Just knowing what your numbers are will make you react more frugally to the sirens of the fast food restaurants and other unnecessary expenses.

3. Curb Your Spending Now (and Stop Eating Fast Food)

If you are eating fast food more than a few times a week, this is the best place to cut your spending. . .even if you’re eating off the $1 menu. If you are buying big meals and spending more than $10 at any given time, you definitely need to cut this out. Besides, the lack of nutritional value and harm that it does to your health could jeopardize your otherwise steady work income.

Cutting out fast food sounds like it shouldn't even be on this list, but it would surprise you to know how many fast food restaurants make bank from food stamp recipients. I don't know why people on food stamps or electronic benefits think that this is a better alternative to buying groceries and cooking.

It's a habitual problem that will feed you for a meal when that same money could feed you for a couple of days. You can easily make a dinner and have leftovers for the following day, or better still, leftovers for lunch at work. These are people on benefits that have limited funds but still have a roof over their head and the means to cook their meals.

If there is a dollar store near you, start looking at what you can get there instead of where you normally shop. Think about it. All the things that you normally buy— mouthwash, toothpaste, canned goods—could just cost you a buck instead of twice or three times that amount. If you have never looked at the dollar store as a main source of grocery or other needs, stop by one and take a look. Yes, the people that shop there are a little different from you. Wait, hold up—they’re the same as you. They all want to save more than they’re spending. Swallow your pride, get in, and get out.

It's time to ask yourself if you really need something before you buy it. Drive the speed limit and take care of your car's maintenance to avoid costly repairs. If you gamble, stop—this includes scratchers or sweepstakes that you pay for.

Reality Check

4. To Avoid Being Homeless, Cut Your Bigger Expenses

Your largest expense is usually your car payments or your rent/mortgage. If you rent, always be on the look out for a better deal. If you have a mortgage, consider if your home is the right size for you, or if it's more house than you need. In the past 10 years, people have fallen victim to buying “too much house" and have suffered the consequences. A small house is easier to clean, maintain, and unload in a quick-sale.

A larger house is harder to afford, harder to maintain, and harder to rent or sell. Consider your options when downsizing to a smaller house, or depending where you are financially (gulp), consider letting your home go if you are drowning in mortgage payments. This is a hard decision to make, especially if it’s your first home.

It depends on where you are financially. That will dictate how much of a sacrifice you need to make. Consider professional advice at this point—you can easily find a plethora of free non-profit services that can assist you in getting all the information you need to make an informed decision.

Your car payment can be looked at in the same way. In addition, think about your insurance—if you are not bundling your car, home, and life insurance, find out how you can save by doing this. Start making calls and keep a journal of things that you need to do to get your expenses under control.

The comfort of a few good friends.

The comfort of a few good friends.

5. Start Saving Today

With every check you deposit, you need to add to your savings. As soon as you have a handle on your bills, incorporate a habit of paying yourself first. Try to accumulate at least six months' worth of income as fast as you can. The peace of mind in knowing that you have the financial backing for six months should an emergency occur will give you the time you need to ensure you land on your feet. Once you reach your six-month savings target, you can consider investments, retirement funds or other needs that you or your family have put off.

The more you are in tune with your finances, the more of a fun game it becomes. It's exciting to see that you've saved more than you expected to—this also fuels your thought process into thinking where else you can cut and stretch your budget, or reuse and recycle your belongings.

Your entrepreneurial spirit may surface and give you an incredible idea to market. You’ll soon find that once you start purposefully safeguarding against mindless spending, you’ll wonder why you didn't start this a long time ago.

Final Notes About Battling Homelessness

The Law of Reciprocity is well researched and practiced by the rich. The rich understand that giving is a very large part of receiving and being able to hold onto it. The Bible says 10% of your income should be given away, and that's as good as a number as any. If you can't do that much, give what you can and slowly build up to it.

If you are crashing with a relative or a friend, do your part not to overstay your welcome by helping out where ever and whenever with whatever you can. Even if you're not working, tirelessly do things around the household to pull your weight. Find a place where you can store most of your things—the last thing you want to do is overburden your friends and family with your junk. If you have a group of friends and family, try to spread the stay out with all of them; make a schedule and stick to it. Do not let your idiosyncrasies become a problem for them—they are already making a huge sacrifice in opening their home to you.

Keep your head up, stay positive, and keep adjusting your financial plan. You were built for tough times like these, and no matter the situation, no matter what you're facing, you have the ability to survive this. Be blessed, and in all you do, have peace.

Test Your Homelessness I.Q.

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. When is the scariest night when becoming homeless?
    • When you don't know when tomorrow's meal will come from.
    • That first homeless night outside—most cry until sleep comes.
  2. What can you do to ensure you won't be homeless?
    • Start making a financial change to cut expenses and save.
    • Work two jobs so you don't have to cramp your style.
  3. What continuous event will remind you that you are homeless?
    • Where can you go to the bathroom.
    • Finding the soup kitchen.
  4. What else can I do—I'm getting laid off in two months, no other job or family in town?
    • Start building as many solid contacts as you can that can help house you while you look for work.
    • Make sure you apply for welfare and every government assistance available.
  5. What practical options are there for me if I think I could be homeless soon?
    • Buy a tent and camping supplies.
    • Look into using and preparing your vehicle as possible living quarters.
  6. What if I lose everything and find myself homeless tomorrow?
    • Call in your favors—call everyone, your job, your church, your friends and family.
    • Get in touch with emergency shelters in your area to see if they can take you.

Answer Key

  1. That first homeless night outside—most cry until sleep comes.
  2. Start making a financial change to cut expenses and save.
  3. Where can you go to the bathroom.
  4. Start building as many solid contacts as you can that can help house you while you look for work.
  5. Look into using and preparing your vehicle as possible living quarters.
  6. Call in your favors—call everyone, your job, your church, your friends and family.

National Alliance to End Homelessness

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.


agnes a., barila on June 04, 2020:

I will soon be homeless, within a day or two with no warning or assistance about where to live. This homeless young person is very manipulative into fooling the staff at this establishment into not letting her seek other aids because of the special treatment she is given at this facility. What shall I do in order to avoid homelessness at the hands of this young manipulative person. Where shall I go to seek shelter????

Oscar Lapid on March 17, 2020:

Employers are making things more difficult for some of us , as we struggle through each day and due to bad credit we are being turned down with opportunity. Now I have not found a job for almost 2 years without income support except with my low CCP benefits. .How can you have a good credit when they don't give you an opportunity. Now me and my 2 sons are soon going to be homeless due to stupid labour laws in Canada.

Lora on June 26, 2019:

Hi.My name is Lora.I lived for 11 years with my husbend and daughter in the house in wasaga beach.The house was owned by my mother in law.Reacetly my husbend start daiting with women from the next door and later they both move to stay in to the diferent place.And then my mother in-law decided to sell that house and whith my husbend help they sold the house very quickly.And now me and my daughter have no where to go.We are absolutly homless.who can help me?where we can go.I am working and having minimum incomes.My husbend not supporting us.Is this country have a law.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on September 05, 2018:

Thanks for your comment Tania; thank you for your insight - as an advocate for homeless organizations I thank you for your sacrifice. Please use this space to inform and help others - if you have some pearls to share, share it instead of using this platform to belittle. Seeing that you know Him and that His name is power, I will overlook your rant as passion. Thanks for stopping by. Peace. Kawi.

Tania T. on August 25, 2018:

I am an advocate for a homeless organization composed of those experiencing homelessness. So much you do not understand...start with your quiz...anything you can do to lessen your chances for homelessness is all you've got. ANYONE CAN BECOME HOMELESS. Best defense: JESUS CHRIST, a working safety net, resources, other people and social orgs, and experience of others and info info info!!!

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on April 14, 2015:

Look millman, you have a terrific perspective of truth in the world, and you have an idea of what a relationship with God should be like, but you lack the knowledge and understanding to tie the big picture together. If you believe that all is for nought and your children see and start believing in your vision of the world, then your children are set to fail. We don't choose to be good, then change because everyone else is bad - we continue to be and do good because that is who we are.

The world is a terrible place and it is full of danger, misfortune, grief and evil - but despite all of this going on in the world, we remain and continue to be in God's favor and grace. He gave us Truth, Word and Grace in the form of His son, Jesus! God filled the world with all the riches that we could possibly need, but first, get understanding, and develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Your whole outlook on life will change, and you will know peace that is not of this world - because, you see, neither are you. Have peace beyond all understanding. Kawi.

millman on April 12, 2015:

yes homelessness is a constent thought for me and my family but it has more to do with this country than it does my ability to keep above water. While we think we live in a free society we fail to realize our slavery. why have humans enslaved them selves to the almighty dollar, I was under the impression we were such an advanced creature, pinnacle of a gods love, wonder of the universe yet we hold and worship a dollar more than a god. its really quite sad that the current world is the best we can do with our free will and large cranium. I have brought five beautiful lives into this world and am sickened by what they must grow up to enter. the good works of the few do not and I mean do not outweigh the heartless many. all are out for themselves without any regard to the human disease. how can any one of us that has a moral compass look to the future and see anything but ruin. how can we survive as a species if we can not lift eachother up. How ohh How can we belive that a god favors us when we cant even favor ourselves. I hate my exsitance not because I am mentally unstable or not because I feel cheated there is only one reason and it is simply that I pay attention to my surroundings and the world. As a husband and a father and a man I must say we are most pathetic and even if you have good in your heart and peace on your soul you are complicit in our slavery. We must find a better way to exist for the way we are living rich or poor will lead nowhere and will never allow the human to reach its full potential. humanity is truly a cosmic joke. I am so saddened for my wonderful children for no matter how hard they try it will take all of us to give them a life that they deserve.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on August 30, 2014:

I agree. I work amongst the homeless in a ritzy section of the city, so I guess I have become more calloused over the years. But I can always spot those that are new at being homeless - or close to it. They have a harried look and urgent demeanor, but it's the thing that could just give them the edge they need to focus and make the hard choices. Thanks so much for your comment. Peace. Kawi.

Amanda Littlejohn on August 30, 2014:

This is an important hub highlighting the real issue of homelessness which so deeply undermines our society.

It is so important to realize that homelessness can happen to anyone and is not the fault of the person suffering those circumstances. While it is all too easy to fall into it is very, very hard to get out.

Thanks for sharing.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on April 24, 2014:

Agreed. Sometimes we fail to realize that most of our homeless people were once very functonal human beings. Treat them with respect, look at them to acknowledge their existence, and smile and say hello. Don't shun them just because they have a 'help' sign up, say hello anyway. Thanks for your comment Bill. Peace. Kawi.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 23, 2014:

I have written about homelessness often. The numbers are staggering, and there are millions of people who are one lost paycheck away from homelessness....excellent suggestions.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on July 28, 2013:

Thanks for your comment AliciaC, it's always good to be prepared. It's simple to plan for, but more difficult to actually execute... getting your savings up is best done over a period of time, however you do it, it will be a huge blessing when you're in a pinch. Peace. Kawi.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 26, 2013:

This is a useful and interesting hub, Kawi. It's very important that we try to prepare for the unexpected. Your article is a great reminder that we should do this!

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on July 17, 2013:

Yes, sad that this is the land of opportunity, but yet so much of us are steps away from bankruptcy. If we fail to teach our children what we know, I'm afraid to imagine what kind of lives our children will have to lead. Peace. Kawi.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 17, 2013:

Paying yourself first is so crucial for those fortunate enough to have jobs. Having savings is a safety net that can mean the difference in homelessness and a safe place to stay. This is an insightful reminder for anyone who lives pack to paycheck.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on July 06, 2013:

Thanks for your comment Alocsin, that's a great idea for another hub. Peace. Kawi.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on July 06, 2013:

I think one of the issues here is that a lot of people don't know where they stand financially. They simply live from paycheck to paycheck. Maybe a hub on how you can get a handle on your money would be useful. Voting this Up and Interesting.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on May 11, 2013:

Thanks Vinsanity for your comment - yes, for me it was 101 ways to eat ramen noodles... Yup, I agree with you, you have to go through it to appreciate how rough it was... lessons that will not soon be forgotten. Stay ahead of the game, get your savings up to ward off any surprises. Peace. Kawi.

Vinsanity100 from Michigan on May 10, 2013:

This is a great article. Living on my own with one roommate in college pushed me to the edge. There were many days where we just barely scraped by. Being late on bills was a killer too. We ended up paying 1.5x the amount we should have paid for the year due to us not coming up with the money on time.

It taught me a lot. It taught me to save. Those were scary times, but they are now over. I have graduated and i'm working a steady job. Sometimes you have to taste the terrible things in life to realize you should be going in the opposite direction.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on May 07, 2013:

Aloha mercuryservices, thanks for your comment - yes, I remember that, I'm not sure how that worked out as far as the placement of the people there, but I do remember the push that they had on the West side which was mostly due to drug related concerns in the area. Here in Portland the issues are endless. I'm not sure what the numbers are as far as percentages for drug related, mental issues and financial issues when it comes to the homeless, but it makes me want to find out a little more. Thanks for your comment. Peace. Kawi.

Alex Munkachy from Honolulu, Hawaii on May 07, 2013:

Kawi, the issue of homelessness is definitely hot-button. But it's something a lot of people ignore, so good on you for doing a hub on it. Personally I've thought a lot about homeless people because I see them so often. There were lots in D.C. and Hawaii has a lot too. It's hard to come up with a workable solution for people who have mental health and/or drug issues. It's just one of those problems that is hard to solve. My friend told me that they did a lot of fast-track, cutting through the red tape type of stuff on the west shore of Oahu and cleaned up the homeless problem over there that was apparently pretty bad a few years back.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on May 07, 2013:

Thanks lindacee, we are all in it together. I still struggle making sound financial decisions; cable bill and most of phone bill is a luxury - I know I can do without it, but I work so hard at my job and writing with whatever free time I have, I sometime feel I deserve it. sigh. I'll probably take the middle road and compromise between no luxury and all luxury. Good luck, and in all you do, have peace. Kawi.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on May 06, 2013:

Kawi, it is sad that our homeless numbers have increased so dramatically, but not a surprise. Given the housing collapse and recession there are more from formerly middle- and upper-class households than ever before. My husband and I took a huge financial hit several years ago and are basically living paycheck to paycheck and have a small amount of savings. We have cut spending and try to save a bit each month, but it is still a struggle. Thanks for bringing this to light and offering real-world suggestions on how to keep one's head above water in these tough financial times. :)

Teresa Schultz from East London, in South Africa on May 03, 2013:

Thanks, Kawi, and peace to you too!

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on May 03, 2013:

Thank you for your most gracious comments Teresa, I can appreciate you position, I too am still two paychecks away from homeless, but I have reserves, and like you people and family to go to. Do not give up your quest to find a way to make things turn out well. Hard work, love of family and strong prayer have always been my mantra. You have a good gift in writing, please continue on. In all you do, have peace. Kawi.

Teresa Schultz from East London, in South Africa on May 02, 2013:

Interesting and useful hub. Yes, it's scary how close people can be to ending up being homeless, on the street. These scary thoughts enter my head too, sometimes. Doubling up is what my man and I, along with my two teenage sons, are doing right now - we live with my parents in their home; but we're pretty far behind in rent payments to them, and we need more work/income to get by, and to ultimately move out and get our own place, before my parents move into an old age home. We work for ourselves, and have no savings. When there's no work, there's no money. Marketing what we do takes a lot of time, especially when we use free methods of advertising, like free online methods of advertising. We've cut all sorts already, so doubt we could save anymore. Many people say we should give up smoking, but we're not yet ready to commit to that, and for now, it's cheaper than eating 3 times a day.

We continue to survive and try all sorts of extra income ideas, that usually cost nothing to start, and we think of ourselves as "inbetweeners" - not yet living on the street, but not being able to afford many things others take for granted. It's puts us in a position of empathy - we understand what others in similar positions feel like, and we try to help others with the articles we write about work from home ideas, or about free methods of advertising - so that they too can at least survive, if nothing else.

Voting your excellent hub up, interesting and useful, and sharing it with my HubPages followers.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on February 17, 2013:

Thanks for your comment hl2, yes staying steps ahead will make homelessness not so scary if you know you have a plan. If you have 6 months of income, it allows you the luxury of thinking clearly, choosing the right path for yourself, and making the most of your situation. Peace. Kawi.

healthylife2 on February 17, 2013:

This is such great advice with practical tips. The fear of being homeless is scary and so many of us are just one step away.I agree that having six months worth of savings creates financial security. I have finally made that my goal. Often there are unanticipated expenses so having security helps. Also facing your income vs. expenses rather than avoiding it helps create a plan. After the last few years I am finally making these goals. Voted up!

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on January 29, 2013:

Thanks rajan, I'm still paycheck to paycheck, but putting a little away every week ensures that we remain with a roof over our heads yes? Peace. Kawi.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on January 28, 2013:

Very useful! Being homeless is not easy to adjust to and following the steps outlined by you will ensure one remains safer against financial problems.

Voted up, useful.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on December 03, 2012:

Thank you for your comment Minababe, the homeless issue is a subject that never fails to affect our emotions, and hearing news of people that are or have gone homeless is never easy to accept. The purpose of the article is to inform and bring to center stage the issue that we face each month when the bills and rent/mortgage are due; that we are closer to being homeless than ever before.

The real issue here is that most of us don’t have enough in our savings to last one month without a steady income - hence the article urges you to save at least 6 months of income to weather any unforeseen event such as job loss. The article continues that making cuts to your expenses such as fast-food – if you’re eating lunch everyday at work that’s at least $25 a week, and $100 a month that you could easily put into your savings(Always take last night’s leftovers for lunch at work.). The faster you can cut expenses, the faster you can put towards having your 6 month cushion.

Yes, if something terrible such as a job loss, law-suit, or illness occurred, it would devastate you, but if you have 6 months of income, you have something!! That’s a large amount of money that you can leverage, or at the least buy some time to think it through and work something out. Peace. Kawi.

minababe on December 01, 2012:

I'm sorry, but I found this article incredibly flippant. People do not become homeless because they weren't able to manage their finances or "ate fast food." People become homeless because they were suddenly struck out of the blue by a huge event outside of their control-- for example, becoming sick and getting saddled with a $65K+ hospital bill; losing their jobs at the worst possible time; being dragged into a legal battle (it costs a lot of money to fight a court case), and countless other unforeseen circumstances.

If you were tomorrow hit by a car and needed 6 months of therapy costing in excess of $100, 000 and you had just lost your job, no amount of "five easy steps" would help you avoid the possibility of falling into dire straits.

The point I'm trying to make is that you're entitled to give advice on how to save money, but please don't make a mockery of homelessness in the process.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on December 01, 2012:

Thanks LL, it really is a tough road back... easier if they stay out of trouble, and off the drugs. Peace. kawi.

BlissfulWriter on November 30, 2012:

Another way is to keep healthy. Some people became homeless because they got an illness which bankrupted them, or they became mentally ill such that they lost their job. Another reason to avoid fast food.

L.L. Woodard from Oklahoma City on November 30, 2012:

Life is very precarious, particularly for those with the fewest resources and, as you pointed out, those people who aren't viewing their financial situations realistically.

This hub on homelessness causes me to wonder just how do folks then work their way back? It can't be an easy process.

Great hub; voted up and Shared.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on November 14, 2012:

Thanks gmwilliams, agree - unfortunately, that's exactly how some of are homeless victims were - it just took a few bad things to get them there. Peace. Kawi.

Grace Marguerite Williams from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on November 14, 2012:

Insightful article, should be required reading for all. Most of us are 1-3 paychecks away from homelessness!

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