The immense challenges faced by those without a home can make survival a daily confrontation. Harshly, many in The United States currently live in a consistently homeless state. In a recent report by The Council of Economic Advisers, nearly half a million Americans will go to sleep each night without a home. Alarmingly, nearly a third of these people are sleeping in the streets or uninhabited and dangerous areas.
Simply surviving homelessness is not a sufficient standpoint to gauge the country’s battle with chronic homelessness. However, to those who are fighting homelessness, it’s important to understand the key issues, challenges, and tactics needed to overcome this difficult period in your life.
By focusing on the main contributors to homelessness and how to combat them, we can create meaningful positive actions to help more people succeed in this battle.
A Look at Statistics
It‘s important to note that the current American homeless population extends across many regions, cultures, races, genders, and ages. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the recent numbers reported by the Housing and Urban Development department express that 17 out of every 10,000 people are currently living without a home. Though many are individuals, homelessness also affects families across the country. This issue affects neighbors, family, and friends.
Bringing a greater awareness of the cause, and highlighting the various resources available to overcome this massively important issue is a priority for our communities and officials.
Finding resources and the necessary information to take on the challenge of losing your home can be difficult. Finding the right resources to educate and assist in your survival is critical to gaining the information necessary to overcome such a formidable challenge.
Locate Your Resources
In an age where information is more readily available than any other time in human history, many forget the difficulties of finding the right resources without the assistance of technology. Assistance begins with the support of individuals. Being a personal resource to someone else can be the difference in them surviving harsh and unstable homelessness situations. Just by understanding what resources are available to you and others could make the difference in overcoming homelessness.
Be The Resource
For many, access to the resources they need are unattainable. Though there are some free resources (which we’ll discuss), it is not always possible for individuals to reach or find the necessary aid to properly assess their situation and take the needed steps to better their lives.
We should not assume resources are readily available to anyone living without a home. Difficulties can prohibit many from gaining the help they need. These difficulties can range and be severe factors in any homeless individual or family’s survival. Communities can help by being resourceful in their knowledge and acumen.
If communities don’t know about local shelters and non-profit organizations that are there to help the community thrive, then more information should be disseminated. It is also a personal responsibility of citizens to know about the offerings, or in the least, how to gain this information for others.
Being a part of a community is a responsibility, and with it comes the weight of being a resource for your neighbors and those less fortunate in society.
Listen To Those Asking For Help
An initial step to help limit homelessness will come when we’re more keenly aware of those asking for help. Nearly 38,000 veterans and nearly 54,000 individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 were experiencing homelessness in the United States in 2017.
Understanding that the majority of homeless people are especially susceptible to challenging health and wellness standards can help to broaden our perspective and allow individuals struggling with homelessness to be heard.
Many will not survive living without a home. By not actively listening to anyone seeking help, you can contribute to this serious and critical social issue. If you don’t listen, you cannot be the resource that an individual needs in order to overcome homelessness and its many trying circumstances.
Resources do exist for those with limited access to important information and helpful aid. The best-known resource is often local newspapers, magazines, flyers, and community-led organizational materials. Often these free resources are available on various street corners and are more likely to be available in urban settings.
Beyond free resources in the community, a community center may be the most appropriate location to gain knowledge about opportunities available to those currently without a home. Recreation centers, government buildings, and libraries are fantastic resources. Many of these centers employ individuals trained to work with the homeless population.
Organizations like the Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness create important training and education materials for librarians around the country. If employees aren’t directly trained on the valid and impactful steps to limit concerns around survival in the homeless communities, they should be able to communicate with the right parties in order to ensure those that seek help are receiving it.
If you’re experiencing homelessness and need help, you can go to this website for additional resources as well.
Learning to Lean On Others
Often the most difficult process of homelessness is asking for help when it’s needed. Not only will half a million Americans go to sleep tonight in the streets and in parks tonight, but nearly half of Americans are only a paycheck or two away from financial ruin. With so many teetering on the edge of a financial crisis, the best way to limit homelessness from increasing is for individuals to ask for guidance when they do not feel financially stable.
A good starting point is giving yourself a little wiggle room in your monthly budget. If you have enough savings to only pay next month’s rent or mortgage, any major life change—like losing your job or having an expensive and sudden healthcare concern—can result in you losing your home. Start saving now!
Take a month or two and limit your spending on unnecessary items to give yourself at least a month’s rent worth of saving. This way, if you do lose your job or an unexpected expense occurs, you can afford a month of searching for a new job while not worrying about losing your home.
Often banks, libraries, and other institutions will hold free seminars on financial education. If you’re not completely comfortable with how to budget, take advantage of the free resources at your disposal.
Never be too proud to ask for help. Some have had financial education all their life. If you haven’t been as lucky, reach out to friends, family, and other trusted confidants to see how they budget. It is never too late to learn how to properly budget and ensure homelessness is never something you have to overcome.
Asking For Help When Homeless
If you’re already homeless, it’s often much more difficult to ask for help and receive valid feedback and assistance. Beyond the resources mentioned, there are other ways to begin saving to get back on track and afford a new place to call home.
Finding and maintaining employment is difficult without consistent residency. When using the resources mentioned, make sure to ask about employment options as well.
Many for-profit and non-profit institutions have systems in place to help those who are struggling with homelessness. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, employment that is meaningful and consistent is the greatest chance to sustainable housing.
Job training and placement programs may not exist in your area, but if they do, take advantage. These organizations are solely designed to help you get a job and home.
More opportunities are available as many states have implemented programs that give homeless individuals and those on the verge of homelessness a chance at legitimate job training and placement options. With more jobs in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), job training is sometimes necessary.
Don’t let this extra work dissuade you. STEM jobs will help you to find a job that pays consistently higher salaries and is likely more reliable than many service-based positions. Many of these opportunities can be found on the HUD Exchange website, along with additional information on employment while homeless.
Again, if you’re experiencing homelessness and need help, please go to this website for additional resources.
Surviving During Dire Times
Often times jobs and resources come and go, and thus, homelessness can persist. You may be experiencing homelessness as you lose your job and search for another or are training for a new career. To survive during these times, practical and useful tips can help you pull through this short-term struggle while you get your career and budget back on track.
Survival tips can vary by city. Use the tools you can to survive wherever you are but do take into account that many of these tips depend on your personal situation; prepare for your own needs before putting these techniques to work.
The best odds of surviving homelessness is to employ proven systems that help you live without a home, while also using resources to get help and eliminate the chance of ever being homeless again.
Dress For Your Well-Being
If you’re experiencing homelessness, your belongings are likely minimal. Choosing the right clothing can be life-saving. Dressing in layers allows you to stay warm while also limiting the number of items of clothing you need to keep track of as you search for shelter and help.
Keeping at least one piece of clothing that is more professional is highly encouraged. Job training programs and shelters will consider your ability to be well dressed and groomed. Full suite and tie or pantsuits are not required.
Keep it simple, and if you don’t have anything that can work as a more professional garment, seek out local Goodwill or ARC. They are filled with professional clothing at a very low cost. Additionally, some of these non-profits organizations also provide job training and other community programs to help those in need.
Know Where To Sleep
Possibly the most challenging and threatening aspect of being homeless is finding a safe place to sleep. Religious institutions and non-profits provide shelter and actual beds for a number of homeless throughout the country. In fact, as of 2020, there were over 10,0000 community housing and homeless shelters in the United States alone.
Shelters often provide the safest, most ideal sleeping situation for anyone experiencing homelessness. Beds can be competitive to get, and shelters are not always free of burglary and other crimes. Shelters also likely limit the number of personal belongings you can store with the shelter. If you have the opportunity to store goods elsewhere or limit personal belongings to a suitcase or bag, then a shelter is the most ideal location to sleep.
If a shelter is full or something else prohibits you from sleeping in a sheltered home, being aware of the best sleeping situation is crucial to surviving. Depending on where you are, nights will likely get cold.
Dressing in layers will help, but having additional insulation—even newspapers—can be helpful when sleeping outdoors. If you have a car, there are options available for parking and sleeping depending on the state and city regulations. Though not policy, Walmart often lets cars park overnight in many locations. Though the policy is just for RV parking, you may find some solace in these abandoned late-night parking spots.
If your only option is to sleep outside, parks sometimes provide limited shelter opportunities. Though streets and open spaces are not suggested, if you see other homeless sleeping in such areas, it may be a safe space.
Be careful! Not all spaces are safe and any sleeping space may be dangerous, so be cautious, and again, use all resources at your disposal to learn of safe spaces. Some cities have these zoned, but finding them may be difficult. Asking public officials can lead to success, so again, don’t be nervous to ask for assistance when you need it.
Clean-Up Whenever Possible
The limitation of not having a home goes well beyond just having a bed to sleep in. Without a readily accessible bathroom, cleaning up can be a challenge. Though some businesses will offer to let you use their restrooms, many have stringent policies. Finding public options is crucial to keeping clean and staying healthy.
Though being clean is crucial to creating job opportunities and future employment, regular cleaning is primarily needed in order to stave off illness and health-related problems. Without continual access to showers and healthy bathroom spaces, the chances of gaining an infection, illness, or other health-related concern is much higher.
Add an the increased chance of illness due to a lack of shelter and you create a very dangerous formula that can have serious consequences.
When you find a safe bathroom space, do all you can to clean up properly. You may not have the opportunity again for several days. Take paper towels, soap, hand sanitizer, and anything else that you can store (in small amounts) when you have the opportunity.
Keep Warm And Away From Harm
Not all who are homeless deal with extreme mental illness or drug-related problems. Though many cases of homelessness can be traced to these causes, this is not the only reason for the country’s increasing homelessness rate.
However, if you are sleeping outdoors, it is crucial for you to stay warm and stay away from drugs. In recent studies, higher mortality rates were correlated and likely caused by illness related to disease and poor sleeping conditions. Sleeping outside takes a toll on your body. If your body is cold and fighting off other contagions, it’s more susceptible to failure.
Don’t make your situation worse for yourself. Keep warm and stay away from alcohol and drugs whenever possible. Often drug and illegal activity in homeless communities go hand-in-hand. If you stay away from such substances, you will drastically decrease the chances of illegal activity happening near you.
These two factors are crucial to your ability to fight off a difficult situation and find consistent shelter in the near future.
Most Important Items
Though living away from a home may limit your ability to carry or keep goods on you at all times, having a first-aid kit and additional clothing (remember to layer) can be the difference between surviving and not. Though it may feel like a burden, first-aid kits, though simple, can provide the necessary short-term care that is needed to prolong your life.
Being homeless increases your chances of cuts and injuries. Sleeping without the protection of a home or shelter can also cause serious illness. First-aid kits provide anti-bacterial creams, band-aids, and other simple remedies that can save your life.
Do not use a first-aid kit when true medical help is needed. Whenever you injure yourself, use the contents of the first-aid kit as a remedy until you find professional help. Even a simple cut can get infected and cause serious harm. If you need help, seek out local hospitals and urgent care facilities for assistance. Here they can properly treat you with the appropriate medicine and expertise.
Another key item is a water bottle. We cannot live without consistent and clean water. Though there are often plenty of public water fountains and other sources to fill a water bottle, being without a home and not having a consistent source of water means that you should fill up one or two water bottles for urgent use at all times.
Water is linked to many health benefits, so going without can increase your chance of illness. Stay hydrated and keep additional clean water on hand at all times.
Food For Thought
Arguably as important as water is a consistent source of food. Though shelters and other food banks may provide food for those in need, it is never a guarantee that these meals will be available or accessible. Carrying non-perishable goods with you is vital to your survival. Not eating for long stretches can have harmful effects on your body and increase your chance for illness and disease.
Whenever you’re able to store packaged goods either in a safe space (make sure it’s truly safe) or with you, take advantage.
Use these meals as a last resort. Do not go through packaged food quickly as they should serve as an emergency meal. Use your resources to locate and get fresh food as often as possible. But, in case of long breaks between meals, packaged food can provide you with a much-needed meal on the go.
Always Be Ready To Leave
Homelessness can come on suddenly. A job loss or other life event can leave you without a home in a matter of days or even hours. Be prepared for it to end just as quickly as it began. If you’re actively looking for work or helpful resources, you may just find a more permanent solution when you’re least expecting it.
Having your key belongings with you and ready can be crucial to accepting a good opportunity when it arises.
You will likely be on the go a lot, so not only is being ready important should you have a stroke of good fortune, but if something goes awry, you’ll want to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
Living without a home increases the likelihood of being exposed to dangerous situations, people, and settings. Being mobile is crucial should you find that you’re in a dangerous altercation or location. In order to be able to move quickly, only keep crucial items with you.
Hauling a lot of material around can make it much more difficult to locate food, a job, and a safe shelter. If you have a lot of goods, consider trying to sell some to second-hand shops or store them if possible.
Stay On Schedule
Living away from a domestic life means that your schedule and daily activities will change. Though this is inevitable, do your best to stay on some kind of schedule. Try to wake up early and schedule your day around your most high-priority needs.
If you need food, ensure you’re not waiting until later in the day to try and find food options. Water should also be on the list of top priorities each day.
When the necessities are taken care of, use your time wisely. Using library or state resources to search for a job or shelter is a good use of time. Your energy may be lower given that you may only eat one or two times a day, so having a plan for each day and sticking to that schedule can be the difference between being homeless for a short while or being persistently homeless.
Surviving during homelessness requires that you use all your resources and knowledge. This is likely one of the most difficult challenges you will ever face. Urgent help is sometimes needed, and no one should feel that they’re alone in their fight against chronic homelessness.
Use the resources available and be open to free and ongoing programs that may help to save your life. You can survive this difficult time and get back on track. If you’re younger and need assistance, please reach out to the National Runaway Safeline by going here and contacting them at any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through phone, email, or live chat.
If you are currently seeking employment and are struggling to find work, please reach out to local authorities or public workers to gain appropriate information for employment opportunities in your area.
Stop Homelessness Before It Happens
The best way to prevent homelessness is to prepare, save, and work to ensure you never lose your home. By saving for a rainy day, you can prevent homelessness and allow yourself the chance to take on unexpected challenges with greater flexibility and more resources. The more you can plan ahead, the better.
Life is unpredictable and can be unfair. Save as much as possible to counter these unforeseeable challenges.
Not all homelessness is avoidable, but if you’re able to keep your home, you’re in a better position to find and keep work in order to remain in a stable position. Financial hardships are the main cause of homelessness that is not by design. If you’re struggling to keep up on rent or bills, seek assistance now!
Survive and Thrive
Homelessness is a serious issue in this country. We need to bring as much awareness to the issue in order to create better programs and resources for those in need. Surviving homelessness is not enough.
Those who desire to have a home and keep it should have every opportunity to do so. If you find yourself in this predicament, use every resource at your disposal to not only survive the harsh conditions of homelessness but to thrive as an active member of the working class and society. There are options and tools available to you. Use them often and without hesitation. You will survive and thrive!
Again, if you’re experiencing homelessness and need assistance, please go to this website for additional resources and help.