What It's Like to Be Homeless for the First Time In Your Life

Your family starts getting behind on the rent. The landlord comes knocking at your door, wants to work with you on it, shows some compassion. Your family is grateful to hear it. So you get more time to work with. And after losing a family member you are spared with more time. You are given more extensions. But the pressure is still there. You lose your peace of mind after awhile. Then the court orders show up on your door.

You've lost all peace now. Every day you worry about hearing someone knock at your door, and it's not the million-dollar man like you hope. Your family can't fix the situation. You know you aren't able to. You want to but can't. And at this point you make peace with it. But still hope to jump ship with another plan, or find safe haven elsewhere.

What It's Like to Have Nowhere to Live for the First Time In Your Life

You don't.

Relatives agree to keep your most important possessions in storage with them. That's all they can do. That's all some of them are willing to do. There's nowhere else to go. You're left worrying through each day. Praying and hoping against the worst. And then it happens. It's so quick it stuns you, as does the new reality of your life now. So sudden. So abrupt. Forced to adapt to a new mindset. A new survival. One you've never had to experience in your life. A complete nightmare you so desperately wish to wake up from.

Shame washes over you for sleeping on the ground, and everyone seeing in the morning. The store clerks and restaurant staff know you're going to the restroom to clean up every morning. It's humiliating. You just sit through the hours. And then days. You appreciate some of the kind people who give you a meal or some money. You appreciate sitting in the bowling alley to escape the code red days during a heatwave. You wonder when your situation changes. You teeter between hope and hopelessness.

One day you feel optimistic, the next you're overwhelmed with the idea of how in the world do you get out of this. And if you ever will. You go through times of having people reach out to you and letting you stay at their place for awhile. Some feel compassion for you at first but eventually want you gone. Others expect money but didn't say that in the beginning. And then others put on an angelic front in the beginning but their true colors show over time and send you running.

Eventually a few improvements start happening. Your mom gets a job. You can eat better. You can stay in a hotel for awhile. You're able to get a car, and now you live in that. It's not great but it's better than the ground. Than the shame of being out in the open. You're able to shower now that you have a gym membership so you can keep your body in good condition. You can travel more. You're surprised to meet other people who have either been where you are, or are still in the same place but you wouldn't know it by looking at them.

They do the same thing you do. They work their hardest to appear as decent as possible just like you. And then other people offer you help with conditions and think you should be grateful or be more than happy to accept it. You choose the high road instead. Still not great, but better than their pressures and expectations.

Surprising blessings are given some days, and other days more of the worst happens that you either didn't expect or you did see coming but just didn't want it to happen now. Not today. Your mom loses her job. And other times something comes to rescue you. It's a cycle with seemingly no end. And the longer you deal with it the less and less you can bear it.

Spring and summer are a blessed breather. More sunshine. Plenty of warmth. More of a relaxed mind. But winter is a dread. The days are shorter. The panic attacks increase. The arctic temperatures make you spend the little money you have keeping gas in the car. The holidays are a nightmare because the world shuts down for 2 days. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. The churches aren't as kind as they portray. The shelters are not as available like everybody thinks.

And then repeat for the New Year. Every day is stressful. Every day you wonder when, when, when will it end. And then some help comes through. Your life doesn't change over into brand new sunshine in a snap like a lot of people think, or like the movies portray. It's a process. But still a blessing.

The reality of poverty...

Having experienced it in my life, I think homelessness may be one of the most misunderstood difficulties in life, if not the most. Most people tend to think it's your fault, and that most homeless people are drug addicts and alcoholics. That's actually false, and an idea I think more fortunate people choose to believe so they don't have to feel guilty about people on the streets. Often times homeless people fall into drinking and drugs after they've hit the bottom. Other people also cruelly seem to think homelessness and poorness is funny and worth making jokes about online and in all the cheesy, white, college-humor comedies.

And some people ignorantly think life is cheaper or easier for homeless people because they don't pay rent. I can't say enough how stupid of a concept that is. One thing I will say is that although you see people on the streets panhandling with cups, the average homeless person actually does not put themselves out there like that. I won't go as far as to say most panhandlers are scamming you, but quite a few of them really are not destitute. Some have even made thousands from people's unknowing kindness through the years.

Poverty is a topic that makes many, many people feel very awkward in a nation of plenty. It feels awkward to be in poverty, and seeing it or talking about it makes people with money and comfort feel awkward the most. They try to stay straight and composed when you talk about it with them, but their silence says they don't know what to say about it, and you can tell they're cringing inside at the subject. In some sense, it's understandable for people to be at a loss as to why there are people in poverty, especially in a nation of plenty, but not everyone has been fortune enough to stay afloat or make it to the top, and there are economic structures put in place to keep it that way for some groups.

The fact that homelessness has increased quite a lot in the last 10 years is an indication of the nation's economic status - despite what the White House and the media try to tell you - and the increased greed of people in positions of authority. All these groups will tell you rent, food, utilities, etc. have to be higher so they make their profit or because people even higher than them oppress them too with overhead costs, but if you're intelligent, you know better than that.

The nightmare of homelessness goes beyond just having nowhere to live or sleep, it even affects your ability to function and have things. When you have no address, you can get no mail, though some homeless people are fortunate enough to use a friend's address to get their mail. Having no address affects you in a lot of ways, especially since the Bush administration solidified the oppressive proof of identity and proof of address laws after 9/11 under the guise of fighting terrorism.

If you don't have enough documents and "at least a utility bill" to prove your address and who you are, you can't get a photo ID or even a driver's license, and in turn, without those things you can't open a bank account, can't get a home, can't have access to certain places, etc. Sometimes your Social Security number can be sufficient if you know it and have your SS card, but no employer, gym clerk, or landlord will accept that. Once upon a time you could use a P.O. box address for ID's and driver's licenses, but with the new laws in place, it has been made very difficult for homeless people to use addresses for their needs.

Being homeless is a frightening, stressful experience like no other I've ever faced in my life, and hope never will again. It's an experience that makes you extremely grateful for even the little things when you get them. I am surprised when I look back on my younger life and complained about places I was in and things I didn't like, not realizing how much worse it could've been.

There is a kind of simple-mindedness you can develop from having your comforts and ease. Taking your morning showers for granted. Wasting the last bit of food on your plate. Not wanting to get off your ass and do what needs to be done. Staying up late because for whatever reason you're empty inside and can't stand to go to bed at night. Getting down in the dumps over things not worth it, or things you can actually change but would rather wallow in some self-pity over. You realize how foolish it all was.

After you've experienced being homeless, it all changes. You develop more compassion. You rebuke your former ignorant self. And you embrace life with an all new, deeper appreciation.

#GaGWritingContest


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What Girls Said 7

  • Yeah. A lot if people don't understand that even people who are criminals can't just magically choose to leave everything. people want to blame each other for their own suffering but no one ever looks at the details. People aren't always total victims but I've nvr heard of a story where even a criminal was a totally terrible person. At the end of the day you do what you can to survive and all the people judging would do the same if it was them.

    But they don't understand there's always more to the story. So TY for sharing this post. Only ignorant people judge the homeless or anyone else... I've argued with people about all of this and showed them statistics and guess whst happens 99% of the time? They never reply back. Or if it's irl they refuse to say anything. I've learned that people don't know about anything unless it directly applies to them. So if they judge u completely ignore them.

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  • Now I never been homeless but I have lived in shady places. And Its hard. Thank for sharing you experience~

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  • I wonder what it's like to be homeless. In the past boys in my school would tell me I looked like a drug addict and others told me my clothes made me me look homeless.. People have said these things to me and it made me feel bad but it must be worse being homeless... I can't even imagine..

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  • I think it can happen to everyone.. Especially with the economical crisis you never know. In Greece many people loose their job and their fortune. And many of the refugees here were middle class or wealthy in their country before they had to leave due to war. It's even worse to be poor and homeless when you have to take care of others, your mother is a very strong woman, she kept it together and managed to find a job.

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  • Wow.

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  • Great take. One of the best ones I've read in a while

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  • I never would have expected you to have experienced homelessness in your past. I will say I have to commend you and your family for not only sticking it through but also overcoming it. My sister is homeless and as a result has turned to prostitution and drugs to cope with her life. It's insane how easy it is to allow your world to turn dark and fall into many bad practices in order to get by. I'm glad you guys were much stronger than that, you have my utmost respect.

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What Guys Said 14

  • Homelessness is an incredibly tough situation to deal with; maybe one of the hardest. Though I've never been homeless myself, I've encountered a lot of homeless people over the years, and the issue of homelessness has been on my mind a lot over the past month or so. I've even taken the last three weeks to use my job with a company called Odyssey to write about some of my recent encounters with homeless individuals and what they've taught me. Would love to share the links to those articles, but I'm brand new to the site and don't have a high enough Xper level yet ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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  • I've been there, conquered it and am now a fake scientist.

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  • There are 5 basics that you need. Missing more than 1 of them and you will be in a whole lot of trouble.

    #1 enough food to your BMI from falling to below 18. Your immune system will be comprised and you have a much greater risk of dying.

    #2 enough clean water to drink. Self explanatory, clean as in you will not die if you drink the water (within a couple decades).

    #3 a place to live. A shelter to keep you away from dying because of exposure and weather changes.

    #4 access to medicine. Living in poverty means you have a lot of risk catching something that will kill you or getting injured. Medicine is critical.

    #5 ability to dispose human waste away from your living space. This is funny because most of us never have to live near or in the sewage. A lot of 3rd world countries have people living near or in top of their waste. They also leak te waste water into the ground and people drink from those sources. Lead to a lot of deaths and diseases.

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  • Great take and very accurate, I was homeless once so this really hits home.

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  • Love the take. I was homeless for 2+ years (in 2010-2012). I went from being a US Army soldier with a 2 story 3 bed room house; pregnant wife & Honorable Discharge, to divorced live-in boyfriend, to sleeping in car, loosing job, then loosing car... all from my bad choices & ecconomic factors from 1999 till 2009. I never was an addict. I never was a criminal. Now I live happily alone. Pay my rent. Have a steady job. Saving up for another car. God is good. Life is good. I couldn't have made it here without those who helped me along the way. (Greatful) 😉

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  • Must suck to be in that situation dude.

    I'm probably guilty of being the flakey 'good samaritan', to be honest. There was this guy where I live, he's about my age, and he used to sleep in a leaky Mitsubishi Space Wagon. I didn't know him that well but I know he was in college cos I saw him around. Anyway one day I was getting into my car in the parking lot while lighting a spliff, and I noticed this guy sitting in his car next to me. He kinda noticed me, and indicated in the form of sign language only potheads can understand, that he would like to smoke. So I was like 'sure man'.

    So I get talking to this dude, and it turns out his parents kicked him out. He wasn't homeless homeless - I mean, he showered in the college gym, washed his clothes at a friend's house and had a computer/cell phone etc. No-one would guess this dude sleeps in his car.

    I begin to feel bad for this guy, so I'm like 'you can crash at my place until you get a job and an apartment and shit'. Before making this offer, however, I should really have considered WHY his parents kicked him out.

    So this guy moves his shit into my spare room. And raids my fridge while I'm at work. And smokes all my fucking pot. And leaves empty candy/chip/hot pocket wrappers everywhere.

    I was once just as messy and inconsiderate so I kinda let it slide. I didn't really wanna start dividing the food up into 'hobo' and 'non-hobo', and expecting a pothead to not smoke your pot is stupid.

    Anyway this guy lives like shit. I literally once caught him in my lounge (my apartment is very clean and minimalist - I'm that douchebag) ashing his cigarette directly on the coffee table. Like, not into an ashtray. Not even into an empty can or bottle. Just flicking it casually on my furniture.

    *stay calm, its just ash*

    Continues to live like shit. Spends all his money on weed, eats my food and uses my shit. One time he left his online banking open and I noticed this guy gets like $1100 a month from college. That's totally enough money for him to get a roomshare or something.

    So yeah I got the dude a tenancy agreement for a room in a shared house and was kinda like 'go. there's literally no reason for you to be homeless, you have an income of sorts.'

    Maybe that's me being a shitty person, but I just felt like an enabler at that point.

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  • I've experienced that but I was exceptionally lucky not to be sleeping on the roads, I was one rung from it though. Officially I'm not as I use an address for mail but the reality of having to rely on generosity and having to lie constantly while applying for jobs was not the best period of my time. All being well maybe after September things can start to be resolved.

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    • I agree. And when you keep applying and applying for jobs and not hearing back from anybody you really do start to feel hopeless, like, is ANYbody gonna give me a chance here?

  • Now that is a my take

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  • Excellent MyTake. One of the most insightful during my time on this website.

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  • Can you tell me how you got out from being homeless? Have you found a job or something?

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    • I had people reach out, help us get on our feet, allowed me to stay with them while I looked for work.

  • Was homeless for 2 months, best time of my life if im honest. 0 problems, dealt with shit as it came up.

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  • my good friend is homeless.. but he chooses to be... w/ a job n everything.

    i rent my garage to him to store his stuff erryday.

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  • You touched my inner senses.

    Poverty - the word itself is a shame to such economically developed countries. Also, true-colours show up when you are in trouble or face starvations.

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    • no first world country should have homeless poeple yet the billionaires tell us how wrong and how we can't afford to give them a small sized apartment but we have billions apon billions for their fucking corporate subsidies. the world is so freaking backquards, or is it just america lol.

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    • @26ukdude i wish the average voters would sir down and actually think it through. on one hand, we could give rich people even more tax cuts, spend more on military, cut back on program that help people, or, make the rich pay more, cut back on military, build better program to help people and pay more into research. which homework rounds better, yet someone people vote against their own best interests, maybe we as humans are just sumber huh?

    • @LiveFreeorDieHard
      You are right in certain aspects. The rich want to be richer and the poor grow poorer. There is little hope that the status will be balanced. The only way is see is starvation, which will force the homeless and poor people to death. And that's the way how the country shall be filled with only rich people with no poor wandering around. But on another aspect, there will be a poor among the rich i. e. the least rich, which will again face the same problem and maybe one day only a population of the size of a state or city shall survive. They will again produce more children to fill up the blank space in the world. And then the same cycle would happen again. This is my rough idea of the economical and social cycle of the world.

  • I actually preferred being homeless. The only reason I have an apt now is so that I have a place to bang chicks. otherwise housing is a waste of money.

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