One of the things that I think we can all agree we dislike is having no answer to constant questions. Many times questions are intended to provoke a certain kind of answer from you, without you even knowing it. It can be very frustrating to need help and not receive it because you have answered a question based on being pressured.
Let’s first identify homelessness. For many people, it is the person asking for money in exchange for washing your windows at a stop light. Some people think that homeless people are limited to those who make signs and market themselves as pan handlers for a living. There are those who suffer in silence and do not tell anyone what they are going through, who look like you and I. You would never know that they were in need at least, not of shelter.
If you live with your parents, friends, or people who you don’t want to live with and they don’t particularly want you there you are homeless. If your name is not on the lease or any documentation and you have not moved in consenting to be an equal contributor to the household, you are homeless. If you are not a roommate, and someone is doing you a favor by letting you sleep on their couch, and in some instances in their bed, you are still homeless. If you are sleeping in your car, or house hopping every few days, weeks, months, and it is not because you are a nomad and desire this kind of instability, you are homeless.
Homelessness does not have a face, class, or race. It can happen to anyone at anytime. Many people are living one paycheck away from being homeless. In my experience, the situation that makes the difference between a person or family that ends up homeless is whether they have a strong support system who loves them and has the ability to provide shelter or financial help for food or other necessities.
In the book, Identity Crisis, Identity Christ Is: A Journey to Love I talk about my living and emotional experience with being homeless. In this article, I am going to leave you with tips on how to navigate through the system(s) that are in place in order to get what you need, when you need it, to help you move to the next part of your life.
One of the things that people who are not in your shoes will never understand is that among other things, keeping your mind in good health is a serious priority. You can feel bombarded and pressured beyond repair if you do not learn to tell people where they can shove their vision for your life.
In order to help you work through the process I will cover a few important things that I have learned. This list is not exhaustive and it is my opinion based on personal experience. Any information that you use is at your own risk.
I once went into the PG County, MD office for Social Services and considered getting a welfare check because I kept being advised to do so, to help me have some income when I lost everything. I really did not want it, and I don’t really recommend it unless you are absolutely destitute and you can handle the mental and emotional humiliation. I told the lady that it was humiliating and true to the representation of my total experience in Prince George’s County as a resident she responded, “You supposed to be.”
My tips for you are just to clarify the system. If you are homeless, you may not be able to keep up with your birth certificate, social security card or other paperwork. Do not allow that to discourage you.
- You do not need anything to get Food stamps. This is a Federal law. If a person is homeless and is in desperate need of food, you take yourself downtown and make it plain that you are homeless and hungry. Provision is made. In some cases, they do have the ability to make you a card on the spot. Remember that everything is electronic and everything is a click of a button, real talk. If you are a jerk, you can forget it. Be kind, and do your best to be patient. Take a book with you, anticipating the wait. If you’re going for help, do not leave without it.
- If someone is rude or is not answering your questions, don’t waste your time. Talk to someone else. Actually this is my rule for everyone. Just because someone tells you no doesn’t mean you can’t have it, it just means you need to find someone who says yes.
- Remember that YOU have the information that they are asking for when you fill out the papers, and if you don’t, don’t try to figure it out. Homeless people are HOME-LESS people. You don’t need an address to be homeless despite what they say. Let them offer for the mail to go to their center, or to use a centralized address.
- It is a myth that every homeless person is in a shelter. All of the homeless people in the world cannot fit into shelters. Not all homeless people want to go to shelters and it does not make them bad people if they don’t. You have no idea what people go through in these situations and the homeless person has to do what helps them to cope through their situation. Many shelters offer little support, or unsanitary environments. Some shelters are so overpopulated that people are not screened before being accepted, and you don’t know who you’re going to lay next to at night. Do not feel insecure because people are telling you that they doubt you because you don’t fit their vision of homelessness. This is your story not theirs.
I have just gotten started and I am on a roll! Stay tuned for the next blog continuing this same discussion, listing tips that will help you to understand the process a little better before seeking services.
- Many people find it easier to empathise with animals and cars than homeless people and drug addicts (dailymail.co.uk)
- Homelessness Around the World (frstephensmuts.wordpress.com)
- Shelter to Shelter: Serial Homelessness (ressurrection.wordpress.com)