During National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week I thought that it was important to educate the public on reasons that people become homeless. This blog was originally published when I was homeless.
There is a very quick and simple answer to this question. While there is not exhaustive list, I will try to provide some help with clarifying how or why someone may enter this position. Listen up, because I know from personal experience and I am also a professional in the area of child sexual abuse education.
I am homeless, and it has been two and a half years. It’s weighing on me, and writing is my outlet, and as I shared with a close friend this morning writing is keeping me alive so I hope that what I’m sharing is supportive in helping you to develop deeper levels of compassion for humanity.
In American Culture, we can’t wait until our biological children turn eighteen and then we turn them over to the “real world” whether they are going to college or not. This is not the norm for other cultures. They take pride in family and encourage their children to get themselves together while at home. They often only move out if they take a family member with them to save on their bills, while they work the corporate or medicinal ladder.
When they move out, they can get married or are able to be fully independent. It is a great support system. You can look at it this way, with the rates that Americans return home, it is better to support your children while they are young than to have the risk of them returning home after losing everything at 29.
With Foster Care however, it is a transaction in many households. The expectation is that the foster family would only care for the child until they are 18 which is legal age. It may be the law of the land but it does not have to be the law, morals and values of your home. In many states the legal age for a foster care youth is 21 to obtain certain supportive services.
Keep in mind that foster children become your children. You take them in to love and care for them as you would your own. They should be pushed to be excellent in all that they do, and they should gain access to career opportunities post high school that will help them to sustain their own life as they grow.
Nicki Sanders, the Chief Visionary Officer of The Teen Toolbox is uncompromisingly dedicated to foster care children who are aging out of the system. Her desire to make sure that foster care children have access to education, housing, career and life skills that will help them be a productive community member through civic engagement and personal success.
Deceased Loved Ones
It is so hard to transition to life without someone who you not only love but they have been there for you, and supported both your successes and failures. The longing isn’t just for their financial support but their emotional connection to you as well. It is not the same when you are dealing with someone who does not have a heart for you as your parents or guardians. In many cases, the presence of step-parents can cause a separation between a biological parent and child too; in their absence you may not feel connected or like Cinderella, the step-parent may be too evil to give the child their inheritance. I am not suggesting that all situations are like this, however dysfunctional relationships are actual.
Mental Illness or Learning Disability
Some people may not know how to handle their finances due to trauma, mental illness or learning disability. When you come from an entire household that is not literate financially, it makes it hard to trust someone helping you with your finances, and it also can lead to perpetual impaired judgment. You’d be surprised how many people do not want to pay rent but they want a mansion.
Wanting a mansion without the practice of paying rent is a poverty mindset. Likewise it is a poverty mindset to throw all of your trash on the ground (unconscious of your environment), but ride around in a car that you’ve spent a lot of money on like a BMW or Benz. Or, to have the ability to ride in a car at all, instead of walking.
Mental Illness and a Learning Disability are not the only ways that you can mishandle money. As I mentioned, a poverty mindset, and a lack of teaching about financial literacy in the school systems contribute to why people can’t balance or keep a balanced check book.
In situations of Mental Illness, and/or Learning Disability, if you do not have the commitment from parents to continue a guardianship relationship with you after the age of eighteen, and without support you can become homeless.
More Bills Than Income
While people often want to judge this category, I do not. I want to leave this open for the discussion it deserves. There are people who are living above their means, and don’t know it because of financial ignorance. There are people living above their means because they are compensating for something else that insecurity tells them they lack.
And then there are people at every class in financial status who can not afford to miss a paycheck or they will be at Social Services seeking emergency assistance, an advance at their job, or a payment plan on their most important bills. Even the most conservative budgeted person cannot pay their bills on time without income to cover them. And, just because you make what you may consider to be a lot of money, if you do not have enough in the bank to cover your expenses if an emergency hits, you will too be outside and homeless.
Some of you with your big houses, and cars do not have enough money to pay extra utilities or food to offer a homeless person a room in your house to live for six months while they get their lives back in order. I am not saying that you should be responsible for the homeless, but I do think that it is awesome if you were to keep disparity in mind and save on something that you want, to be the answer for someone’s need should this opportunity arise in your life.
Job Loss and Business Decline
Quitting; being fired, laid off, downsized, given more time to seek better life choices and more fulfilling opportunities; however you see it, when you experience job loss with no replacement income to cover you, and no savings, things begin to happen quickly. They often fall apart.
The same thing happens to business professionals who have thousands of sweat equity hours and then finally start making some money. For the population of Entrepreneurs without the rich parents, aunts or uncles, who are often first generation Entrepreneurs who may fall during their path to success, they may not have a safety net of family, investors or working capital to support or help them make it over. As a result, and you’ll hear a smidget of my story below, business owners who close their businesses for any reason can be left homeless as they try to re-enter the job market.
It is very hard to take your experience or level of ambition and leadership as a business owner, ceo, entrepreneur, (all independent thinkers) and adapt to a 9-5pm. In fact, from experience it can be excruciating, especially if you end up with an emotionally abusive supervisor – which is likely. It costs businesses $180 Million per year!
For Singles, life is hard. Why do you think the majority of the population starts shacking? I’m not approving it. I think compromising your relationship standards to live with someone you’ll ultimately not want in a few years can take you off of course and it’s hard to regain momentum and focus on your dreams when that happens.
Single, has some benefits. You don’t have to answer to anyone and you can disconnect when you want to. The disadvantage is not having someone who intimately knows you, who will be supportive and tireless with you through thick and thin. They don’t have to do this, love will.
An advantage to being single is finding the right group of roommates to live with. You of course better have a good permanent job or you and your single, independent behind will be out on the curb, unless you have parents to take you back.
Divorce and Changed Relationship Status
Divorce is horrible. We know that God hates it. And, so is being shacked and deciding to split which is why many complacent, non-aggressive people will endure a poor relationship to avoid the agony of starting over with so many uncertainties. When you do take the plunge with a bungy cord wrapped around you securely, it’s anything but exhilarating. However, you can look at it this way. You will not start truly living until you take the plunge. New Beginnings may be scary but, their are benefits to being, new and at the beginning of something promising without residue of your old complacent thinking.
Child Sexual Abuse
You are likely, totally confused right now wondering, “How could child sexual abuse have anything to do with homelessness?” As a Child Sexual Abuse Expert what I have found is that 90% of child sexual abuse perpetrators know their victim. Incest accounts for much of that 90%. Additionally as we mentioned above, another cause for homelessness is mental illness which many patients have been found to have sustained deep trauma associated with child sexual abuse. 80% of substance abusers which means those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol have been sexually abused as a child.
What we understand then is that the effects of child sexual abuse can cause psychological damage that prevent adults from re-engaging or re-traumatizing themselves in harmful emotional or psychological abuse, memories or continued sexual abuse, from home.
Many victims of child sexual abuse develop dysfunctional romantic relationships that lead to domestic violence. Some become promiscuous and lose themselves before they realize that they are an exotic dancer, prostitute, and eventually a drug abuser.
I am not alleging that all homeless people are victims of child sexual abuse. Above I have listed various reasons including Job loss or lack of family members alive, that could be the reason for homelessness.
However, child sexual abuse victims who may not even be aware of the impact that the abuse has on their lives, may not have anywhere to go. And in this case, I will use myself as a personal example in hopes that it will instill greater compassion (which is an action word), in you to do good to your neighbor and lift them up when they are down.
I was sexually abused as a child. My entire family without revealing details about them, have experienced child sexual abuse, psychological and emotional abuse, physical abuse and a depth of trauma to which I am unable to describe. The relationships are broken, they always have been but I never needed them in this capacity before.
I opened a business, and they did not rush to support. My business closed, and they watched it do so. My home foreclosed. I was a victim of mortgage fraud and was lied to repeatedly about my loan concerning my home. I lost my home, and they did not offer a couch.
Although I had gone to my church and asked for family counseling prior to what happened to me, I was told that we needed to work it out. The person spoke to me disrespectfully as if I was stupid to not have a functional family.
After I lost my home and desperately needed my church “family” to help me, I was talked about ridiculed, and told that if my family wouldn’t help me I must have done something to deserve it. There were many last straws that ended what became a toxic church experience, but the one that stung the most was being told that I needed to go back to sleeping in my car or in a shelter with my child since I was unable to afford a place to live. In other words, no they could not offer support.
You can develop calluses on your heart and go through an emotional, even spiritual trial while also having to find a place to live. Being separated with and from children can serve as very emotionally taxing experiences. When people get divorced or break-up they may not be able to go back home. If there was drama, they may not be able to go to a friends for fear that the domestic violence could knock on their door.
When someone has to flee in this situation, it’s best to have a clean break with changed phone numbers, and an unidentified place. In my opinion, only in this situation is someone running to the shelter. In their mind, which is often true, it is a life or death choice to leave and never return.
Addiction: Drugs and Alcohol
Anyone who is on drugs will tell you, it is not something they feel bad about. They have found something God-like that they feel numbs pain and offers an almost spiritual high. We know that drugs are an imitation of the power and presence of God, and that is why it being the opposite can and will destroy you.
When people have overcome Drug and Alcohol addiction, they will also be honest about the broken relationships that they have caused, often to the closest people to them, including family.
Some relationships are irreparable. They will never be the same. They are changed people and they must forge on to develop new healthy relationships without the expectation of family coming around. Still, they may not have any place to go while they continue detoxing or starting their new addiction free life. I know you’re thinking that there are programs. Even programs get full, and when I was homeless and trying to get into the shelter, the staff would not give me a bed even though I hung around the shelter and slept in the car for one week. Instead, the woman kept lying to my face. She never gave me a bed, a man who was attracted to me did.
These reasons why people become homeless are very real for anyone of you. You can not say that one of these numbered are better than another, rather that we can all at anytime fall beneath our own expectation if we are the slightest bit out of position.
Even very wealthy mult-millionaires can lose everything in a bad business structure, investment or decision. It doesn’t mean that you or anyone else deserve homelessness, it doesn’t mean you need to be punished like a child, and it doesn’t mean that you should treat anyone or be treated less than your true value.
Homelessness is not an expression of class. Homelessness doesn’t lend itself to a particular color, or gender, and it is certainly not a sentence for sin. Recently, my sister told my daughter that me being homeless is my fault. My decisions are what got me to this point and that it’s my fault that I’m homeless.
To all you selfish bastards who think like my sister in your relationships with people, let me help you out with something. Life is not about placing blame, or fault. It is not about right or wrong. Life is about learning, growing, and overcoming your mistakes in decision making to become all of who God truly desires you to be. We are all responsible for love, which is an action word. When we spend out time making excuses for why we don’t take our responsibility to love seriously, we will have to answer for that from God.
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Written: The day the earth quaked August 23, 2011.
First Published: August 26,2011
Here is an interesting article on a person who chose to become homeless because of his beliefs about the government and currency. He may be articulate and have access to media to share his views, but he is not alone in his thinking I assure you. Click Here for his story.