Truly it can happen to anyone with a little bad luck, spent savings and an untimely illness: despite a privileged upbringing I became homeless a few years back and I found myself facing a nightmare alone. There is so much that one needs to know in order to navigate the experience. Here are some of the critical elements of survival.
- Make sure that you are in possession of all identification documents. You’ll need your birth certificate, state ID/driver’s license, social security, and health insurance info. Make a packet of all documents and keep with you at all times.
- Before leaving home call your state’s non emergency services line (usually something like 211, 311 or similar) find out all the service providers including shelters and food banks
- There’s a lot of drama involved in finding shelters. Call your local shelter and find out what organization runs them, the length of stay allowed, accommodations and rules. Be very careful; despite being a literal beggar you may have to be exceedingly choosy. There are many shelters run by strict religious groups that essentially amount to cults and agreeing to their rules can lead to some frightening compromises; often there is no recourse if you are mistreated. If you have the option the Salvation Army is an excellent resource, humane, clean, compassionate with very good services and accommodations.
- The sad fact that no one can tell you is that to be homeless you often may have to relocate to another city with better resources.
- Ask for help from friends and strangers. There is no doubt that when you fall into indigence many people will not answer calls for help and it is a profoundly humbling experience to ask for help. However, you will also find that kindness comes from surprising quarters. There are times, quite frequently, when you will feel abandoned but continue to work the system and take goodness with you in your heart. There are blessed breakthroughs to the light more often than you can imagine.
- Find out where you can stay to avoid being on the street if you can’t find shelter. Libraries and hospitals are often the best options.
- Designate particular friends and family to keep in touch with for your safety. It’s easy to disappear but never succumb to the temptation. You may not want certain people in your life to know where you are or what’s happening to you but make sure someone close always knows where you are and what’s going on.
- Work the resources. You may not be able to afford simple necessities like a phone but there is a federal free phone program affectionately called the Obama phone. They’re easy to qualify for when you’re indigent and literally a lifesaver.At this point in the Trump presidency Medicaid is still available and you will need health insurance because many services that you’ll need to access come through medical and behavioral centers.
Particularly in the case of homeless women, more than fifty percent suffer from physical and/or mental illness. The treatment services exist. Become your own best advocate by seeking help from community behavioral resources. Be diligent in following up on your health and wellness. It’s the first major step to bringing yourself from poverty.