The Harsh Reality of Homelessness Worry became your new mindset. Sleeplessness becames normal. I had to protect and provide for 4 small children in a situation that soon becames a trap.
The Harsh Reality of Homelessness
Worry became my new mindset. Sleeplessness became normal. I had to protect and provide for 4 small children in a situation that soon became a trap.
It was late summer, 2009, I could hardly believe what was happening. My world changed so quickly, I didn’t see it coming. Facing job loss and a housing lease not being renewed. I was scurrying for housing and employment at the same time. The immediacy of my issues left me in shock.
Worry became my new mindset. Sleeplessness became normal. I had to protect and provide for 4 small children in a situation that soon became a trap. My choices were to violate my conscience and place my children into “Sunday school classes” that would teach them things that I did not believe in.
Suddenly I was living in a tent at a campground for $10 a night, with my 4 small children. I struggled to plaster on a smile and attempt to convince my oldest daughter that we were “on vacation”. Even at age 6, she could see right through the lie.
I learned within a week that we were not alone. There were 3 other families, pretending to be “on vacation” as well. One even had to commute 15 miles, twice a day, to keep their kids in school. They had been there for 4 months.
This proved harder than I’d ever thought possible. One $10 night equals $300 a month. And the campground was far from town. This meant more money to drive to the grocery stores and job interviews. Trips were frequent due to lack of refrigeration. A huge portion of our food stamps went to buying ice for the ice chest. Cooking over a fire was easy enough, but gathering enough wood to cook, clean and wash clothes was time-consuming. I soon saw that this was a money pit. How could I maintain AND pull us out at the same time?
The truth is, I couldn’t. What happened was an old friend called me out of the blue and happened to manage an apartment complex allowing us to live rent-free for 2 months. Which was all we needed to get back on our feet.
What my experience taught me was that our nation has a big problem. There are a lot of charities that take donations and offer “help” and they do great work. But what I saw firsthand is that there are very few who offer assistance and allow you to keep your personal dignity. No one should be forcefully separated from their children to take an 8-week course on “overcoming addiction” when they have never even tried drugs. No one who is non-religious or a different faith should be forced to attend a religious service in order to have a roof over their babies heads. Ethical assistance of the homeless should seek to preserve the dignity and autonomy.
Thankfully, I am not the only one who has seen this problem. In 2014 a nonprofit organization was founded to meet the exact types of needs my family faced 5 years before. ShelterstoShutters.org provides job training and placement as well as apartments to people just like us. They boast a 93% success rate of participants not re-entering homelessness services. That is definitely great news to people looking for a hand up instead of a handout.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a nonpartisan organization committed to preventing and ending homelessness in the United States.
Shelters to Shutters is a national 501c3 organization that transitions individuals and families out of homelessness to economic self-sufficiency by educating and engaging the real estate industry to provide employment and housing opportunities.
| Written by Tricia Elliott