How Close Are You to Homelessness? Where Would You Go if You Were Homeless?

by barbarab

Most working people live payday to payday. Most working people do not have a backup plan in case of financial disaster.What would you do, where would you go...IF?

Let's just play the "What if" game

If your job were to collapse, if you were to get laid off, if you were to get fired what would you do? How long could you last without a bi-weekly or monthly check coming in? What would you do if, let's just say, you could not find another job? Have you ever thought about the scenario of being unable to pay the rent or the mortgage?

Actually, the spiraling horror is worse than just the major bill of a place to live. The list of what is owed on a monthly or less basis can include a car and or truck payment, internet, television (cable or satelite), cell phone and or home land line not to mention utilities, sewer, garbage and water. Many people are also carrying a heavy credit card debt and that payment many times equals or exceeds the house payment or rent.

The monthly debt of many working people is between $1500 and $2000 a month. Of course the fact that this money does not come due at the same time every month helps many working people to remain blissfully ignorant of the amount of money going out their door and into someone elses hands. At the same time most people justify the outgoing money as being used for things they need or deserve. Unfortunately working people during this time of recession are spending money excessively, perhaps as a way to convince themselves they are not affected by the recession. However, if the luxury is being paid for 'on time' that puts the person smack in the center of the recession and the payment due is closer than they realize.

And during a recession the things or people that were in place before is now gone. Nothing  is stable. Disaster will become very real very quickly.

What will happen? What will you do when it happens?


Do you have three months of savings stashed and untouched...just in case?

Let's walk through what will happen

When you lose your job of course there is panic but soon your support group, friends and family, assure you that another job will come soon and not to worry. They even give help, pay some bills for you, bring food to the house. You count your blessings, give thanks and try to reciprocate as far as you are able. Having this breathing space gives you the courage to pick yourself up and start on your job search with an optimistic outlook. You go to the unemployment office, fill out the paperwork for unemployment compensation and try not to cry when you are told it is not a gaurantee of payment. Apparently the employer still holds the upper hand and if they are able to prove you deserved to be fired or laid off you will not get any money at all. The next surpirse comes when you find out what the weekly unemployment check will be, if you get it. Now you understand why people say "I will just collect my pennies" when speaking of unemployment.

True panic will set in when you cannot get another job. No matter how many applications you send out, no matter how many places you just walk into there is no interview or if there is one you are just one of many applicants. Perhaps you go on an interview and find yourself sitting in front of the employer with a dozen other applicants. This is definitely a way to weed out the weakest applicant; especially when the employer says "Let's start with you on the end and you tell me why you are better than everyone else at this table." By the time the last applicant gets their say it is the verbal equivalent of a "blood bath."

After a few days or weeks you become sensitive to the information on the internet, news, papers concerning the unemployment rate. Soon you see the effects of unemployment all around you. Reality really sets in not when you have to walk out of an empty house, but when you see someone just like yourself on the outside. People using a food stamp card, people standing in the parking lots of grocery stores asking to wash your car windows, people on the sidewalk asking for money and when you look far enough, people that have slept on the steps of churches or in the wash or just on the ground wherever they were when the sun set. The true state of unemployment is seen by the wide type of people walking the streets. There is less alcohol and more childen and women these days.

Finally you realize the bills are coming due again and there is no backup from family or friends. You start putting ads in the Dandy Dime or other free papers. You take items to the swap meet, you have yard sales, anything to make a few dollars. Eventually you max out all your credit cards, perhaps you even go to the title shops and hock your car title, but it is a toothpick in the hole of a busted dam. Sooner or later either the bank will call, your landlord will give you notice or you will go on your own probably declaring bankruptcy as well. If you have the luxury of being able to declare total bankruptcy and have a thousand or so dollars you tell yourself it is for the best, a clean break, a new beginning. You set off for a better tomorrow, another town, a new job and hope everything will be better. You are fine until wherever you start over, it all starts over again.

Worst of all is that all of the above occurs in four to six weeks time. In no time you go from a forty hour work week, paying bills every two weeks, paying down a "due" balance a little bit at atime to being homeless, hungry, in despair and scared.


The harsh reality

Once a person is touched by being unemployed, no help in sight, other people in the same predicament become easily visible. Also, ideas of "what if" and "what would you do in case" go through your mind more than ever. You may consider radical life changes in order to survive. Survive? Absolutely. When it happens and you have to pack what you have or worse, leave it where it is and walk out you realize you are now living one moment to the next.

The qoutes you heard are not just philoshical renderings, they are real life. "Live only for the day" "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" When we are present in each moment, the past gently rolls up behind us and the future slowly unravels before us. (Rev Richard Levy)" "The past is gone, the future is only a promise and this day is all we are sure of." "Life is lived in the present. Yesterday is gone.Tomorrow is yet to be. Today is the miracle." "Nothing is worth more than this day. Goethe"  


Not all homeless people are on the streets or standing in a soup line somewhere so where is everyone?

The tales of gypsys do not apply in today's world. Or does it? One of the things that becomes very clear when you are on the outside looking in is how many other people are out there with you. And they are in the usual and not so usual places.

Some people have returned to their parent's or their children's homes during times of no jobs and no money. This is sometimes the only alternative if there is no unemployment check, no food stamp and nothing short of sleeping on te streets to look forward to. In order to make this alternative as easy as possible it is important for you to do the housework, cooking and all the yardwork. This will keep tempers from fraying as well as make you feel productive and happier during a trying time.

If returning home or living with your kids is something you cannot or are not allowed to do then you must get creative. A very unconventional alternative is to take an extended camping trip. There are tent sites in every national park and on Bureau of Land Management land where you can camp for twelve days at a time for free to very little cost. Then all you need is potable water, dry supplies and courage. If you have the luxury of receiving an unemployment check, you need to keep your laptop and you need to keep a checking account. The reason is because you will have to find a Wi-Fi connection every week and complete your weekly file status in order to "collect your pennies" and buy supplies for the following week.

Are you smiling about the "courage" statement? It is surprising how much fun a camping trip is when you have a place to come back to that has hot water. Try camping as a way of life and the fun quickly wears off. If you live in a place that sees more than its share of wildfires then you must factor in wildlife when you think about this alernative lifestyle. If you are traveling with young people you have to worry about accidents because no matter how bleak the situation, kids will find a way to have playtime. And with that playtime comes the risk of falls, scrapes, poison ivy, ticks and even sunburn. All of these things can quickly turn into an emergency and you will be far off the grid, probably without a cell phone and more than likely without enough gas to make it there and back until the unemployment check comes in.

What would you do if you are fine on Tuesday but it rains during the night and your supplies get soaked? Now you are five days away from another "pennies" check and Could you catch fish if you are next to a lake? Do you know how to trap a rabbit or what berries are edible? Do you know how to do these things without getting caught? The park rangers are wonderful people but how would they react if they knew you were not "just camping" but actually living in their park?

Another thing to think about is the church. The monasteries have always sheltered persons in distress and if you have that as a resource it would be good to see if any help is there for you.




Could you live "off grid"

What is your decision?

It is all well and good for someone to tell you that you must have at least three months of savings set aside but what if you go through that three months and still no job? Also,if you are smart and wealthy enough to have that nestegg how would you feel at the end of three months if you have no job and no nestegg either?

What is the answer then?

Of course there is no one answer. If disaster happens the only thing to do is move through the process one day, one moment at a time. Everyone will have a different road to travel and a different timeline as well. One one thing everyone needs to do before disaster is to have a plan. Just as if you are preparing for a flood, a tornado, a hurricane or a fire always have an escape route and a supply box. Keep the map with the box and keep it full with essentials for that just in case event.

Better to have a plan and a supply box and never need it than to feel you will never be touched by disaster and wish you had one when it is too late.

Better yet for you to never be touched by this disaster at all. Hopefully the  closest you get to going through such a horrible time is by reading these words.

However, just in case is the rule and hopefully you are formulating your own supply box in your mind right now!

Updated: 08/28/2011, barbarab
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barbarab on 09/01/2011

you are so correct and I shudder to think of what may be coming for our country

Guest on 09/01/2011

Great one is immune, for sure. We took steps to simplify our life now, to minimize risk of losing it all. It is amazing the difference between the vulnerability of small, mountain communities like we are rving in right now vs urban. Folks are much better prepared here. First, they have skills and they "barter" instead of spending fixes a car in exchange for one repairing the camper roof, etc. Living as minimalists, all bills are wrapped up into one monthly campground payment, plus food and living expenses - that's it.

So an $8.00 job at a grocery store might lead an urban family to financial ruin, but it is enough when your bills are small. We have family in metropolitan areas, and they are at a huge risk because their bills are phenomenal. Also, people tend to spend more when they make more. A raise promotes a $900/rent or mortgage payment and "upgrading" from that $600/month smaller home they lived in. Same with vehicles, etc. Making more money? Now we can pay $400/month for a new car vs the mindset of only buying a car you can pay for with cash in hand. Plus, newer vehicles carry higher monthly insurance costs, etc. Our society has lived on credit cards, loans and beyond their means for a long, long time...and now the bubble is bursting, and it is going to hurt.

Basically, those that the country might look at as "poor" today, in our rural mountain town, are actually in a safer position than those living beyond their means, unprepared what to do/where to go if they would lose their jobs. Not that rving is for everyone, absolutely not, but paying cash for an older, 3 bedroom mobile home and owing no one except a tiny lot rent each month vs getting a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house that takes your paychecks every two weeks...well...who is actually richer in that scenario? On the outside, those in the fancy home look wealthy...but, actually, those who own their modest mobile home and owe no one, on paper, are the truly "rich."

Thanks for the article!!

barbarab on 08/30/2011

thank you Sheila. yes, unfortunately everyone is way too close to trouble these days

sheilamarie on 08/30/2011

Nice job of bringing this reality home, Barbara. It's important for people to realize that no one is immune. We all need to face the future creatively.

barbarab on 08/29/2011

so do I ohcaroline!

ohcaroline on 08/29/2011

This article is a reality for far too many people. I pray our country turns around so that many will be able to find work and stabilize their lives. I count my blessings every day that I am not homeless. I will do everything I can to stay that way.

barbarab on 08/29/2011

thank you grace I will credit you when I use that statistic in my next article! I am writing a follow up to this one...will see what else I can use from that site as well! this topic is htting too close to home for many of us today!

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