Unemployed and Homeless…in a new light

What is the one, or few, things you can’t afford to part with?  That worn out comfy couch?  That brand-spanking new CD/DVD burner?

What about your home, furniture, bed, everything?  Being unemployed forces you to sit down and figure out what can you sacrifice and prioritize your needs and wants.

U.S. News and World Report, in conjunction with Yahoo Finance, tells the story of one such person in Brianna Karp.  After losing her job, she sold her belongings and moved home.  After an incident with her bipolar mother, she was forced to move out and ended up with a truck and a trailer hitched to it and called it a home.  With no electricity, water, or the basic necessities, she was homeless.

Brianna Karp, right, and her boyfriend Matthew Barnes.

With the one thing she couldn’t live without, a laptop, she frequented Starbucks as she was searching online for jobs, sending out resumes, and started a blog titled “The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness.” Karp’s blog garnered so much attention, she landed an part-time magazine internship and an upcoming book deal in 2011.

While U.S. News focused on the 10 things that we can’t afford to live without, Brianna’s story stood out because she wrote about being homeless.  Homelessness cuts across the socioeconomic fabric of our world.  The homeless isn’t always the drunk, the drug abuser, the poor, or the one with constant bad luck and making bad decisions in life.  Brianna, through her blog, showed that even the most successful people, college graduates, those who work hard, can end up homeless through situations that are beyond our control, such as being laid-off.

Parents desperately taking low-paying jobs to ensure their children have a home to go to after school, the single person who tackles three part-time jobs and lives out of their car, or the person who searches and interview jobs, after using a restroom in a Wal-Mart, Perkins, or any other public places to wash up and brush their teeth.

We like to call the homeless “bums”, but should we be quick to call them “bums” when they are college-educated, smart, and are doing everything they can to land a job and earn income once again?  The shame of telling anyone that they are homeless, or even telling friends that they need help is challenging, as Karp explained in this excerpt in her first blog entry in February 2009.

Could I ask friends for help? Possibly. However, my closest friends have so many problems of their own right now – many of them are out of work, or live in small apartments, or have various other personal problems and I am certain that I would be a burden and an imposition on them. There is also the problem of my (very large) mastiff, who I would not dream of selfishly dragging with me into someone else’s home.

So, here I am.

-Brianna Karp, “Initiation” from “the Girl’s Guide to Homelessness,” February 23, 2009

As much as we want to ask friends, they are too busy with their lives and problems to help out.  We don’t want to bother them.  In the case with family, as painful as it sounds, some will be empathetic and some will look down with disdain. It’s like a badge of shame and failure.

It shouldn’t be, as Brianna wrote in her subtitle:  “You are homeless.  You are not a bum.” Unfortunate things happen, by our decisions or by something we can’t control.  It should temporary, but if there is no support, no direction, and no place to go, sadly it becomes permanent.  Some choose to give up because they are hopeless.  Other choose to keep finding a way, no matter how low life can be.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. kay says:

    True. When you loose your job and become homeless it becomes 99.9 that no matter how much you bust your as* people drop you like a bad habit and not think twice about it. What is even worse is the scum in the world such as employers and mostly landlords who will take advantage of how little money you can earn. 4ex… a 400. per mo room for rent turns into 600. per mo if you are able to get a job making only 600. a month. Landlords will very often (at least in the state of NH) ask you to show your body and a number of crazy sick questions about your personal self because they know you need a place to live and there is very little out there for a person with no resent previous address and a new job paying 600. per month.
    And… It get worse! If you have children and you loose your job and in turn your home, the state of NH takes your children away regardless of the law or the situation. In NH, parents who become homeless are deemed UNFIT. They are not allowed help through local agencies etc. They are told by 99% of agencies that “if your children are taken then they have a home paid for by the state, so go away”.

  2. TCMSM says:

    Thank you Deb for posting your comment tonight from California.

    Deb, getting that off your chest not only helps, but adds another log to the fire on why those who have never lost their jobs, or have gone through the tough times, have no clue how to understand it. They do everything they can not to see themselves in your shoes. It means that they have no idea how to deal with it when it happens. Denial is such an easy crutch to use as a distraction. Going to church to pray that they don’t lose everything doesn’t help much. It’s praying to have the strength and humility to step forward and help friends is what they should be asking for in church.

    Deb, what it is like in California right now in your view of those looking for jobs and not having a roof over their heads? Here in Iowa, there isn’t a “large-scale” level of unemployment and homelessness, with respects to population. Is it much worse in California?

  3. Deb says:

    What isn’t funny is when people living for years in oceanfront places call you a friend when you visit and feed their cats daily while they vacation but when you become homeless and ask them for 10 bucks they outright say no but they live in Palos Verdes Estates. Lose your 20+ year job due to health and the company closing the office, become homeless, wait 3+ years on waitlist to see a specialist without health insurance in L. A. and no matter how thoughtful, generous etc. you’ve been those opportunistic friends are seeking their own comfort and ease and off to church they go thinking they are better.

  4. TCMSM says:

    Hi, FriendofaHomeless,

    I wanted to reply to back to you. I read your comment about your friend yesterday and I can’t help but to say that by being there for your friend, above all, is the most important thing you can do for her right now. It’s emotional and draining as hell for so many of us who are unemployed who are just getting by for one more day. The putdowns, the cruel looks, and empty promises, and the sadness that we experience today is nearly unbearable.

    I don’t know if this will be of any help, but if you able to, look around and ask others about getting your friend a counselor to talk to and fight off the notion of taking her life. Community agencies like the United Way should be able to provide references to counselors who are affordable and will help her. I have come close in several points of my life to ending it. I’m fortunate that my family saw the signs and found help for me.

    The saddest thing is to lose her to suicide. We expect to be treated like humans, not like a diseased group, which is what many employeds and companies view the unemployed. It’s wrong. It’s not a badge of shame.

    Take care and please don’t be afraid to write back. The most important thing to do is get help for your friend right now. Suicide should never be an option, but I understand the pain she’s going through with all of this. Don’t be afraid to call, email, and ask people you know who want to help your friend and give her the hope and the will to get through this.

    We all need each other to get through this horrible time.

  5. FriendofaHomeless says:

    I would like to say that I have a friend that almost took her life last night because Congress was making an announcement about not extending unemployment any further which has been nerve wrecking. I myself am unemployed and I am getting sick of the games of having to constantly please a group of high class who run a business and look down on their employees as if they are nothing.

    I felt bad for my friend last night because hopelessness washed over her as she was crying to the point that she mentioned she would take her life. I listened but I know there must be something more that I can do like finding someone who can talk to her in order to help her out with her situation.

    I’m just sad about all of this

  6. TCMSM says:

    Mike, I’m not going to be polly-annish about what I’m going to say: bouts of homelessness is cruel and disheartening. I’m unemployed and despite being patient, pounding the pavement for work, and re-prioritizing what I want out of the next chapter of my life, there is a strong sense that people who were around when we’re employed or had a roof over our head, are nowhere in sight and do not want to be associated with us when we need the most help.

    Many feel that they don’t want to be around someone who’ve lost everything or down on their luck. The mindset is “I don’t want to be in his/her shoes” and “It’ll never happen to me.” Those who think like that probably have never been in the positions that Charlie, Suzanne (regular commenters), you or me are in or have been in. I commented to a friend a week ago that I’m under the impression that the employeds in my town has a healthy disdain and snootiness towards people who are looking for work.

    I don’t blame you for being cold and aloof being unemployed and homeless. You lose faith in what you believe in and lose faith in the people that should be in your corner.

  7. Mike says:

    Yeah bouts of homelessness makes you wake up and learn that all people and family are fake bullshiters. As long as you got a job car etc…they all wanna be kiss kiss smoochie baby but as soon as you lose everything you lose all your friends family and I can say thoughts of suicede can come along too when you do everything out of desperation and it still doesnt work. Ive been unemployed for a year and the homeless life has made my heart turn cold. Its your atmosphere environment.

  8. TCMSM says:

    Hey, DJ, thank you for posting this morning. I have thought and worried about homelessness because I’m on the unemployment line right now and I want to do everything I can to work again. Being homeless has been on the back of my mind because I worried about what I’m going to do if and once my unemployment benefits run out this fall.

    If you don’t mind DJ, could you tell your story, what you have experienced and how difficult it is to get the message out about unemployment and homelessness? I very much would appreciate your thoughts.

  9. DJ says:

    This is almost exactly what I’ve been saying for months but it’s hard to get people to listen!!

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