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.