How Does a Person Become Homeless?

Being rich, maybe famous, does not exempt you from hitting bottom and losing everything. The story is as old as The Book of Job in the bible, where God took all his riches away until he was homeless and penniless to test his faith in the Almighty. The story has since echoed throughout time and even today.

Of course, if one talks with homeless people, you will find that not all are or were drug addicts. Some were abused physically and mentally to such a degree they are not able to function or handle stress like "normal" people. Worse, are those who are educated, despite their appearence and smell, sometimes, well educated, that have just had too bouts with bad decisions and bad luck that over a period of time has battered their self esteem down to the point they just give up, thinking nobody gives a shit about them, no agency can help them and so on. The ones I have talked to have the same common thread to some degree. The thread is that if anyone encounters sufficient bad decisions and bad luck over several years in a row, they will drop out because all of their savings, investments, maybe love and support from others, unemployment and their extensions have been exhausted. By this time, they have hocked and sold whatever valuables they had, whether cars, computers, TVs etc.

Of course, those who have never had this event occur cannot even remotely relate to a homeless person. They think and ask, "you mean, you can't find some sort of job"? They seem to forget they are homeless. How will they eat, clean, sleep, get to work? They do not think that, what employer would hire them, even if they had proof the homeless guy had a BA degree from many years back. They seem to forget that an employer would never take a chance out of fear. What if the homeless person is 50 yrs, then age will come into play. The truth is, without some assistance and support they cannot evade the negative stigma, even if they appear to be "clean".

Today, I suspect, many people are either homeless or approaching it. Something they never in their wildest dreams thought would happen to them due to the economy. Lose a job, get unemployment until it runs out in six months, then apply for extensions, which you might not get. If you did, you have another six months, after which, it is gone. Many are still unemployed after a year, these are well educated people, yet cannot find jobs in their fields because of a host of related problems and all are not economic. A 50 yr old person trying to get a job at McDonalds who is well educated but down on their luck probably would not get it if a less educated person and younger applied for it. So, educated people don't always have it easy getting low paying jobs just to pay bills, meanwhile, their savings go down and down and down. At some point, their safety net is seriously threatened. So, they sell their car, TV, computers or high end stuff for money to keep going. Maybe they have already defaulted on the home loan and now threatened with eviction because their bank has taken it over.

Over a course of a few short years of bad economics and luck, many previously middle class people find themselves not in much of a better place than a poor or homeless person holding up a sign for money along the street. Yet, few passing by will give them a break and this includes most employers, so the spiral downwards continues battering the person's self esteem to the point the they give up. Having a BA degree in anything some 10-20 years ago means little more than the paper it is written on.

There is nothing worse than being well educated and one time a meaningful member of society that has become homeless because those that can help you think to themselves, "how can this happen"? They conclude that it must be something the homeless person did, something bad from the way they look and smell.

Sometimes, nothing could be further from the truth.

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Comments 14 comments

nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

"The story is as old as The Book of Job in the bible, where God took all his riches away until he was homeless and penniless to test his faith in the Almighty."

Did Job go to the government for a handout?


perrya profile image

perrya 6 years ago Author

No government back then. Sounds just like a very right wing republican talking.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

I turn to a guy like Harlen Sanders. He was fired over and over and over again. He was in trouble with law. Even after he got a tiny bit of money together and opened a gas station and a small restaurant, a new highway was built that destroyed him. At 65 he was broke. He then went on to create the Kentucky Fried Chicken business.

I'm not saying I'm unsympathetic to people's troubles or woes, or even that there are NEVER legitimate stories. But failure is not an excuse to continue to fail. Giving up is a choice. It's one that someone on their own must live with. If you choose to fail or to give up then that's your choice to live with, not mine to feel sorry for.


perrya profile image

perrya 6 years ago Author

If that is true, it is inspirational!


nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

Thanks for the complement!


Celticgreen profile image

Celticgreen 6 years ago

Perceptions---one man's feast is another man's famine ---i enjoyed your article---you covered an aspect that others don't see and unless one makes you aware you do not know it exists--Springboard's comment is so true, never give up----I was poor in my younger life and never realized until going into the real world--we lived very simply & did not know we were poor--but my homeless standards we are rich---perceptions and reality---reality there are so many people in dire situations----I wish everyone had the determination that Harlen Sanders did---but some folks need some encouragement and others options---there is no simple solution-----I now live very simple life once more in rural area, raising our own food, recycle---but we are happy and try to contribute to our community by helping others---have great day and thanks for sharing your article


perrya profile image

perrya 6 years ago Author

I agree. Those who simply slam the door in the face of a homeless person or against some sort of safety net as a society are not compassionate.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

I think compassion is important, and I do have SOME. But here's the thing with all 'welfare' for the homeless and the poor. If all we do is offer them a hot and a cot, it does nothing for them to rise up from their circumstance. It's fine to feed a homeless man and give him a warm place to sleep for a night, but how is it compassionate to then throw him back out there? Why not put our energy to something more constructive? Offer a skill to the guy. Perhaps address the issues that landed him on the streets in the first place. These are things that would prove way more compassionate, would be far more lasting, and would really do some good.

Don't just satisfy a man's hunger for a night. Help him to never have to go hungry again.


perrya profile image

perrya 6 years ago Author

Yes, it is fine line like many things in life.


Katharella profile image

Katharella 5 years ago from Lost in America

perrya you're too nice.

I'd be willing to bet my next hubpages check that he wouldn't take the time to go to teach a mentally handicapped person how to earn a living, and never need help again!

Dark Days a documentary would be great for you to view as well as love stinks by Mel Brooks. Both say exactly what this hub is about! A good ol' fashion test for them would be to see the movies, and then try living in their shoes for a month! Oh wait, I think it's a mile! :)


constantlyapain profile image

constantlyapain 5 years ago from Springfield, Illinois

I don't buy into the idea that all of us are "one paycheck away from being homeless." Most of us have the resources to get back on our feet if bad luck strikes. We have the perseverence, work ethic, family & friend support system to recover from something like this. The homeless, on the other hand, lack the support system or the personal resources to recover from any type of setback. Now, those living below poverty-level could easily fall into the homeless category should bad luck strike, but I maintain that the rest of us don't have to live with that fear.


perrya profile image

perrya 5 years ago Author

When all your resources have dried up over time, I think any middle class family or person could flirt with this situation. It does not happen instantly but it is a long grinding down affair, IMO.


constantlyapain profile image

constantlyapain 5 years ago from Springfield, Illinois

I'm sure that can happen, but those are not the people who end up in the homeless shelters. The people you are talking about usually have a support system of some type and end up living with family or friends and get help until they get back on their feet. Having worked with the homeless (those living in a shelter) for over 18 years, this scenario has rarely been the case. I appreciate your thoughts on the subject, though. The homeless we work with are a product of being raised in a toxic environment with broken or dysfunctional relationships that damage the person's ability to make positive decisions in life. Almost every decision they make is wrong.


Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

It's easy to make judgements by looking at a person. It seems to me that a person that has been living on the streets long-term would be hard pressed to be lazy. It must be a hard life just getting food and a place to sleep. I think there are a lot of roads that could lead a person to that, but I wouldn't assume that it is a lack of personal integrity.

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