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Becoming Homeless or Poor and on Welfare

Updated on November 16, 2012

It either happens in one swoosh of bad cascading events that overwhelm your resources or it is a gradual slide down like nefarious cancer or other diseases. Many are now suffering this from Hurricane Sandy. I can't imagine the grief of suddenly, in minutes, going from middle class and secure to homeless with nothing more than clothes on your back. Sure, they have their life savings still, but that will be consumed quickly and then when that is gone, you have homeless and others facing welfare. It might only be months away.

That is the "swoosh" method. The "slow" method ends up in the same place but only after years of steady decline of savings and resources and failed attempts to stay above it. I stopped and talked with a homeless man along a jogging trail. He has his bike, a backpack, a Monster drink and sandwich. He smelled and was dirty. But, his story saddened me. He spoke like he some education, talking, college education. For him, it started three years ago. He had a family, a home, a job as a mechanic. Things were fine. Then, one by one, the pillars to his life fell. He lost the job and could not find another. He tried to switch careers, but those ended being dead ends and a loss of precious savings. He said that employers refused to give him a chance in a position that was not a mechanic. His resume is all automotive mechanic, thus, after months of trying to get a job in the retail trade, he gave up because of others with that experience always got it. He became discouraged and depressed. Months passed and then years, his unemployment with extensions also dried up. Whatever toys he had, like an old car or jet ski, were sold. That kept his head above the water. Then, the marriage failed after they lost their modest home. More blows to his ego and self worth. Employers who look at his job application would see he was unemployed for over a year. Some would then cut the interview short, others asked, what have you been doing. To him, that was such an idiot question, but he responded, "I need a job, a chance". This was as close to begging as his pride would allow, yet, employers cared less.

He told me that once, he had $10,000 in his savings and after three years of decline and loss, he was down to $1000. He became emotional. He said he could not ask for help from family because of pride so he just disappeared among the bike and jogging trails in parks.

Whether it is a natural disaster or a series of economic problems, many of us are only a few years away from a similar situation. Scarey stuff. Humbling.

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