Before I get into my own experiences over the past few months, I want you to get your hands on the most important book written so far in 2011: The Girl's Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp. It is one of the most heart-rending memoirs that I have ever read, and it not only lays bare the tragic life that she lived as a young girl, but also makes a lot of important statements about who we homeless people are, and dispels at least a couple of stereotypes and myths. Brianna, for example, is a young (25) woman with a sharp mind and lots of life experience. When she lost her $50K per year job, one thing followed another, and she was homeless.
That's how easy it is to find yourself with no where to go.
In her case, she had some friends, and some luck, and she worked diligently to improve her situation. Her book should win a number of awards this year: it is compelling, and very well written.
We homeless are often the working poor, unable to accumulate enough capital to get a new place to live, and the "system" does not generally help any of us unless we have dependent children. A single man, 57 years old, like me, can rely on getting food stamps and not much else. I have plenty of education and experience, and I am a talented writer and editor. But the best that I have been able to do is write as a correspondent for the newspaper, getting $50 per story. Right now, with the newspaper business in such dire straits, I am averaging four or five stories per month.
So read Brianna's book. And keep in mind that every homeless person's story is different. But we are not all one thing or another thing. Sure, some of us have mental illness to cope with, and some of us are addicts, and some of us are just emotionally wasted. But we are all human beings, striving to keep some measure of dignity as we struggle with the hardest reality: no where to go, no where to be.