A Homeless Plan to Guard Against Hopelessness

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The following is a guest post from Andi B. with Modern Tightwad. It was written as part of a Yakezie blog swap, where different participants in the Yakezie Personal Finance Network partnered up and traded posts on the common topic of “What would you do to improve your situation if you were homeless?”

You can view my post today over at The Saved Quarter (another great Yakezie blog) by clicking here.

A Homeless Plan to Guard Against Hopelessness
A couple years ago, our financial situation was dire, and my husband and I talked about what we would do if we were homeless. One of my friends was kind enough to tell me, “You’ll never be homeless because you have friends,” but I know better than to depend on the unending kindness of friends or family, or to believe that we cannot be crippled by unknowable circumstance. Ben Franklin’s notion of spending a maximum of three days with friends is probably on the short end, but there can still be a limit to how long you can crash.
Homeless Plan:
Our working assumption is that my husband and I have lost our jobs, our home, and have no savings. For the sake of argument, we also assumed that we don’t have any friends we can stay with for any duration.
Step 1: Sell our second car. 
We have two cars, a 2000 Mitsubishi Mirage and my husband’s 1969 Datusn 510 wagon. We would sell the Mirage because we could get $1000-1500 to put into savings. Although it is our “nicer” car, the seats in the Datsun fold down to accomodate a twin size air mattress, and we could sleep in there if need be.
Step 2: Sell everything else. 
If we’re at the point where we may have to stay in our car, a PS3 and a television is unnecessary. I’m pretty sure that we can scrape together another few hundred easily. This should give us up to $2,000 in our savings account, including the money from the car.
Step 3: Make a sleeping decision.
With the car, our tent, and the money we’d converted from savings, we could temporarily live in a campground. We could stay in a by-the-week hotel. A priority would be looking for work that included housing. For example, my husband and I both have years of experience in the hotel industry so we would look for a motel or bed & breakfast management position that included an apartment.
Step 4: Get all the help we can.
I’m hoping that at this point, we’ve already applied for unemployment. We would also apply for food assistance. If we managed to obtain food assistance, we would utilize local assistance matching programs. 
The Portland Farmer’s Market, for example, matches up to $5 each week for assistance recipients to obtain fresh local food stuffs. We have a dog and would look to the Pongo Fund for help in taking care of him. Many would advocate giving him up, but since he is my assistance dog, that’s not really an option.
Step 5: Prioritize food.
Outside of governmental food assistance, I would also approach local farms and ask if we could help with the harvest or work at their farmer’s market booth in exchange for a share of food, or if we could glean. Gleaning is the process of walking through the fields and picking food that the harvesters miss, food that would go bad if it weren’t for individuals picking through.
Step 6: Focus on finding work.
Part A: Gym Membership
If our sleeping decision doesn’t include bathroom facilities, we decided to get a family gym membership at a local gym. We could get a family membership for $60/month that would provide us with a place to use the bathroom and shower each day. Good hygiene is essential to getting a new job, and a job is needed to get back on our feet. It also may give us something to do for an hour or so each day so we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves.
Part B: “Borrow” an address.
A huge stumbling block for people to get work is to have an address and contact number for employers. If we couldn’t borrow an address from a friend, a local church or non-profit may be able to assist.
Part C: Get a number.
As stated above, it’s nearly impossible to get a job without a contact number. A prepaid cell phone would be in order. Our last phone would have been surrendered. We’ll worry about paying the cancellation fee when we can.
A big issue my husband and I discussed would be our attitudes prior to and during our homeless situation. We would guard against complacency or surrendering to what we felt was inevitable. We would be willing to travel anywhere to find work. Unfortunately, if our situation was due to a severe medical problem, or something else, we may have to consider a different plan. However, we are fortunate that if homelessness was an extreme possibility, we both have family in several parts of the country who would be willing to take us in for a month or so to get a job and get on our feet. Not everyone is that lucky. We also have the humility to ask for help, hopefully before our situation becomes desperate. 
Due to our previous financial circumstances, tragedy is always in the back of my mind. We’ve been house-hunting over the past six months, and currently have an offer in on an house with an accessory dwelling unit – a small 300 sf studio apartment. I was comforted by the fact that if something horrible happened and we lost primary income, we could move into the studio, rent out the main house and more than cover our mortgage. Once we discussed what we could do in a worst case scenario, I no longer struggled with worry. Even if something happens and we become homeless, I’m not hopeless.

How about you all? What steps would you take to improve your situation if you were homeless? Have you ever known any one that was homeless? 

Share your experiences by commenting below!

Jacob’s Thoughts – Listed below are my random thoughts as I was reading this article.

  • First, thank you so much Andi for writing this article. It was very insightful! I’m so sorry that your situation was so dire several years ago. Was that caused by loss of a job?
  • @ Jobs that include housing – The idea of finding a job that provides housing is a very interesting one that I had not previously considered. I know that resort and cruise ship workers get housing providers, which enables them to save a lot of money. I didn’t know that normal hotel workers could stay in the hotel though for free. Do a lot of hotels do that?
  • @ Unemployment benefits and food sources – In writing my post over at The Saved Quarter, I completely forgot to mention the idea of applying for unemployment assistance and food assistance from the government. The idea of “gleaning” for food is innovative as well!
  • @ Idea of asking for help – I’m really glad that you mentioned the idea of being humble enough to actually ask for help. I think that is something that gets a lot of people in trouble (even with debt problems), because help is available, they are just too stubborn or ashamed to admit to needing it.

***Photo courtesy of http://images.cdn.fotopedia.com/flickr-4307313294-hd.jpg


  1. This may sound arrogant, but I would never be homeless! Even if I were absolutely stone broke, I have too many skills that would allow me to get some job for quick money. A long time ago one of my new employees was homeless and in time he revealed how he coped during that time. He took advantage of situations such as going to a hotel gym to shower and clean up for free. He worked in my restaurant, so his food was covered during his shift. Each employee received a free dinner.
    My recent post Even More Financial Skills for Teens

    • I definitely agree Krantcents. In my post (see link below), that was one of the things that I pointed out in my conclusions. There are generally internal factors that I believe contribute to homeless situations, and therefore, it is important to treat the person as a whole in coming up with a remedy to the situation.
      My recent post A Homeless Plan to Guard Against Hopelessness

    • I don't think it sounds arrogant, but I've known people who felt similarly and found themselves in unexpected circumstances due to a health condition, an abusive relationship, or something completely out of left field. It may be surprising though that an attitude like yours can be key to staying off the streets. If you're a fighter with multiple skills who is willing to do whatever it takes, you are far less likely to end up homeless.
      My recent post Yakezie Swap- What would you do if you were homeless

    • humblepie says:

      You sound super arrogant to me. If you have no job, and don’t have an apartment (say it burns down) and no savings…you would still be in trouble because you don’t have first, last and a security deposit. And before you say “but I would never not have savings” one good medical crisis can wipe out all that cash unless you are Warren Buffet. Good for you for having skills but shame on you for looking down on people whose journey you don’t know.

  2. Good point KC! When you admit defeat in your mind, you succumb to hopelessness.
    My recent post 10 Awesome Products From Ikea For Under 10 Bucks!

  3. I never would have thought of getting a gym membership! But that pretty much takes care of the cleanliness issue. And working where you sleep is a great idea also. I wasn't aware that it was even an option.
    My recent post Poor or Homeless- What Would you Do to Change your Situation

    • Andi B. says:

      It's not so much working where you sleep, but some employment such as motel or storage unit management can include an apartment.
      My recent post Yakezie Swap- What would you do if you were homeless

  4. I'd see if there was an IHN (Interfaith Hospitality Network) Family Promise group that I could get into, and save save save every single penny until I had first, last and a security deposit. People often become homeless with jobs, too, btw. I'd use the library for internet access. The gym membership isn't a bad idea but if you don't have any money coming in, then you aren't going to have $60 a month either. So I'd see if there was a university or something where I could shower or see if I could find a friend whose house I would shower at.

    • Good points Scooby. I've never heard of an IHN. Are those usually organized by churches? Using the internet at a library would be good too!
      My recent post A Homeless Plan to Guard Against Hopelessness

    • Andi B. says:

      I had also never heard of an IHN. The $60/month (which could be even less with a local YMCA) is our idea of an investment in our employment. I don't think we'll be able to get a job if we come in with poor hygiene. Since we were ideally starting this with a few hundred dollars, we thought it would work out well.
      My recent post Yakezie Swap- What would you do if you were homeless

  5. Joe Edward says:

    The gym membership is a good idea. I really did not think about it that way.

  6. Plan A,B,C show that you really thought this out in detail.
    I don't know if I want to pay $60 for gym membership if I don't have any money though.

    My recent post What if you’re homeless

    • Andi B. says:

      Scary, but I have thought it out in detail. The gym membership is an option if we need, but it only works if we have a few hundred dollars from selling our assets, something we may not necessarily have. Regardless, a shower is pretty critical for getting a job.
      My recent post Yakezie Swap- What would you do if you were homeless

  7. Joey@TLI says:

    I really enjoyed reading your plan! I honestly think not that many people have ever taken the time to really think through these things. It seems everybody really liked the gym membership idea but to be honest I think just having an address and phone number would be the first step to even applying for a job.

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