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The following is a guest post written by me and originally posted at The Saved Quarter back in April. 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?”
So, if I was homeless, what would I do to improve my situation? WHEW! That is truly an involved question! But, it is also one that makes for a very interesting thought and writing exercise!
In order to begin tackling this question, I think it’s first appropriate to lay out some assumptions and ground rules for my strategy described herein. There are described below:
- In my possession, I have $20 and a valid Driver’s License.
- I am living in a mid-sized Midwest United States city with an adequate bus/trolley system for public transportation. In this way, transportation is not a limiting factor.
- I do not have a college degree(s), but did graduate from high school (or have the equivalent G.E.D certification).
- I have clothes that enable me to fit in with regular people. In this way, I don’t automatically appear homeless.
Now that the we’ve established the setting, we can explore the details of what I would do to improve my situation.
Step 1 – Getting Set Up For Success
As is the case with many things in life, I think the first step to improving my situation if I was homeless would be to give myself the tools needed to succeed.
The first step I would take is to acquire a secondary form of identification. This is due to the fact that many times, when you are applying for utility, debt, or banking accounts, they require multiple forms of ID. So, I would need something to supplement my driver’s license mentioned above.
The easiest way to do this would be to get a library card! They are free, easy to get, and don’t require much in the way of existing forms of ID.
Having obtained a library card from the local library, I would then proceed to a local bank to set up a no fee checking account. This checking account will be the central place where I will manage my finances while I am improving my situation.
Finally, with the $20 I have in my wallet, I would go to the local Salvation Army and buy a very cheap used bike. This wouldn’t be anything fancy, just something that rolls and will get me around town to work.
Step 2 – Surviving Before Thriving
It is important to note that getting myself out of homelessness will not be an overnight occurrence. Therefore, I will need to locate and accept help from the various organizations out there that provide assistance to homeless people. A description of these various resources can be found below:
- Minister at Your Local Church
- Irregardless of my personal religious beliefs, probably the best source of information for where I can receive aid from the local community would be a minister/pastor/reverend at a local church.
- These individuals have experience with local community aid organizations, and can serve as a true “one-stop-shop” for how I should proceed in getting assistance.
So, that is how I would personally proceed in “stabilizing” my situation. However, just to give you all an idea of the types of organizations available to aid homeless people, I’ve put together a short list below.
- Homeless shelters
- These are organizations, such as The Salvation Army, that provide rooms for homeless people.
- You can find homeless shelters in your city/state at the following link – Homeless Shelter Directory.org
- Food banks
Step 3 – Finding Employment
All of these support organizations are great, but they will not enable me to actually get out of a state of homelessness. In order to do this, I will have to find and maintain stable employment.
Now, because I just have a high school degree (or equivalent), finding a job will not be easy. I will of course be limited to those jobs that do not require a college degree. Furthermore, my current state (of being homeless) does not permit me time to obtain any type of certification/apprenticeship because I need income immediately.
Even though finding a job will not be easy, I would target my job search to jobs with the potential for above-minimum-wage salaries. For example, if you were to succumb to job at McDonald’s, you probably will be making $6.50 (or whatever the minimum wage is) an hour for at least the next 6 months! This level of income simply won’t enable you to get anywhere fast.
However, by targeting my job to the candidates listed below, I have the ability to obtain more money, if I willing to work hard. The key here is to think tips, tips, tips.
- Airport Valet – I’ve heard that some of these guys/gals make $100,000 per year. Just think – if you get $1 in tips per bag, that could add up quickly!
- Restaurant Waiter
- Tour guide/Bus or Shuttle Driver
- Sonic Drive-In Worker
- Porta-Potty Cleaner – This doesn’t involve tips, but due to the grotesque nature of the work, you can make $50,000 per year.
- Telephone Telemarketing – I’ve heard that people can make $15-$20 per hour with this. Plus, it’s air-conditioned!
Permanent Housing and Next Steps
After finding a job and beginning to make some money, I can then take a step back and begin to think about finding more permanent housing options.
Because having your own apartment involves significant cost in the way of kitchen appliances, furniture, bedding, etc, I will most likely not be able to afford an apartment for quite some time. In the meantime, I would most likely try to stay in a cheap, or Extended Stay hotel that is fully furnished (with a kitchen)
and has low monthly rates.
For example, StudioPLUS Inn has rooms for around $30/night in the Midwest, which would amount to around $900-$1000 per month. This wouldn’t be as cheap as an apartment, but it would save me the cash outlay of furnishing and utility payments.
Once getting in to a more permanent living setting, I would also begin to look at ways to increase my credit, which becomes important if you want to get approved for renting an apartment or eventually, buying a house.
Conclusion and Jacob’s Deep Thoughts of the Day
So, there you have it! These are main steps I would take to improve my situation if I was homeless. Of course, the way I described it sounds very rosy and effortless. I know good and well that finding a good paying job like the ones I described is not easy.
Another general comment is that quite often, there are deeper issues involved with people that are homeless. Often, it is not simply a matter of them being “lazy” and not looking for a job. Many times, there are deeper psychological issues at work, ranging from chemical imbalances to an abusive childhood. All of these factors make getting out of a homeless state much more difficult than it would be for you or I if we were simply placed there with all our knowledge and background in-tact.
Because of this, I think it is especially important to be tolerant of homeless people and resist judging them as a “drain on society” before knowing the whole story. Similarly, if we are to help remedy their situation, it is important to treat and consider the person as a whole.
How about you all? If you were homeless, what steps would you take to improve your situation? Have you ever known any one that was homeless?
Share your experiences by commenting below!
***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/roughgroove/2473248707/lightbox/