Most of us think it can never happen to us. I was sure of it. Yet, I had been left homeless twice in my life.
The first time was during Hurricane Rita. We lived in our damaged home, but it wasn’t safe, and I was terrified the whole time. Greg kept assuring me we’d be all right despite three gigantic trees pushing all their weight on our roof.
I did not believe him. I knew he would do anything NOT to leave our home abandoned, so I felt he had ulterior motives to keep us there even though it wasn’t safe. If it were me, I would’ve pitched a tent–if I had a tent.
For days until we could get help, I listened for every creak and groan. It was an old house and the timbers were sturdy. Greg was right that if it held after the initial crash, it wouldn’t crash further. But it still didn’t make me feel any safer.
I can tell you for a fact I stayed out of that house as much as I could until we could get a crew to lift the trees off with a crane. We slept in the only room that wasn’t directly under a tree.
The second time I became homeless was a fluke. I had a choice. Either I could be homeless or jobless.
We had bought a home in the country (the home we have now). Only there was a snafu with the survey. They said the bank sold us a house and two acres instead of a house with six acres. The deal was off unless the bank could find out what went wrong.
Only there was a problem. I had already sold my city home. I had less than two days to make a decision.
You know how it is when you’re selling or buying a home. By the time you’ve reached the peak of the process you’re sick of it and just want it to end as quickly as possible. That’s where I was.
I thought about getting an apartment, but I had to find one in under 48 hours, and then to what end? We had lost our dream home. I didn’t want to start over. It had taken us a year just to get this far. The only other option was to go back to my home with Greg in SE Texas. It meant I would lose my job. No matter which route I chose, I would be starting back at zero.
Enter my best friend, who I bumped into quite by accident at the grocery store. She could tell I was in a dark place. I was probably ready to burst into tears. At this point, I hadn’t told anyone of our dilemma. She came up with a solution that gave me room to breathe and make the right decision. She offered me an air mattress and a dry roof while I figured out what to do.
It took three weeks. It was all the time the bank needed to make things right and straighten out this mess. I could never thank her enough for helping me through a very emotional and tumultuous time.
Neither of these situations were dire. There was always a way out. It might not be the prettiest way out, but at least I had options.
Sometimes we don’t have options.
I’m a very proud person and I wouldn’t ask for charity even if I needed it. I’m fairly certain most of us fall into this category. That’s why it’s extremely important to swallow your pride and ask for help as soon as you know you’re in trouble.
There are lots of reasons to become homeless, such as fire or any other natural disaster. Sometimes you have to leave a home to keep you safe from physical abuse. People who live from paycheck to paycheck are also on the knife’s edge of becoming homeless.
No matter what your circumstance here are some things to consider.
• Make an account of what you have. Do you have an emergency fund? Relatives? Friends?
• Are you safe? This is especially important if you have kids.
• How long can you manage on what you have?
• If you live in a good sized city, there are loads of organizations that can help you. Go to the city government’s web site and see what’s available.
• If you live in the boonies, your resources are more limited. Sometimes you can get help from the county or federal side. Start with the county first. If all else fails, call your local law enforcement. They can probably steer you to lesser known local resources.
• The Red Cross is always available after a natural disaster.
• Your church is also a wealth of resources and networking.
• If you’re not homeless now, for heaven’s sake, start an emergency fund. Grow it until there is a minimum of three months salary.
• If a neighbor, friend, or relative has taken you in, get on your feet as soon as possible. You don’t want to be a burden. Sweep their floors, wash dishes, or at the very least, stay from underfoot.
• Pay it forward. If someone has helped you, help someone else once you’re back on your feet.
Sometimes we become homeless through no fault of our own. Even if you have enough money to blow on a hotel room, it’s still a huge inconvenience and a black pit of not knowing where to go next. What most of us need is time–time to figure out what to do next.
Get your ducks in order before it happens. And if the worst should happen before your ducks are straight, ask for help, and expect to suffer for a little while. They don’t call it bad luck for nothing.
Have you ever been homeless? What did you do first?
Go here to learn how to Grow an Emergency Fund.