Part 1: How to Help Someone Facing Homelessness

Video

This is based on the post: How to Help Someone Surviving Homelessness

Discussion forums:
(2) Surviving Homelessness (quora.com)
(1) SurvivingHomelessness (reddit.com)

Transcript of Notes
(not a full transcript)

If you are trying to help someone facing a serious financial crisis and potential homelessness, then this is the place to begin. The following suggestions provide practical advice for anyone attempting to help a friend or relative survive homelessness.

This information is divided into three presentations:
Part 1 – What to do
Part 2 – What not to do
Part 3 – Seriously, just DON’T do this

This first presentation assumes the following:
1) you already know the homelessness person you are trying to help
2) neither you nor this person have ever experienced extreme poverty or homelessness before.

No one is ever just handed help of any kind you have to prove that you’re not – to use a common slur – human garbage. Anyone who’s homeless is always considered guilty until proven innocent and even then most people will assume you just haven’t gotten caught yet. That makes proving yourself to be ‘deserving’ rather complicated.

Actually, you have to prove that you’re human – and then you have to prove that you deserve to live like one.

Spend a little time trying to understand the realities of poverty in your area. Walk or drive around and take the time to actually see homeless people and low-income neighborhoods. Visit the homeless shelter. Research all of the resources available to homeless people in your area. Call around and get some basic information about what it takes to qualify for help. Then spend some time researching news stories about homelessness in the region. This will give you some insight into the way the media portrays extremely poor people and how dangerous it is to be living on the street.

Just remember that you will never truly understand what it’s like until you’ve lived it.

Simply read the biographies of people who have survived extreme poverty and nonfiction books about poverty and homelessness can be helpful. Sadly, these resources these tend to be few and far between – particularly biographies. A readily available online resource is Invisible People, a homeless journalism project that interviews people surviving homelessness and posts the interviews without edits. It’s one of the only resources that provide a voice to homeless people by simply allowing each person to tell their own story. The link is provided in the description.

After your friend or relative has become homeless, continue spending time together. Whenever possible, make a point of doing so publicly.

This kind of crisis will send a perfectly healthy human being spiraling into depression. Simple and authentic acts of friendship can help fight the despair that inevitably comes from living with the stigma of poverty.

Other people will see you together, which will reduce the damage caused by poverty stigma. This will also increase the possibility of making whatever connections are necessary to get out of homelessness.

Making alliances is crucial to both surviving and escaping poverty. Being homeless means losing police protection. Individuals without a support group or network are frequently targeted by predators –including those living financially stable, socially acceptable lives.

Publicly associating with the housed enhances the individual’s standing as a member of the ‘deserving poor.’ The is a matter of survival and an unfortunate reality born out of extremely limited resources.

No matter how altruistic a social worker or non-profit volunteer is, when a program has enough money to cover the needs of 100 people and it receives 500+ applications, decisions must be made and those decisions are often subjective.

Many non-profits are provided opportunities to collaborate with wealthy benefactors or other organizations on a limited basis. These are purposely unadvertised programs made available to ‘hand picked’ clients. Effectively, they will examine the people who have applied for publicly advertised programs and select those who are considered a good fit.

For all of these reasons (and more), it is important to present the best possible argument for being selected as a recipient and that requires being perceived as ‘deserving.’

Community. It’s the one thing everyone surviving homelessness loses. Ostracism and stigma are part of the homeless experience. They are unfair, unwarranted, traumatizing, and will directly hinder any attempts to escape homelessness. Publicly associating with someone even after they’ve become homeless maintains a connection to the community that existed before losing everything. I can’t overstate just how helpful it is to have a public display of that connection. It’s one of the few things that can counter the ostracism and stigma, just enough to begin making additional connections that could help lead a person out of homelessness.

Anytime someone you care about is faced with a crisis it is time to listen and let them talk. Don’t judge, don’t get offended, and (for the love of Pete!) do NOT break confidences!

Brainstorming all possibilities, no matter how outlandish, helps re-establish hope. Some things are not possible right now, but there’s always someday.

Setting a long-term goal can help to clarify the next best move. The financial situation may be desperate right now, but that does not eliminate the possibility of reaching life or career goals in the future. Identifying a long-term goal and looking for immediate opportunities that move in that general direction can both simplify and improve the process of escaping poverty.

By seeing the actions taken in the immediate moment as steps on the path to a much different (better) place, the individual is able to achieve a more positive perspective overall. This is invaluable when writing resumes, sitting through interviews, filling out applications for assistance, looking for housing and so on.

For some reason, brainstorming sessions have a way of making people more aware of opportunities. After taking some time to look at seemingly outlandish goals, something within immediate reach will be identified. A contact, a job posting, a passing conversation…any number of resources and leads might be revealed. It just requires allowing the mind to focus on what is possible.

Brainstorming discussions can help a person remember their worth and remain cautious while job hunting. If an individual goes into the job-seeking process willing to “take anything from anyone in exchange for whatever paycheck is offered” then chances are very good that an unethical or abusive manager will exploit the opportunity. The end result? A terrible work experience, Job loss, a tarnished work record and minimal pay. 

Tangible Help: Helping out in small ways provides more than financial assistance, it lifts the spirits and establishes an ongoing sense of community. It makes taking that next step out of poverty possible.

It is your responsibility to identify what you are both willing and able to do. This is about boundaries. You can’t communicate or enforce your boundaries if you don’t know what they are. Other people can’t respect your boundaries if you don’t know what they are. Identifying those boundaries are your responsibilities.

Sit down and making two lists: 1) things you can do in the short term and 2) things you can do over the long-term (read: years). After you have clearly identified your own limits (to yourself), it’s time to take action.

How you communicate this information will depend on the person facing poverty/homelessness and your relationship. Sometimes simply showing up with a casserole is the best thing you can do. Other times, it’s better to discuss the available options ahead of time. A few suggestions are listed here.

Network with people who know how to utilize the local resources for survival. Most people find good solid information through places of worship, community organizations, and 12-step programs.

Ask the people in your own network of friends and family for recommendations about both resources and people who might know more about local resources.

Helping to identify and arrange temporary paid work can be a valuable form of assistance. Before we get into the benefits of odd jobs, let’s take a look at the realities of the work poor. Most homeless people already have jobs – commonly known as the working poor. Don’t assume that your friend needs additional work

If you have the ability to offer or arrange paid work, then make the offer. If they turn down your offer be gracious about it and let them know the offer remans open if they ever change their mind. Homeless people have the right t accept or refuse as they see fit. Acknowledging and respecting that fact is important.

Here are some reasons odd jobs can be helpful – if they choose to accept your offer.

It enhances the individual’s standing as a member of the ‘deserving poor.’

It qualifies as freelance work and/or self-employment which provides solid networking opportunities.

Helps fill a time gap on a resume.

It’s easier to find a job when you have a job.

Part 3: How To Help Someone Facing Homelessness

Video

This is based on the post: How to Help Someone Surviving Homelessness

Discussion forums:
(2) Surviving Homelessness (quora.com)
(1) SurvivingHomelessness (reddit.com)

Transcript of Notes
(not a full transcript)

If you are trying to help someone facing a serious financial crisis and potential homelessness, then this is the place to begin. This is part 3 in the 3 part series- how to help someone facing homelessness.

This information is divided into three presentations:
Part 1 – What to do
Part 2 – What not to do
Part 3 – Seriously, just DON’T do this

This third presentation assumes the following: You already know the person surviving homelessness or the person trying to survive homelessness is not exhibiting behaviors that are dangerous to themselves or others.

Identifying dangerous behaviors means you have directly witnessed or experienced violent or dangerous actions taken by a specific person. This entire presentation focuses on the terrible things people do when they act on prejudices, stereotypes and gossip. Do not be that person.

By the same token, anyone who has survived the trauma of homelessness will tell you that it’s dangerous out there and a lot of predators hover around the homeless community because they know they can do pretty much anything they want to homeless people without consequence. When dealing with strangers, keep your prejudices in check and your street smarts turned on. If you don’t have street smarts then find a buddy with experience enough to keep both of you safe.

If you can’t find a buddy and you don’t have reliable street smarts – or if you’re unable or unwilling to keep your prejudices under control – then just walk away. Leave the people surviving extreme poverty and homelessness alone and keep your judgmental comments to yourself.

This third presentation – Seriously just don’t – contains a lot of fire imagery, which is appropriately symbolic. Doing any of these things is akin to finding someone desperately in need of help and choosing to douse them in gasoline and light a match.

We’ll begin with simple verbal abuse – It’s amazing what people feel compelled to say when they find out a person is either facing the possibility of homelessness or actively surviving homelessness. All of the following examples are pulled from my own experience – this is not a compete list.

This is based on the idea that some people deserve to be poor or are inherently different from the so-called ‘good people’  born into a higher financial class. This ridiculous and offensive belief that poor people are biologically suited to poverty generates backhanded compliments like this one!

I’m glad this happened to you and not me because you’ve been homeless before, so you know how to handle it.

Poor people are being punished by god and community – that’s why you’re poor. If you’d been good, you wouldn’t be poor! This nonsensical belief comes out in fun comments like these.

I don’t have that problem. 
You must have done something wrong. 
There must be something wrong with you.

People who believe the stereotype that casts all poor people as sneaky, manipulative, moochers will say things like this. Particularly if they are those special members of the upper class who like to keep a ‘poor friend’ in their circle for bragging rights or entertainment purposes. Confiding in a ‘friend’ like that about a current financial crisis will invariable produce a comment like this one.

I knew this was going to happen. My family told me you couldn’t handle living right. I knew you would be coming around asking for money. I never should have made friends with…one of you.

People who believe poverty only happens to people who are mentally ill or addicted to something, love to recommend ‘getting help’ without knowing anything about the person or their situation. Side note – Mental health isn’t free. A person who can’t afford a place to live isn’t going to have money for therapy. Regardless, the stereotype generates comments such as…

I know a great therapist. I’m sure they can help you address the real problem.

Extreme poverty is just a budgeting issue – who comes up with these things? Recommending a budgeting class to poor people is like telling a starving person to go on a diet. Yes, homeless industry professionals habitually say this:

Have you considered taking a budgeting class?
Our services require completing a budgeting class.

Everyone knows that having money automatically makes you more intelligent, better educated and more polite. Proponents of these opinions can’t help but be openly surprised by someone they thought was a peer turning out to be ‘one of them!’ Saying things things like…

I thought you said you had a college degree. 
But you seem so smart. 
But you seem so nice.

Where to begin? It is annoyingly common to hear homeless industry professionals and government workers saying this. There are quite a few stereotypes and prejudices tied up into these comments. Poor women are sexually loose, can’t maintain a relationship or are poor because they had children or were simply  to ugly or stupid to land a rich man. Leading them to confront women with questions like…

Where’s your man? 
What kind of a woman are you if you can’t even land a man who can pay your bills?

Please pay attention. Most homeless people HAVE jobs. The vast majority of those who don’t have jobs are trying to find work that pays a living wage. Actually, those that HAVE work are often trying to find another job – that pays a living wage. Asking Have you tried getting a job? Only proves you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Have you tried getting a job? 

Variations of this can crop up among religious people of all kinds, but the ‘negative energy’ concern is most often used as an excuse to ostracize someone in the new age, pagan, feminist or womanist communities. Basically, you’re bringing uncomfortable truths into their daily lives and they aren’t allowing it. ‘Energy’ has nothing to do with it.

Your energy is really negative. I just can’t have that in my space. 
I am a very sensitive empath and I have to protect my space. 
Until you get rid of this negative energy, you’re just going to have to keep your distance.

Surviving homelessness means living in a state of ostracism. It’s an unfortunate and highly traumatizing fact.

The most common and vicious attacks against people dealing with a crisis, homelessness included, come in the form of backstabbing gossip.

Gossip never dies. When I was a kid, my family went to public places and collected recycling to help cover the bills. We also pulled things out of the garbage, cleaned them up and sold them at flea markets for the same reason. I personally have had co-workers triumphantly throw in my face the fact that I was one of those ‘trash kids’ and then proceed to make sure everyone else knew what I ‘really am’, which actually created some hostile work environments.

During the years that I followed the standard employment advice to keep my experiences with poverty quiet, this happened multiple times – and I mean 10, 20 even 30 years after the fact. I discovered that posting details about my experiences surviving poverty to my blog and online forums about homelessness lessened the power of this kind of gossip, but it did not eliminate the issue – And I am not unique. This is a sadly common problem.

Outing homeless people – what does that mean?

When the general public hears the word ‘homeless’ they usually think of the ‘visible homeless. These are the people who are begging on street corners, clearly intoxicated or severely mentally ill.  This is actually a very small percentage of total homeless population in any area. The vast majority of people surviving homelessness are indistinguishable from anyone else on the street. They are parents with children, single adults, teenagers and kids trying to survive the streets entirely alone. They’re invisible because they go out of their way to hide their circumstances and just blend in.

In many cases this invisibility is an important protection from predators or thieves and a key part of their strategy to escape homelessness. It’s incredibly common for employers to fire employees for being homeless or refuse to hire new employees after they discover the candidate is homeless. Therefore, secrecy is very important.

The people who are notorious for outing homeless people are 1) volunteers at homeless shelters, soup kitchens or food banks; 2) members of religious organizations that provide benefits to people surviving poverty, homeless or not, and 3) librarians at the local public library.

It takes a very small number of vicious gossips to effectively destroy the efforts of a large number of homeless people just trying to get back on their feet.

The moment a family member or friend is surviving homelessness, someone will make it their mission to disclose every secret or embarrassing detail they know. Often, they will follow these betrayals with musings about how much they regret ‘trusting or ‘believing’ or ‘being friends with’ someone who is now homeless because – obviously – something must be wrong with THEM. This is cruel. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s just plain cruel.

Defamation is a legal term so let’s take a look at the definition.

Defamation: The oral or written communication of a false statement about another that unjustly harms their reputation and usually constitutes a tort or crime.

The key element is the false statement – lies, insinuations and exaggerations – that harms a person’s reputation. Outing a specific individual as someone who has survived homelessness and then suggesting that certain stereotypes, such as 1) mental illness, 2) addiction, or 3) criminal behavior are true for that person BECAUSE – and only because – they were homeless…that is defamation. It’s illegal.

Quick bit of trivia: “The first use of the phrase ‘blacklist was in the 1639 tragedy “The Unnatural Combat” by Philip Massinger.

A blacklist is a list of people who have been who are punished or boycotted. It’s unethical, at best. In the United States blacklisting is also illegal in some states – under certain circumstances. The reality is that this happens to everyone experiencing homelessness – because they are homeless – the reasons behind their current crisis are often irrelevant.

From the moment a person becomes homeless they will find themselves blacklisted by people they trust Friends, family and members of the community they previously participated in. This is part of the ostracism and dehumanization process. The blacklisting itself usually manifests in the person trying to survive homelessness being cut out of family gatherings, blocked  from community events, and isolated from everyone.

 As people talk and it becomes clear family and friends are spreading the word that this person is homeless and warning people against interacting with or assisting this person – intentionally or not. Others will take it a step further and start cutting the person off. Landlords will refuse to consider renting to homeless people. Some businesses will start following the person around and accusing them of shoplifting, provide a noticeably bad haircut or sell them food that has been tampered with.

This can spread to the services provided by the homeless industry, medical professionals, and similar services. As people talk a person can get labeled as ‘underserving’ and when those rumors reach the individuals controlling access to gov’t benefits and non-profit resources, it can influence their decisions and actions, effectively cutting the person off from what little social safety net currently exists.

God blocking refers to clergy or lay members of a religious organization blocking people from participating in religious services, taking volunteer positions within the organization or socially ostracizing a person for ‘religious reasons.’ Usually, the people doing the god-blocking will justify their actions with theories about how they are doing ‘what God wants.’

That brings us to the end of Part 3 – Seriously, Just DON’T when helping someone facing homelessness. Please check out parts 1 and 2 and, as always, thank you for listening.

Poverty Survivor Pride

Video

The original posting of text covered in this video is located here: Poverty Survivor Pride: No Shame In Being Poor | Adora Myers

Assholes Remain Assholes

“I don’t understand it,” Katie went on. “A few months ago, people were literally dying in the street. Every one of us lost family, friends, neighbors. We’re all we have left, but people like the Mercers, like Kurt Rove, belittle and bad-talk those of us who, well, have something that might help get all of us through. Because they’re different.”

“I have a theory,” Arlys began. “Major, monumental crises bring out the best or the worst in us — sometimes both. And sometimes those major, monumental crises have no effect on certain types. Which means, no matter what the circumstances, assholes remain assholes.”

Year One (Chronicles of The One) by Nora Roberts

Being Irish in America

Steve held close to his heart his family’s connection to Ireland. It is an interesting aspect of the Irish in America that Steve, like others of his generation who were several generations removed from Ireland, felt that being Irish defined who they were. Possibly, it had to do with the identity it gave them. Saying that you were Irish was comparable to claiming membership in a distinct fraternity with a common tradition, secret rituals, and assured friendships wherever you found a fellow member of the Irish diaspora. The Irish gloried in their family, their neighborhood, and their love of the language. For Steve, it granted him entrée into the big leagues, where many young men of Irish descent were entering the American mainstream.

Steve Hannagan: Prince of the Press Agents and Titan of Modern Public Relations by Michael K. Townsley

 

Half In One World

Lobetto lifted his hand and I flinched out of habit. But instead of thumping my head, he cupped his hand gently under my chin. He turned my head toward and way from the lamp-light, so that I faced light and shadow in turns. “We are the same,” he announced. “Half in one world, half in the other.”

Fox Girl by Nora Okja Keller

Deciding Who Belongs

“It’s a great community,” Don G. was saying. “We all look out for each other. But not everybody fits in.”

In the world he came from, you had to be wealthy to be able to live in an Up City; he and his dad had never fit in there, either. People who lived in Up Cities had access to vaccines and cleaner air and water. Somebody always got to decide who belonged or didn’t belong. Somebody got to choose who to cut out. Zert glared at Don G. And it was never the Somebody who got cut.

Surviving Minimized by Andrea White

Following Footsteps

Quote

Amazon.com

It could also be that Ma got me the job because she started working at Antoine’s when she was sixteen, my age. Most parents who want their kids to follow in their footsteps are doctors or senators, stuff like that. But Ma wants me to work in a convenience store. Stay in the neighborhood. Support my community, because that’s another thing about growing up in Jokertown—it’s the only home some of us will ever have.

The Thing about Growing Up in Jokertown (A Tor.com Original) by Carrie Vaughn

Their Story Will Be Your Story

Quote

Amazon.com

The worst thing they have done to you, who are my mother’s people, was not to destroy your government, take your food and children, deny your traditions, or outlaw your greatest powers. The worst thing they have done is to replace your version of honor with theirs. They are making you, the Shaftali people, into Carolins. So when you read this book, read it not as a history of the enemy, but as a history of your own future: what will happen to Shaftal when the Carolins are extinct, but live on in you and your children. Rather than defeat the enemies, you must change them—or else, someday, their story will be your story.

Earth Logic (Elemental Logic) by Laurie J. Marks

September 21 is the International Day of Peace

Laughing Man

Quote

Amazon.com

The storyteller’s fingertip touched the red symbol stamped on one corner. “This glyph means fate, or chance. The Laughing Man’s actions are so unexpected, and their effect is so profound, that his victims think it is a bitter joke. He destroys everything—even trust and hope. But there is one power that can counteract his.” She took out another card: a circle of people, arm in arm. “Fellowship,” she said.

Earth Logic (Elemental Logic) by Laurie J. Marks

September 21 is the International Day of Peace