The Pursuit of Happyness, a film based on a true story, demonstrates how easy it is to become homeless. Most believe it will never happen to them, but how many people are one paycheck from being homeless? If the unimaginable does occur, here are 10 ways to deal with facing or surviving homelessness.
1. Believe in yourself. Being unemployed and worrying about homelessness can be debilitating on an emotional level. Remember that many famous people faced homelessness at one time – Jim Carrey, William Shatner and Oscar-Winner Hilary Swank all lived in their cars. If you find yourself sinking into depression, seek out free mental health care and/or free medical care.
2. Take advantage of public services. Fortunately, most public libraries are equipped with computers, providing free access to the internet (thank you, President Clinton). Time-wise, it’s far more efficient to look for jobs online and send out resumes via e-mail, than to wander around looking for “Help Wanted” signs.
3. Rightly or wrongly, appearances are crucial for employment, that’s just how the job market works. Services such as Dress for Success provide low income people with free clothes that are appropriate for job interviews.
4. Job Retraining. Depending on why you’re unemployed, there may be job training services available through the government or through your former employer. If you’re going to retrain, you might want to check out the hottest jobs on the market.
5. Seek legal help before eviction to prevent homelessness. Many states have a legal process (sometimes quite lengthy) of appeal before a tenant can actually be evicted and tossed out on the street. If you can’t afford an attorney, there is free nationwide legal help as well as private attorneys who provide free legal assistance.
6. If you do lose your home, find a safe shelter in a warm climate. Some cities do better than others in this area. Those in need can find shelters by going to these helpful links: Worldwide Missions and State by State Shelters.
7. Locate food banks in your area. Second Harvest is a wonderful nationwide organization. Also, many houses of worship, particularly Catholic, also provide free meals. Watch out though, some cities have actually made it a crime to feed the homeless – Las Vegas, Orlando and Santa Monica, California have passed various restrictions on helping those in need.
8. Apply for financial aid. Each state is different, but most provide some sort of welfare or food stamp program, some are better than others. Applying for state disability benefits is also an option. Many physical and psychological ailments, such as depression, are eligible conditions for disability.
9. Leave the United States. This may sound like a radical move, but there are countries with less wealth than America that have less homelessness. Sweden is a good example, as is the Netherlands. Can you guess which nation was voted to have the highest standard of living for all citizens? According to a study by the U.N., the winner is Norway. The “pursuit of happyness” (and survival) may take you beyond U.S. shores.
10. When you do get back on your feet, don’t forget what it was like when you were down and out. Remember the millions who are living a real Pursuit of Happyness movie. Learn how to prevent homelessness in your area. Learn the facts about homelessness. Study the statistics on homelessness in America. Volunteer at your local food bank or shelter. Don’t just work to overcome your problem, help others as well. As homeless advocate/rock star Bruce Springsteen once sang, “We’re all riders on this train.”
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