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Misconceptions Of Homelessness

I was homeless for the better part of twenty years and here’s what everyone gets wrong about homelessness.

Homeless doesn’t always mean living on the streets

I was homeless for the better part of 20 years. In that time, I’ve lived in a lot of places. Some of them are what you might think of as typical, like parks, beaches, overpasses, or shelters, but others might surprise you.

When you’re homeless, your first priority

is finding a safe place to sleep.

Sometimes that means you get creative. I’ve spent months living in an outdoor public bathroom, an airport, my car, a deserted cabin in the woods, and a storage locker.

Perhaps the worst one was when I lived in a tractor-trailer; they accidentally locked me in for four days and I almost died.

Homeless doesn’t equal uneducated

When people think of a homeless person, they don’t necessarily think of the guy who not only was a star high school athlete but also has a college degree—yet that’s exactly what I am.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Miami. And I wasn’t the only one out there with similar credentials.

There are plenty of extremely intelligent people who, for various life circumstances, end up homeless. And even the ones who may not have a formal education have to get smart in a different way if they want to survive.

There isn’t just one reason why someone ends up homeless

It might make you feel better to think that you can pinpoint the reason someone ended up homeless—say, drug abuse, mental illness, or criminal activities—because then you think that by avoiding those things you’re safe.

In some respects that isn’t wrong and there are many homeless people who struggle with exactly those things. But the truth is that everyone makes bad decisions sometimes.

Whether or not your bad decisions end in homelessness has a lot to do with privilege and luck. Everyone is vulnerable.

Not all homeless people are jobless people

Thanks to the high cost of living and low wages, it’s possible for someone to have a job yet not be able to afford a house.

You might be wondering why I ended up homeless for so long, even with an employable degree. There isn’t a simple answer to that but the job market was very tight when I graduated and I was overqualified for most minimum wage jobs.

Some people are homeless by choice

The vast majority of homeless people are in that situation because they had no other choice but there are a few who would rather not be tied down to anything.

My dad and stepmom kicked me out of the house when I was younger. At that time, I decided that I preferred having the clouds for my roof instead of a plaster ceiling.

Homeless people are not going to kill you

Hollywood gives the homeless a bad rap, making them look like murderers and rapists, but the majority are simply trying to find food and shelter—just like you.

You don’t need to be afraid of

the average homeless person.

You are far more likely to be hurt by someone you know. A homeless person is more likely the one to be killed by a “normal” person, than the other way around.

There are some horrible people out there who get their kicks from abusing the homeless because they are easy targets.

There is a “homeless code”

When you are homeless, if you learn one thing fast, it’s that no one is going to look out for you. So you learn to band together with other homeless people.

We would do our best to help each other out, share tips, and stuff like that.

Now there are even tent cities, homeless encampments, in some places. There’s also a healthy barter system where you can trade for things you need without money.

I’m actually working on a book of tips for homeless people to help them survive on the streets—all the little things no one tells you but can make all the difference.

One tiny mistake can quickly become a massive problem

When you have no safety net, the tiniest issue—an unexpected medical bill, an illness or injury, a lost wallet—quickly balloons into an emergency that can make you homeless, or if you’re already homeless, make your life infinitely worse.

An example I like to share is when I was living in my car.

One day it got towed for a parking violation. Once you’re towed, you