Step 1 — Admit you are homeless.
The stereotypes most of us hold of the homeless are erroneous. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, street people sleeping over grates or under bridges, as well as alcoholics and the drug dependent account for only about 15 percent of the homeless.
For most, homelessness begins with denial. The path from a safe home to the street may take from three to five years. It often begins with “sofa-surfing” — moving from one friend’s place to another until the welcome mat wears out. Or, it may begin with sleeping on the seat of a car. Neither a friend’s couch nor a car are a home. Admitting that you have a problem allows you to deal with it better and faster. As with any malady, effective cures involve early treatment. The day you get evicted you should instantly accept the idea that you are homeless. Take firm action immediately. Apply for every kind of aid available. Don’t let your pride or your politics delay you from getting help.
Step 2 — Believe that it’s only temporary and that there is a way back.
Don’t fall into the trap of feeling sorry for yourself or believing that you are a loser. You are a good person who has had a bad break and you will get over it.
Step 3 — Lose the past. Stop dwelling on what you’ve lost. Don’t mourn. Don’t constantly wish that you were back where you were. Concentrate on what you want and how to get it.
Step 4 — Develop attainable expectations. You may not be able to get what you had, but if you set realistic goals, you can probably get more than you have.
Step 5 — Visualize yourself succeeding at a job that’s available. Find out who’s hiring for a job that you can do and where, then get there as soon as possible. If there are simply no jobs where you are, leave.
Step 6 — Chart a path. Determine a step-by-step plan that will take you out of the streets. Don’t try to get back to where you were; move ahead to where you are going.
Step 7 — Find out about every program.
Go to a church, agency or shelter. Ask for a list of programs and go shopping.
Step 8 — Tear out the “Government” listings in the phone book.
Take the pages from an upscale mall or residential area, rather than ripping them out of a book in the area where you are homeless. Some grocery stores have them in the lobby for free as well. Then contact every agency that might have help available. Ask every question you can think of: housing, food stamps, welfare, child care. They may not volunteer information unless you ask for it.
Step 9 — Reconnect yourself. Get a post office box so that you have an address. Many copy centers also have mail boxes, which give you a real street address instead of a box number. They’ll even let you use their fax number; you pay only for faxes you receive. Some areas actually offer voice mail for the homeless at little or no charge; check with the phone company. Or even sign up for a google email account (free) (gmail.com) and you can also get a free google voice account which is a telephone number (unique to you) that you can access to receive voice messages. This is great for giving to potential employers.
Step 10 — Save your money. You’re going to need first and last month’s rent plus utilities to get a place to live. Everything you can do for free, do it. Use the free shelters. Eat free at the soup kitchens. Save at least 20 percent of every dollar you get your hands on. Open a bank account; it’s the only safe way to save. It’s also an important connection back to society. Most banks will open a savings account with as little as five dollars.
Step 11 — Establish a routine. Brush your teeth every day. Try to get up and go to sleep at the same time. A daily routine will help you to stay rested and alert. Most important, it can help you to retain your sanity.
Step 12 — Get a calendar. Make and keep appointments. Set goals. Be aware of the passage of time; it’s another connection back to the world you want to rejoin.
Step 13 — Don’t give up. As trite and difficult as it may sound, it’s an absolute truth. If you keep the faith and keep trying you can succeed. No matter how many times you have a setback, don’t stop trying. Just by making simple steps daily, you will make it.
Reach out for help.