Despite warnings of seismic disaster, Congress, under the relentless “leadership” of Senator Mitch McConnell, failed to pass a relief package for the millions of meaningless citizens, aka the not-ultra-rich.
Now, with eviction moratoria crumbling like Trump’s Mexican Wall, and unemployment payments blowing like dandelion fibers, millions of previously-housed believers will need some schooling in the Invisible Enigma — family homelessness.
Let’s get past the “America, the richest country in the history of the world” crap. That means nothing now, not if you’ve got the sheriff pounding on your door ready to thrust an eviction notice in your face.
For the past 15 years, I’ve interviewed families across the U.S. who shared what homelessness and school meant to them through my nonprofit, HEAR US Inc. In the process, they shared astute observations based on their experiences. Many had not been homeless before, and found themselves in various iterations of what most people don’t understand — homelessness. The short videos below are from my interviews.
Here are lessons from the Connoisseurs of Poverty* I’ve interviewed, and other sources, which may make the entry into homelessness less painful:
1. Evictions are happening, even where they weren’t supposed to, because some property managers do what they want. Here’s what is happening in California, where strong laws are supposed to protect tenants.
2. Turning to family/friends, doubling up, will not last long, and might be a horrible decision. Meet Candace, a Marine mama, and listen to what she has to say. (3-min)
3. No-tell-motels, likely one of your non-choice choices in your spiral to the streets, will suck your bank account dry and make your family crazy. Tamu can enlighten you. (5-min)
4. Shelters, ostensibly a logical place to turn, might not be accepting new applicants, and if they do, you’ll likely have to jump through horribly inefficient covid-related hoops in the process. What the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends and what shelters are able to do are probably far from in sync (As a former shelter director, I have at least a basic understanding of the challenges.)
5. Unless you’ve made extraordinary preparations (unlikely for most going through the pre-housing-loss experience), you’ll lose your right to vote (among other things) as you bounce around without stable access to a mailing address. This report will give you basic info, but it might be more theoretical depending on your situation.
6. Sticking your stuff in storage with hopes that you’ll get it out after that promotional $1 for the first month offer — um, that’s a big mistake. Storage units will bleed you dry, and will run all the way to the bank after auctioning your stuff after a missed payment. Don’t put important papers and belongings there. Lupe will tell you why. (4-min)
7. The much-touted financial packages designed to help households like yours are pretty much a pipe dream. Go ahead and apply, but don’t get your hopes up. This article will help you understand what to expect, or not.
8. Your kids will suffer most. Your instability and lack of internet access will make distance learning difficult, to say the least. Even though you are “homeless,” your kids do have strong, albeit-coronavirus impaired rights. Meet my friends at SchoolHouse in Session who offer helpful advice.
9. Your access to health care will also get dicey, depending on what you had before you hit the wall/streets. When the CDC admits that the U.S. was “under-prepared,” we know we’re in trouble.
10. Mail will get much harder to get, rendering you out-of-the-loop when it comes to getting old-fashioned notification that some public assistance programs still use. Here’s basic info.
This is a summary of what is theoretically supposed to happen and where you’re supposed to turn, but don’t count on it. In addition to our national “leaders” failing abysmally to get a grip on the pandemic, they have failed millions of good people in this country who face losing their homes — with no safety net in place. I’m truly sorry for all who will land on the streets, and for all who’ve endured life without a home for way too long.
Connoisseurs of Poverty* — reflects my profound respect for the experts who know poverty firsthand.
My new book, Dismazed and Driven — My Look at Family Homelessness in America, will be released, maybe as soon as September! It’s a memoir of my 15 years living in a van, traveling the country to chronicle family homelessness, and a social narrative on what I found.