Have you ever had one of those days where the universe wants you to fail? For example, you wake up and start to get ready for work but your hair is sticking straight up, so you shower to start over. Your hair then betrays you yet again by falling in an even more atrocious way- like Rubeus Hagrid level frizz and an Alfalfa kind of coulic. Now you’ve spent so much time trying to tame the beast atop your head that you’re going to be late for work if you don’t leave right away, so you grab all the things you need off the kitchen counter in one swipe of the arm like its Black Friday and there’s a sale, sling your backpack over your shoulder, and shove an untoasted, unbuttered bagel in your mouth. Finally you slip your key ring onto your pointer finger and jingle them down to the palm, making sure you have enough room to grab your coffee mug while running out the door. You make it to your car, but your keys got stuck on your sweater, pulling an enormous thread lose as you try to unlock your car, and then springs it back, slamming your coffee back into your chest, all over your sweater, and crescendoing on the ground, along with your sad bagel that fell out of your mouth when you attempted to just “oh crap” the situation from happening. You stand there in shock, looking like a Jackson Pollock art installation.
These days happen to everyone, and they are undeniably the worst part about life, but what if that day was your everyday? Usually after one of these days, we will go out of our way to make the next day a good one: buy yourself a fancy latte, take an extra ten minutes in the shower, wear an outfit you know you look good in because Office Rachel even said you looked good in it, and Office Rachel has a monthly subscription to Vogue. But if this day happened again and again, would you even bother to do the self-care? Because if coffee ruined your Office Rachel approved outfit, what’s the point?
Let’s think about another scenario: You’re rushing out the door to get to work on time and you slip on a patch of ice. You crush your ankle, have to go to the hospital, and they declare it broken. You work at a warehouse in a no-cause firing state. You lose your job. You can’t find another one and your landlord evicts you. Now the majority of places are no longer available to you for rent because you have an eviction. You’re living out of your car. Your car runs out of gas because you no longer have a job. Your car gets towed, with all of your belongings, sentimental photos and heirlooms, your driver’s license and birth certificate. You are homeless. And your ankle is still broken.
In my first post I talked broadly about the fact that it’s assumed unhoused folks did something to deserve their current circumstances- you made your bed and you have to lie in it. I don’t subscribe to that way of thinking anymore. Now I want to discuss why I don’t believe that anymore. A lot of us think that homelessness could never affect us, and that it’s a completely different world, unthinkable. An article from NBC15 reads, “The number of consumers living paycheck to paycheck has increased steadily since April 2021 and was 64% in January 2022.” Unfortunately, the reality is that the majority of Americans are closer to being homeless than to being a millionaire, and the current welfare system does not have the capacity to help everyone that it should. I think that it’s easy to push blame onto the unhoused community for being unhoused, but the reality is that no matter how committed you are to making ends meet, sometimes it is just not enough. To see how hard it can be to prevent homelessness, I recommend you go to https://playspent.org/ and try for yourself.
After meeting several newly unhoused folks, time and time again they tell me they lost their job and were living in their car until it was towed. After seeing them at the beginning and the effects that living on the streets has had, I can tell you with certainty that it was not a flaw in moral character, but the trauma of living on the streets. In the same way that losing housing is a slippery slope, so is losing the opportunities to get into new housing. Keep an eye out for next month’s post when we dive into that topic!