Finding hope in homelessness
It probably sounds unthinkable. After graduating from Biola, with loan debt in the current recession, it is possible that you may find yourself homeless. After reading an article about the author of “The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness,” and since I myself have also been homeless in the past, I thought it might be good to share some things that might be helpful should anyone face similar circumstances.
The article was found on ParentDish.com and was about Brianna Karp, who at 23 had a good job in Orange County, Calif., and made $50,000 a year. But then she got laid off. She struggled on unemployment to survive but she quickly learned that she could not pay her rent along with her other expenses. She then moved in temporarily with her mom and stepfather but because the relationship with them was “toxic,” she couldn’t stay there long; there was a past of violence and abuse.
She ultimately ended up staying in a camper that was left to her by her dad after he committed suicide. She lived her life out of this camper while parked in a Walmart parking lot. Usually campers require special permits or places to be parked. But Karp took advantage of Walmart’s policy to allow campers to park for free on company property.
Regarding this situation, she told ParentDish, “It wasn't fun, but you do what you have to in order to sort of eke out an existence and try to find a sustainable routine.”
Karp said that she had no electricity or running water but she used the facilities of a nearby gym, where she purchased a $9.99 per month membership. She used the car radiator to boil water to cook food. At night, she used a high-powered flashlight that she would shine on the ceiling for a reading night light.
Connecting with others who are homeless
Karp’s typical day was spent at Starbucks sending out resumes. She ultimately started an anonymous blog and began to network with other homeless and formerly homeless people. She remarked after starting the blog, “It had never occurred to me that there would be such a vast, global online network of homeless people.”
Since I have been homeless myself, I can concur with this. Despite what one might think of the homeless and their situation, they do tend to help each other out, even if no one else does. That’s something you only learn from experience.
One of the key questions ParentDish asked Karp was, “What did you learn about other homeless people from your experience?”
She replied, “It was a topic I'd never really thought about until it happened to me, as I suspect is usually the case for most people. It did force me to take a look at the personalities and stories behind the labels and stereotypes. What I found is that these are really just people, and that there is no basis for the automatic presuppositions that I hear over and over: ‘Homeless people are all druggies/mentally ill/dirty/lazy/unloved.’”
In my experience being homeless and living in my small sports car back in 2000 and 2001, I can agree with Karp that many of my own stereotypes and assumptions were blown away as well. I was not a druggie. I was not mentally ill or lazy -- I was a Christian and I was homeless.
Yes, Christians can become homeless under certain circumstances. God never promised to spare us from all trouble. In fact, Scripture clearly says in Psalm 34:19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” So there is hope after homelessness.
Using media to find hope
Karp found hope when she wrote a letter to an Elle magazine columnist explaining her situation. Through this columnist she ended up with a full time job with South Coast Repertory in Orange County. Her survival story is in her book called “The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness: A Memoir.”
I would highly recommend this book because the fact of the matter is, anyone can become homeless at any time, and this information may help.
The key to surviving during and thriving after such an ordeal is, as Karp put it, “Don't panic. Be as savvy as you can with the resources you have available to you. Technology and social media are your friends, so use them.” As a formerly homeless person myself, I would only add to that, “Keep the faith, pray hard and persevere.”