I'm not a bum!
You may be thinking, who needs this? I have a home. I have a life. I'm not one of those bums.
I'm not a bum either, and I never have been, but in 1996 I had a reversal of fortune. I'd gone off to college and it just didn't work out at the school I'd chosen. Unhappy, I dropped out and headed back to my hometown. With dropping out my financial aid came to an end, and I found myself nearly broke and without an income stream. Homelessness followed quickly and naturally from the situation.
How secure are you really? How many paychecks could you go without before the rent, the mortgage, the credit card, and the car are not being paid? If you said two, you are doing better than most. If you would be immediately using whatever consumer credit you have available, you're like most of us. Like storms, earthquakes, and car accidents, homelessness happens. It happens to decent, hardworking people. It happens because our lives are a system, and when part of that system fails the whole thing can come crashing down.
What you are more than who you are will determine the resources that are available to you. Women can rely more easily on family than men can. A man who runs to his parents suffers an amazing ego shot, in addition to the abuse he takes from others. Certain ethnic groups are good at supporting members until they get on their feet, immigrant groups for instance. If you are a single, young, strong man, of American birth, then you, my friend, have no one but yourself to depend on. If you are a teen runaway, you have people actively trying to exploit you. If you are a young woman without family resources, you really ought to prepare for this possibility before you have any idea that you might become homeless. A young family? You need to have a plan in place.
It is good just to think about these things, whether you prepare or not. If you think about how to be homeless successfully, comfortably, then you are 80% prepared just from putting your mind into that space. The best preparation for homelessness is knowing that you could be, and looking at the resources around you with that in mind.
I'd like you to forget what you know about the homeless as you read this book. The ideas that we've been taught about who they are, the veterans, the mentally ill or retarded, are simply stereotypes, and they contain much more fiction than fact. If you are already homeless, you must dismiss these stigmatizing images, and when you see someone that matches the stereotype, deal with the individual. Very often they will have deep knowledge that will help you to live well. If you can get that knowledge, well, you may see that bum with new eyes.