Tears streamed down his face as his reality set in. He felt hopeless as his mind entered survival mode. The news of his sudden homelessness made his bones feel as if they had turned to jello. His mind was plagued with questions, “What will I do? Am I alone in this?”
Some people have experienced this terrible feeling in their life, but most people don’t have a clue of how to deal with it. Even family members and close friends are affected deeply by a loved one becoming homeless. Now, there are very few positives in this kind of situation, but there are some ways friends and family members can help. There are even more ways a student experiencing homelessness can help themselves.
If you know a student experiencing homelessness, you are aware that it can be a taxing situation to experience. Sorrow and stress creeps into your mind and can shut you down. Luckily, there are some great ways you can help a student experiencing homelessness, even if you can’t house the individual yourself. First, just try to be a good listener. It is helpful to try and enter conversations judgment-free and with an open mind. Honest, genuine listening is very important as students experiencing homelessness are often struggling in other parts of their lives as well. In fact, “Youth experiencing homelessness have a higher risk of being in a gang, using heroin, feeling depressed, attempting suicide, or experiencing trauma and violence than their housed counterparts” (1).
Secondly, you can help the individual learn how to do important things on their own. A great example is accessing SNAP benefits or filing taxes. If you are an individual that is aware of how to utilize SNAP benefits or how to file basic taxes, then you can offer your expertise.
Third, if you feel comfortable, let them use your address for a place of residence. The article How To Help A Homeless Friend? [Practical And Useful Tips] states, “Homeless people must have an address to keep an official ID and apply for healthcare and food stamps” (2). Having an address ensures you can apply to jobs, access important documents via mail, and even obtain a much-needed ID.
Lastly, you can do your own research. Doing research on homelessness and homeless services near you or your loved one can help further your understanding of how you can help or what a person experiencing homelessness experiences and may be in need of at any given time.
On the other hand, if you are a youth experiencing homelessness, here are a couple of tips that might help make your day-to-day life a little more comfortable. It is important to realize that not every tip will apply to every student because everyone’s situation is different. Keeping that in mind, almost every youth must understand the importance of asking for and accepting help. It is one of the hardest things for some individuals to do, but the importance of it is critical. Next, if you are newly homeless, try to find a safe and secure place to stay as soon as you can. Although it’s not always an option to find a safe place, think of places with people you feel comfortable around. Couch surfing with strangers is not always a good idea, but if it is absolutely necessary, then make sure to keep in contact with friends and update them on where you are staying so they know you are safe. If you ever feel unsafe, get on the phone. Call a friend. This is a great way to get support in removing yourself from an intense or scary situation.
If you have a place to stay but don’t have a car, make a schedule with friends and family members to catch a ride to the food bank, grocery store, and laundromat. Schedule this as a weekly occurrence. Additionally, set up a backup plan if that person falls through and can’t accommodate you for a week or two. This way you can ride with another friend and still accomplish what you need to accomplish. If you do have a car, however, then a great organizing tip is to keep any boxes and baskets you acquire and use them to organize your small and large belongings in your car. This helps you find things quicker and helps you to feel organized in your day-to-day life.
Lastly, hygiene is extremely important. It is one of the first steps to feeling good throughout your day and is a huge representation of who you are. It is a challenge to find a job or stable place to live with bad hygiene. An article titled, Good Hygiene: Understanding Hygiene, Why It’s Important & Risks of Not Having It states, “Many employers urge or require employees to practice good hygiene and tend to hire people who look clean and as though they practice healthy hygiene habits” (3). If you don’t have access to a shower, there are many gas stations that offer showers for a small price. Alternatively, you can also purchase wet wipes to clean your body. It is important to keep your hair combed and make sure to try and wear deodorant. If you feel and look good you are more likely to accomplish more during the day as well as obtain and keep a job.
Students experiencing homelessness go through a struggle only few fully understand. There may not be many positives in this dark and saddening situation, but with the help of loved ones and their strength, homeless individuals will feel less alone and encouraged to work towards becoming the best students and individuals they can be.