Finally I come out of my very long walk in the dark, take a few gulps of fresh air, only to find that my mask was needed yet again to hide homelessness, and there aren’t too many hiding places when that happens.
Let me chart below how I get through pretending to be not invisible, also to inform homeless people aren’t just consigned to sleeping rough, there is a new strain called hidden homeless who are not counted in government figures, not seen as vulnerable, which is the saddest cut of all.
1. Hidden homeless in a nutshell are those like me who sofa surf, and occasionally are able to find lodgings for a few months, life is transient, and you learn to pack in two minuets or less flat should you need to.
2. If you appear to be reasonably well-educated, stigma surrounding this dictates that you couldn’t possibly need help, peppered with comments like “you don’t look like your homeless”
3. You can have a job and be homeless, not every homeless person has drug/alcohol dependency issues, children, or fleeing domestic abuse, it doesn’t make you less vulnerable.
How not to be seen as invisible
These are some tips I’ve learned over the last couple of years, it’s not ideal, but in my experience can keep you off the street.
A. I have always kept myself maintained, meaning clean and tidy, when sofa surfing I always try to do my laundry, though this can sometimes work against you, it seems that some of those who can help you, prefer that your desperation be dressed in dirty clothes, makes it more palatable doesn’t and they can really feel like they’re helping you!
B. As well as maintenance put that mask firmly in place, you also have to learn to exercise patience when dealing with officialdom, and whatever your standard don’t let it drop, sometimes you even forget your part of the human race.
C. The town where I live, the homeless use the library, it’s warm and they don’t seem to mind that you spend all day there.
There are several things you can do whilst there, apart from reading, you have access to the internet, only 1 hour per day, but it’s chance to search online for accommodation and agencies that might be able to help you.
You also have the volunteer directory there, which is always a good place to start if you’re seeking work.
They often have representatives there from Citizens Advice, Shelter(homeless charity) also the housing office is located there.
D. Try offering your services at local eateries, they might not pay you money, but usually will get a meal for a few hours work, quite often you will be exploited for the work you do, In the past I’ve done a full day’s work only to be given a coffee and biscuits, take them as that might be the only thing you eat all day, remember to keep the mask in place.
E. If you can get paid work try to save as much as you can,(easier said than done) for essentials and if you do get a bed for a week you can contribute a little to the household.
F. Each and everyday go to agencies/charities that can help you, never shout and scream, just put yourself out there, so they get to know you, sometimes you can get lucky being in the right place at the right time.
G. Friends can be tricky even those who know your situation, be careful not to ask for too much, sounds bleak, however you might need a bigger favour later and they will be more willing to give, this also sounds very sneaky, but being homeless means you have to live on your wits sometimes.
Even with friends. offer something like house cleaning, baby sitting, that way you get paid and the situation is less embarrassing, also as has happened to me they can’t throw it back in your face.
H. Safety must always come first, especially being female, “I’ve been offered a bed for the night” only to find that a different kind of payment was expected, I can see how it would be tempting, but no mask could hide what that means, there are a lot of predators out there who under the guise of helping are just trying to exploit your situation.
There you have it I do work, but don’t earn enough to even rent a room, I do other freelance work when I can, and am saving slowly, very slowly, so there are many of us who have fallen on hard times, but still function, and we don’t all end up on the streets, which seems globally to be the only viable option for many, too many!!!
Day to-day life is mundane and soul destroying , but I have found that you can maintain a semblance of normalcy as long as you have room behind the mask desperately trying to keep it altogether.