Meeting the Psychological Challenges of Homelessness

Don’t do it alone, get help. You are probably going through a rough time, in a wash of emotions, and you may not have all the answers. There is no shame in getting help. Your voyage back to a normal life may be sped up with a little assistance.

State of mind: There is stress and depression that comes with homelessness. Lets see what we can do to lessen that. Your survival will depend on making informed, logical, and rational decisions. This can be hard when you are in distress. The emotional landscape may include fear (oh shit), self recrimination (I did this to myself), loss of self esteem (I am worthless), and depression (hopelessness, despair). That is a lot of noise. Let’s turn this into a constructive conversation.

Fear: You need that to survive. Many people have gone down this road and have made it home. With some learned skills (we are here to help with that) you will feel a lot safer.

Self recrimination: You in all likelyhood did not do this to yourself. We live in a country that has very skewed values.The U.S. government has been co-opted by greed and has allowed almost unfettered disparity to occur. Over 45 million are living in poverty in the richest country in the world. Social safety nets are being dismantled with the resources being redirected to tax breaks for the wealthy. So probably it’s not your fault.

Self Esteem: The good news is your are loved and belong. That is your universal right as a human. Although your self esteem may have taken a hit, it will recover.Time is good for that. All around you are loving caring people. Let that in. Your material circumstance is not the measure of your worth. What is in your heart is, Have compassion for yourself. It is OK to feel sorry for yourself. Have a good cry. In the morning the light will be a little brighter.

Depression: There are 9 types of depression. of which we won’t go into here. If you have had persistent depression or thoughts of suicide get help immediately. Dysthymia is a milder form of depression that many people get at some time in their lives of which talk therapy is helpful. If you have not had a history of depression, but are feeling depressed because of becoming homeless, it is probably this type of depression. It is important that you do not let it lead to a downward spiral into something harmful. Depressive states leads to loss of energy of which you will need for your survival. Planning, finding direction, and taking action will help you snap out of it. Keep in mind that through methodical steps you can find your way back. You can access a free interactive online therapy program for depression here.

How you got here:. You may have lost a job, had a divorce, maybe medical bills. You may have made a bad decision as we all have. So here you are, take a deep breath. Things will start getting better immediately if you concentrate on what needs to happen to get your needs met, and find a way back to where you want to be. Start with not dwelling on what you do not have, or cannot have.

Take stock of what you do have. All material things, money, skills, your health, connections to others that you can depend on. This is all collateral. Make a priority list of what is needed: Finding food, shelter, a place to sleep, assistance, work, transportation, etc. The process of organizing, planning, and moving into action will change your head space for the positive.

Drug Dependence: A certain segment of the homeless population end up homeless because of drugs. Other take up using drugs after becoming homeless out of boredom, or as an escape from the negative feelings that come with homelessness. Getting involved with drugs will make getting back to normal extremely difficult.

Finding a companion, human or animal:
 If possible try to find a friend. You may be desperate to find someone and this can lead to bad decisions. Be careful to pick someone who is stable, safe, and resourceful. Together you will be safer and less lonely. Observe the person you are interested in. See how well that person is functioning, what social skills he/she may have. Use your gut feeling. If there is any bad feeling listen to that. A dog can be a great companion. He can warn you, or ward off dangerous people, and keep you warm at night. A dog is also a great responsibility. You will have to feed and care for him. Pay vet bills. The dog will slow you down, especially when seeking work. Who will watch your dog when you go off? Where will the dog stay?

When I was homeless I became buddies with a guy who came down with a horrible stomach bug. I would walk a couple of miles to the soup kitchen and bring him back food to the broken van we were staying in. We really were there for each other.

Time on your hands:
You may find yourself with a lot of free time if you do not have a job. Do not be idle, that will lead to depression and further entrenching yourself in homelessness. Use this time to better yourself and work your way out of your situation.Take free classes, learn new skills, volunteer to help others, take walks in the park, go to exhibitions, seek a job, nurse a cup of coffee in a cafe while reading and chatting with others. Although you may have time, you cannot afford to waste it.

More to come…