Special – Don’t need a Degree?  How to Survive on the Streets!

Special – Don’t need a Degree? How to Survive on the Streets!

Hit the books or hit the streets.

It is never too late to be what you might have been.-- George Eliot

The gene pool is less forgiving than ever. The job pool keeps narrowing. And the need to be competitive is increasing exponentially.

For more and more people now, it’s a grim imperative— become more competitive somehow, or continue falling behind.

And what happens when everything fails? For millions, the economic crisis isn’t just how to keep their job, it’s where to sleep tonight. As the crisis unfolds, the number of homeless just keeps growing.

That’s why “Picture the Homeless”— a social justice organization, (founded and led by homeless people in New York City)— offers up these following street survival tips.

You can think of these tips as Homeless Orientation 101……

— Be prepared to be blamed for your circumstances, no matter how much they may be beyond your control. Think of ways to disabuse the public of common misconceptions. Don’t internalize cruelty or condescension. Let go of your pride–but hold on to your dignity.

— There is no private space to which you may retreat. You are on display 24/7. Learn to travel light. Store valuables in a safe place, only carrying around what you really need: ID and documents for accessing services, a pen, etc. You can check e-mail and read at the library. You can get a post office box for a fee or use general delivery.

—Learn the best bathroom options, where you won’t be rushed, turned away or harassed. Find restrooms where it’s clean enough to put your stuff down, the stalls are big enough to change in and there’s hot water so you can wash up.

—It’s difficult to have much control over when, where and what you eat, so learn soup kitchen schedules and menus. Carry with you nuts, peanut butter or other foods high in protein.

—Food and clothing are easier to find than a safe place to sleep–the first truth of homelessness is sleep deprivation. Always have a blanket. Whenever possible, sleep in groups with staggered schedules, so you can look out for one another, prioritizing children’s needs over those of adults.

—Know your rights. Knowing constitutional amendments, legal precedents and human rights provisions can help you, even if they’re routinely violated.

—Learn police patterns and practices. Be polite and calm to officers, even when they don’t give the same respect. Many don’t like this any better than you do.

—The First Amendment protects your right to solicit aid (panhandling), especially if your pitch or sign is a statement rather than a request. To succeed, be creative, funny, engaging (”I didn’t get a bailout!”). Find good, high-traffic spots where the police won’t bother you.

—Housing is a human right? You believed that when you lost your job and then your house. So squat. Forge coalitions with non-homeless but potentially displaced people in this era of mass foreclosures.

—Don’t go it alone! Always be part of an informal network of trust and mutual aid. Start your own organization, with homeless people themselves shaping the fight for a better life and world.

Horrifying facts of life on the street, aren’t they? Survival tips for the homeless. The jobless. The disempowered.

Your best option? Don’t go there! Look ahead, start learning, relearning.

Learn one way, or learn another way. If you have a job, protect it with continuing education. Keep building your intellectual edge and skill sets.

If you don’t have a job, keep learning— keep building your chances with more knowledge. Reinvent yourself. If you lost your job, and can’t find another, maybe it’s time to find an other type of work.

Use GRAD2B’s many links, to find the grants, funds, scholarships that you need, that do still exist— that can still pull you up by the force of higher education, from the brink.

Don’t think you need more education? Your job looks solid? That’s what millions of jobless thought, too. The next time you see homeless people, think: “This could be me!”

Educate, educate, educate!

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