What's it like to be homeless? In a recent dialogue group, Beliefnet members who have lived on the streets shared their experiences. We've posted many of them below.

Have a story to tell or an idea for helping the homeless? Post it here.

'She Doesn't Look Homeless to Me'
As the result of a recent divorce, I was homeless for four months. ...I went from the middle class to the bottom of the barrel. Shelters are not the answer for the temporarily displaced. They are too difficult to get out of once you get in. Only a few people I asked for shelter knew I was homeless. I even got into trouble with a judge when I went to court too suitably dressed. When my attorney revealed I was homeless, the judge replied, "She doesn't look homeless to me." This hurt like hell.

'Most Homeless People Do Not Trust Easily'
As a child growing up in Los Angeles, I remember riding in a car with my mother and seeing a homeless man sitting on the railroad tracks. I remember my mother telling me, "Son, never give up on life and be like that man over there." Little did I know that I would experience homelessness in my life as an adult. God knew, but I didn't.

I am currently homeless and living in a shelter in San Francisco. I have also experienced homelessness in Seattle, San Diego, and Las Vegas (where I slept [in] the desert; it was by far the worst experience ever). I doubt if I would have ever come to believe in Jesus Christ through another means. It is the church that truly helps the homeless...it is the body of Christ that feeds, encourages, prays, and admonishes the destitute, not the "homeless" programs the government has set up. Most homeless people come to church services for a meal, a reprieve from the streets, and clothing. I thank God for the people who took time out of their precious schedules to come minister to the homeless. Through the tireless efforts and patience of storefront ministers, I came to see that God is real. Most homeless people do not trust very easily, but the constant preaching/teaching of God's word to me on a daily basis led me to believe that God loves me and wants success for my life. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, God truly has a plan.

Ever since I truly gave my life to Christ, things have been looking up for me. Drugs and depression over a failed marriage once had me drifting up and down the West Coast, but Christ took away my grief, anger, and feelings of failure. I have now reconnected with my family, have a part-time job, and have found someone willing to rent me a room near the beach for only $200 a month. Most important, I have a church and people who really care about me.


Giving Back After Being Homeless
I am 59 and a below-knee amputee, but I am still loving life. My husband and I became homeless shortly after we got married. We hitchhiked from Arizona to Seattle, Washington, and slept in cars or on the street. Sometimes we were invited into homes for a night. It was a hard life, physically and emotionally.

Now, I attend a church that has a ministry to the homeless in Dallas, Texas. The church provides food, clothes, and transportation to Sunday service. I joined this group to see what other ways we might be able to help the homeless.

'When They See Us at the Grocery Store, They Ignore Us'
I was homeless and an addict and a convicted (but rehabilitated) felon. I was in jail for theft charges and I am now 30. At the local homeless shelters, I see people who bring their ziti and donate their size 2 clothes, but when they see us at the grocery store, they ignore us. Still, I am grateful for the ziti and the clothes, even though they are 8 sizes too small for me and for most of the women who wear plus sizes.

Have a story to tell or an idea for helping the homeless? Post it here.

'People Think Those Who Can't Work Should Starve'
As someone who has been homeless, and who is unemployed with no income for the past 3 years, I take great offense to some people handing out business cards from ‘Labor Force and Manpower.’ I've been to Labor Force and Manpower many times. I'm never hired because not only am I disabled, I am also too “old” for part-time jobs (I am over 50). I have no income, but because of the current times, I feel people think that those who can't work should starve.

'God and My Family Came to My Rescue'
I am an alcoholic/addict in recovery. Due to my addictions, I made myself homeless, but God and my family came to my rescue. Now, I am stronger than I have ever been. However, because of my exposure to the "druggies" on the streets, I am very untrusting of the homeless. I am very eager to help those in need and I truly want to give back some of the blessings the Lord has given me, but so many people abuse the food and clothing I distribute. The homeless are in need, but some (this does not apply to all) people choose not to help themselves because they don't have to.


No Place to Call Home
I've been kicked out of home. I did not live on the streets, but I know what it's like to constantly move around and have no permanent place to leave your belongings--to have to carry your bags with you everywhere, to not know from week to week where you're going to be living. At least two of my friends have been in similar situations.

Now, I donate food and/or clothes to charities. I also give money every month to a particular charity to help a boy through school (he just finished primary school). This charity provides the family with lots of other services too, to help them improve their living standard.

A Bath at a Self-Service Car Wash
I am 45 years old and currently live in a small town in East Texas. I was homeless for many years. Praise God that I now have a home.

After reading Mike’s book, my first reaction was that he was not truly homeless; he always had an out. But that does not take away from [what he] and Sam did; in fact, it took more guts to choose  to live on the streets. When you have no choice, you just do what you have to do.

My second reaction was that I could have shown Mike places to get cleaned up! I have bathed in laundromats, bus-station restrooms, and even at a self-service car wash.

I have a very soft spot in my heart for the homeless because of my experiences. I try to help whenever I can. I think it was Mother Teresa who said, if you can't feed 100 people, then feed just one. I really feel that if everybody just does what they can, one person at a time, there will be no limit to what can be accomplished.

People have to realize that the person begging on the streets could very easily be us, if the circumstances were right.

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