1 out of 3 Americans are 1 Paycheck away from being Homeless

A Grain of Salt | ElbyJames
4 min readAug 29, 2018


You see these people everyday: the homeless man with the shopping cart piled high with who-knows-what, the man who’s panhandling on the corner, or the woman in rags begging for change. In a time not too distant in the past, these weren’t stereotypes, it was reality but today’s homeless are a different breed.

See the woman taking your order at McDonalds? See the man delivering your pizza? Society has engrained in its citizens mindset that these people are contributing to society so they have a nice, warm home to go to; not the case. Theses two workers are homeless.

Just because they are contributing to society (paying taxes) then they must have a home. How could such good people not have one unless they are lazy or scrupulous? This is the mindset society has created.

There is a misnomer that the homeless don’t work. The two people I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the McDonalds employee and the pizza delivery guy are homeless, it’s not because they’re lazy.

Americans are feeling better about their job security and the economy, but most are theoretically only one paycheck away from the street.

According to personal finance website Bankrate.com, approximately 62% of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair.

Also, a full one third of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, and if they lost their job, they would not be able to make their next rent or mortgage payment.

When I worked at Wal-Mart, one of the employee was homeless and living out of her car. That’s right, even those who work for the world’s largest employee, besides the US government don’t make enough to live on.

They are homeless because wages are low and housing prices are forever rising. This is a deadly combination. Working a low wage job just doesn’t cut it anymore; a person needs two jobs and a roommate to live decently.

Many college students are homeless. They are using the school as a place to sleep and using the gym to shower and shave, that’s what I did when I was homeless.

When a person lives on the street normally they have no access to showers. Most homeless people have no money for a haircut much less to wash their clothes. How long do you think it would take a person to develop really bad hygiene? Not long. Once your hygiene goes, it becomes harder to be employable.

You can’t live your whole life washing in public restrooms. I got away with it (on and off) for nearly two years.

Speaking about restrooms and homelessness, there were times when I slept in public toilets. I think I was sleeping in public toilets intermittently for nearly six months (and not the same one all the time).

“The big economic trends of the last 20, 30 years are stagnating wages. Other costs are rising substantially — income and wealth are concentrated at the top of the ladder,” proclaims Justin King, federal policy liaison for the New America Foundation.

“Bleak, dark, and piercing cold, it was a night for the well-housed and fed to draw round the bright fire, and thank God they were at home; and for the homeless starving wretch to lay him down and die. Many hunger-worn outcasts close their eyes in our bare streets at such times, who, let their crimes have been what they may, can hardly open them in a more bitter world.”
― Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

I actually worked for two months before my boss found out I was homeless. My boss and the staff belittled me and made life difficult for me until I had to quit. Some were considerate and understanding, which was helpful.

I didn’t make a lot of money, just enough to sleep in a flophouse on the south side of Atlanta for a few days out of the week. I didn’t get this job until I had been homeless for over a year and this didn’t last long. If I hadn’t kept my hygiene up, I wouldn’t have been able to get it.

I panhandled for a while only out of necessity, I was okay at it. I usually made just enough to eat, buy things I needed like deodorant and toothpaste, and wash my change of clothes.

It’s hard to explain the difficulties associated with surviving on the streets as a homeless person if you haven’t been there.

I used to hate it when a homeless person would take the money I gave them and buy a beer and pack of cigarettes. After gazing into the eyes of homelessness, you need a drink and a smoke to calm your nerves.

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A Grain of Salt | ElbyJames

ElbyJames is an American disabled combat vet exiled in the UK & a free speech absolutist. He’s an occasional Top Writer .