A Homeless Guide to the Recession

Photo of a vice squeezing a wallet shut.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Even though I never went to college, I managed to learn about life by growing up in the Northeast. Going with my dad and other people to auctions in New York and New Jersey showed me how to make a living no matter what the economy does.  

Even though I have experienced homelessness from time to time, I have never forgotten how to survive and find a way to earn some money to get out of homelessness. I believe homelessness starts in the mind. With a positive outlook and good health you can avoid undesirable circumstances no matter what hits you in life.  

Yes, we are in a serious financial crisis and there is doom and gloom everywhere; but, even in these bad circumstances, you can find opportunities that are profitable. I would like to illustrate some of the things I learned while I couldn’t find work or get a place to stay.  

A closed mouth never gets fed. One thing I never did was panhandle or beg for someone’s sympathy. I don’t need pity. Besides, I can do many things— I am a chef by trade, have computer and clerical skills, and know how to landscape, paint and do yards. I’d rather do something constructive than have someone give me charity because they feel sorry for me. Sometimes when I see someone with a cup, begging, I wonder why not make a sign that reads, “I am homeless but am willing to work for a small amount.” More and more people would be willing to stop and listen to you, and, furthermore, law enforcement wouldn’t be as likely to harass you.  

My philosophy is if you can do it, it is not bragging. I always tell someone I can cook, clean houses and offices, if you are willing to pay me for the work. Learning how to be flexible will always keep a dollar in your pocket and you will never have trouble finding money in these difficult times.  

Learn how to have a personality, and sell. The way I survived in New York and Philadelphia, when I was broke, was like this: I would tell someone I know how to bargain and sell merchandise. I learned how to bargain and negotiate: it was always about how much profit you can make from the product you bought. It was tough, sometimes cruel. I had people throw me out with security right behind me, but it was an education into the business world. Even though being an entrepreneur can be rough if you don’t make any money, I liked being my own boss. I didn’t have to follow orders, meet deadlines, or have looking over my shoulder someone whom I knew I had more talent than. If you make money, you really have freedom.  

The East Coast, especially Delaware, southern New Jersey, and Virginia, have many flea markets where you can rent a stand for as little as 20 dollars and try your hand at selling merchandise. The beauty of flea markets is you don’t have to be like me and go to the Empire State Building (the hustler’s market) and look for products to sell. There are many things in your attic, closet or garage that you can sell. You’ll learn the ins and outs; you’ll know if your baseball cards are worth what a price book says they’re worth. You’ll find out what someone wants to buy and you’ll get wiser after someone tries to snooker you or steal something from you. You will get the basic education about being a boss. I happen to have a love for buying and selling merchandise. It is in my blood. However, some don’t have what it takes to sell things.  

Learn a trade. I agree with wealthy investors like Warren Buffet who say that “the economy doesn’t exist it is an indicator to see who is doing something foolish.” When you watch certain news shows on cable television you hear the latest wonk telling about layoffs, downturns and how many people lost their jobs. 

I always wondered, why should I feel sad? I slept on the concrete in the middle of winter in New Jersey. What is the use of complaining about getting fired? It can happen. Welcome to capitalism and democracy. When you get hired and have a boss, you are always at war with the boss. He controls your salary, your hours, and, basically, your life.  

To survive a recession you need to have a skill that is not replaceable, like carpentry, welding, or mechanics. The best skill is to be a handy man. You can name your price when you know how to build and fix things. If you are going to go back to school, learn something so that someone can’t replace you.  

If you are going to college, take a course like law enforcement, or something in the medical or finance professions. There is always a need for people who have these skills; and, you’ll find the pay is always good when you take the courses that are less glamorous than being a model or an actor. Get a driver’s license. I think one of the main reasons people go into poverty is they don’t have a driver’s license. To earn money, sometimes you must be flexible, possibly going two, or maybe even three hundred miles away for an opportunity. If you are on foot it, is nearly impossible to take advantage of job opportunities. A car can be your own personal treasure chest if you are enterprising and willing to work. My biggest regret is not keeping my car, but as of now I am working on getting my license. Maybe soon I’ll get a chance to express my real passion: traveling.  

I hope this advice will be helpful in the upcoming recession. 

Issues |Economy

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.