5 Things a Once Homeless Mom Wants You To Know

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Most of us have passed a homeless person on the street, but have you ever REALLY stopped to think about who they are and what their story is?


Last week, I wrote a post about how I’m grateful for the time that I spent homeless and while most of the responses I received were supportive and loving,  some of you had said that you never really give the homeless a second thought, that you thought assumed they’re all drunks, etc and honestly? That bothers me. (You won’t find those comments here on the blog, most of the very negative ones were sent by email and no, I won’t post them.)

The thing is though? I can understand it. Really, I can. I used to be like that and trust me…it’s very easy to just ignore what you see and it’s even easier to pass them off with a “oh, that person must be a drunk” or an “I wish these people would get a job,” or something similar. Notice the thought there? “These people.”  How many times have you used that phrase in your own thoughts? We’ve been conditioned over and over again to think of the homeless as unequal to us, as less than we are…as less than human.

The entire time that I was homeless, living in that shelter, trying to find a job, trying to give my daughter the best that I could at the time, I was one of “those people.” I remember the looks when people would find out where I lived, I remember the judgement…the fear…the shame. I don’t even allow myself to think about how my child actually felt.

Here’s a sobering statistic for you:  On ANY given night in 2014 period, there were at least 194,302 CHILDREN living homeless on the street and since it’s so hard to count homeless kids? That number could actually be as high as 550,000. (source)

So that’s how this post came to be. It’s a walk inside the mind of someone who used to be there, a glimpse into the thoughts of a homeless mom. Hopefully, if I do my job right, these 5 things a once homeless mom wants you to know will give you a better view and maybe, just maybe, tug on your heart strings for an offer to help the next time you see one…instead of judging her and passing her by.

We were once you – Not all homeless people are lazy bums who won’t work and sit on their rears everyday. In fact? Very few are. A vast majority of the homeless population are just like you…or rather once were. They once lived in suburban homes with white picket fences, posh apartments and drove cars that are just as nice (or nicer) as yours. Some of them lost their jobs, some ran from an abusive situation, some were hit with an illness and for a plethora of other reasons, they lost their homes. Sometimes it really does boil down to just not being able to make it.

We’re not all mooching off of the system – You would be surprised at the number of homeless folks who actually work for a living. Want a number to prove it? 44%. (source)

FORTY FOUR PERCENT of our nation’s homeless population are employed.

FORTY FOUR PERCENT don’t make enough money to support a lifestyle other than a homeless one.

FORTY FOUR PERCENT are NOT receiving welfare. They’re NOT living off of the system. They’re TRYING to better themselves.

We’re not all on drugs and are not all drunks –

Yes, there are a significant portions of the homeless community that ARE on drugs or that have alcohol problems, however, not all of them do. Don’t get caught up in assumptions.

We see your judgement – Think that homeless person didn’t see you turn your nose up or look down at them? Think again. They may not say anything to you, but those looks are seen and the snide remarks are heard. Instead of judging them, next time, see if you can help. That action will be appreciated a lot more than judgement.

We’re embarrassed by our situation – There is nothing more humiliating for a mom than to feel like she’s 1. a bad mom or 2. not able to provide for her child. They know that they’re in a bad situation and don’t need anyone to tell us…in fact? They’d rather not even tell you that they’re in this situation. It’s embarrassing and humiliating.



Now by all means, I don’t mean this post to say that all homeless people fit into this mold. They don’t. The cold, hard truth is that there is a large amount of people out there that are just trying to scam, people that are homeless by choice or because of a habit. The point is to show you that they’re not ALL like that. The thing is though? A lot of the time? It can be really hard to tell between the two types of homeless people.

Kindness goes a long way. Judgement and snide attitudes don’t. As my Grandma used to say, “You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”


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Stacy Williams

Stacy Williams is a 37-year old wife to a USAF Gulf War Veteran, mother of two teen girls and fur-mamma to a rescued pit bull. The face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family, she also owns and manages Long Haul Wife, Republic Preparedness, The Genealogy Queen and a handful of others sites. By the age of 30, Stacy had overcome a drinking problem, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence, and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Stacy is passionate about homeless advocacy and addiction education.  Her first book, also called Six Dollar Family is available on Amazon.

Learn how to earn a full-time income from home by learning how to start a blog just like this one! Click HERE to check out Stacy's step-by-step tutorial.
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  1. Colette Bromfield says

    This post is awesome. I serve on the board for our local homeless shelter (Union County Community Shelter) here in Monroe, NC. You are 100% right. There will always be people who are homeless because of drugs or alcohol but for the most part our clients are going through a domestic violence issue, a medical issue, an employment issue (either being unemployed or underemployed), a disaster has happened, and some have even been scammed out of their rental deposits. Since being inducted to the board, I started a new program called the Home Again Rehousing Project. I collect used furniture and household items for our clients who are moving out of the shelter and back into permanent housing. Honestly, it has been both eye-opening and life changing. Before I started this program, we were just sending our clients out with nothing but a food box and a mat to sleep on and they were left on their own to furnish their apartments or homes. Since beginning the program our success rates have increased exponentially. As you well know, starting over isn’t easy. I am so happy to help our clients feel more like they are moving into a “home” instead of an empty space. This is truly my calling. I, like most, thought the homeless were lazy, drunks or drug addicts. Something like 80% of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck and are one paycheck away from being homeless. I love hearing success stories. I loved your story and it was especially touching because it involved children. Those are my favorite clients to help. I love watching children’s faces when they walk inside their new bedrooms all set up with a bed, side table, a lamp and sometimes I even have a desk for their rooms. You really should be proud of yourself for picking yourself up and changing your situation!! Thank you for sharing your story. Best wishes to you for the future!!

    • Susan Latif says

      Wow, How could I do this in my area. I live near a family shelter. What do you suggest.

      • Susan, I would contact them to see what they currently need. Otherwise, gift bags for the residents, personal care items, baby items, clothing and that type of thing are usually always welcomed.

  2. Well this pretty much broke my heart this morning. I’m so sorry that this happened to you. Everything happens for a reason, and I’m grateful that you’re in a position to educate others.

  3. This is a great way to open the eyes of many. This has always been a sensitive issue with me. My great uncle lived on the streets of vancouver b.c. I remember my Dad wanting to go downtown and visit him. The whole family jumped in the car to go with my Dad. My dad’s uncle was a proud man and did not want help from my Dad, uncle wanted him to look after his own young family. We could not find him that day, at least that is what Dad told us after going into some areas that Dad turned us around so we would not see the hardship of these people. What he did not realize we knew what we had seen. It made me worry about my great uncle and I did not want to leave without him. I applaud you for writing this blog. You sound like a very courageous lady and I hope the best for you.

  4. Kim Wells says

    That was me for 6 months of 2014…homeless in a shelter. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would end up in such a situation. But I did and it was an eye opener for my life and into the lives of other homeless people and the things that contribute to homelessness. Many church groups took turns providing and serving a supper at the shelter. I happened to walk past one of those church people after she had done something for a homeless resident at the shelter. When she turned around I could see the expression on her face. She was smiling but the way I read her expression, it was not happiness for the person she helped but obviously one of smug gratification. She was so very full of herself, it was plain to see. And all I could think was, “gee lady, how lucky for you there are people like us so you can feel good about yourself.” The entire experience changed me in many ways and not all good. Thank you for your insight into your experience and for letting me share a bit of mine.

  5. I’m glad I ran into this article. I was homeless once too. The saddest part for me was that when the clock would hit five and I started to see people getting off the train, running to get home and I knowing all the while that I had no place of my own nowhere to go. That was hard. Every night I would crash on a different sofa. I became homeless because the landlord had lost his home through foreclosure and informed the bank that he had no tenants. The bank did come through, but when they came to the house they wouldn’t find any tenants around because everyone worked. I remember it clearly as if it were yesterday, It was a Thursday in late August the year 2001 when the bank came in with the marshals to lock up the house. They felt so bad for us that they gave all the tenants til the end of the day to get what they can. It was horrible. I, and two other females were crying, the men were angry, and the landlord was long gone.Today, the experience has made me a better person. Having empathy for others is always a good thing. It has made me a grateful person knowing that in a heart beat things can change. Every night I pray for those who are in the streets that they may find their way. The way I look at it everyone deserves a home.

  6. I really wanted to express my sincere gratitude for the author to have the balls to write this piece. I feel like there aren’t enough articles speaking from this point of view. I currently am a homeless single mother. I have a paying job (which I love), but it just doesn’t pay all the bills. I was evicted after being months behind on rent. Life now is a little easier with not paying rent but it’s also very difficult. My son is two and I worry the effect this situation will have on him. I have had to postpone typical things like potty training and having a set bedtime because I don’t have a place to call my own to put these things in action. I believe things will get better, and I just have to be patient and hopeful. It’s a hard thing to accept and even when I have told my close friends I don’t think they get it. I mean, we literally are sleeping on pillows and blankets on the floor. Anyway, not to indulge too much, but I just really appreciated this article. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • Nikki, contact me please and we can try to find you some place to go that is a bit more permanent. Not saying we’ll get anywhere, but I will certainly try.

  7. I really appreciate this piece. One thing though, how do we help those who are honestly trying to get out of the situation? I donate to food banks and donate clothing, bedding and hygiene products to homeless shelters, but I know there is so much more I could do. Any thoughts on this subject?

    As a child I was next to homeless. My mother and my five siblings and I lived in a leaky roofed house with no running water, only wood heat and the wind whistling through the walls. We lived in Montana so the winters were cold. We wore hand me down clothes and and had hand me down furniture. My mother cleaned houses and took in ironings to help make ends meet. I was 14 before we lived in a decent house with running water and that felt like a palace to me. But out of us six kids, all are good citizens and all are gainfully employed. I applaud my mother for working so hard to keep a roof (even a leaky one) over our heads. I too appreciate the time that I was so poor, it makes me appreciate things much more than others ever can. And even with what I went through, we did have a home.

  8. My parents used to volunteer to help homeless people in their home city. I want to make this point, very loudly: Even homeless people who *are* alcoholic or drug abusers, generally have a reason for being that way. We’re talking vets with PDST, people with mental illness, etc., who turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of self-medicating or seeing themselves through a really crappy situation. It’s a vicious cycle – something bad will happen and so they’ll self-medicate with drugs or alcohol and end up losing everything and keep on with the drugs or alcohol because it’s the only comfort and medicine they have. Just because someone is struggling with addiction, doesn’t mean they aren’t still a valuable person; that doesn’t mean they aren’t still someone who deserves love and support. They didn’t “bring it on themselves”; they’re doing the best they can with a very challenging and unique set of circumstances. Every story is different; but with every story my parents learned, they thought, There but for the grace of God.

    One of the saddest things that ever happened to me was an interaction with a prostitute – not homeless, but still one of life’s throw-aways. She was standing on a street corner on a very cold winter night. I took off my jacket and handed it to her. She pushed it away. “Why would you want to help someone like me?” she said. I explained that I just lived around the corner and if she wanted to she could leave it at my house when she was done; but if she wanted to keep it that was fine too, but it was a cold night and I didn’t want her to be cold. She refused to take it. She just kept saying, “You don’t want to help me. I’m not worth it.” And it broke my heart because she was worth it; but this is what her life had become to her – she thought she was so worthless that she didn’t even deserve a coat on a cold winter night. I couldn’t convince her to take it and so instead I went home and cried myself to sleep. That was 16 years ago and I’m crying again, just thinking about it.

    These people are worth it. They are worth so very, very much.

  9. it is so true at least for me… im one mother who now has a safe place place to live thanks to housing but only a couple months ago i was homeless and before that in a horrid abusive situation. Thankyou for speaking out about this. Even my own family who complains about being poor has no idea and doesnt understand what its like to be truely impoverished or surviving as a single mom. It is very difficult and we are all on our own.

  10. I was homeless over a decade ago and very, very few people know b/c of how they look at me & treat me. When family doesn’t have your back it is easy to end up in the street. I’ve learned the hard way that I must make much more conservative decisions then my peers b/c I don’t have a Mom, Dad, Grandma, trusted sister or Aunt to fall back on.
    And it echoes still, I took a pay cut over the summer to work a more stable job b/c I could tell the wonderful competitive job I had taken wasn’t going to work as long as I had my kids in the picture.

    Homeless isn’t a looser or a drunk. It means you made a poor decision on something (maybe even not your fault – like bad landlord) & have insufficient support system to help you recover under a roof.

    • So right. When I left my first husband, my children and I would have been homeless if I hadn’t had good parents who took us in and helped us get back on our feet. I know I was one of the lucky ones because I had a support system to fall back on.

  11. Heather Heather says

    My young son and I were homeless for a year and a half. This was through no fault of my own. You hit the nail on the head with your comments! Not only was my child in school full-time, but I was in college… working for my professional writing degree. That is all in addition to looking for a home, filling out mounds of paperwork, going to the doctor/or hospital and soooo much more! So, no… most homeless people are far from lazy or stupid!!!

  12. I’ve just run into this post now as I was reading something else.

    I was homeless 3 years ago. With three kids. Husband had died so he wasn’t around. Property we were living in was sold out from under us.

    The rental market was madness so it took a while before we landed something. 7 months, in fact.
    I couldn’t get into a shelter as there were no places and my car was too small for us all so I ended up in an empty building.
    This is despite the fact that I am an educated woman with a degree and experience.
    And I had money coming in. Much of that money went on full time day care for my kids while I scrambled about looking for a place and constantly being knocked back. Finally, in desperation, I lied my ass off on the application and scored an apartment. They still don’t know I have the kids there. Yes, you soon find out how discriminatory agencies are so you lie and tell them you don’t have kids and voila all of a sudden you get something.

    I told no one about my homelessness. Not friends, not family, no one. I was so ashamed. And when I think of it now, I still am. It’s a deep seated shame. It’s a third skin.

    My children were babies when it happened, though, so I didn’t think it would affect them.

    So years later, they’re just starting school and the school’s emblem is royal blue background with yellow. At the entrance gate it sits as part of a large sign.

    My kids will walk around to the back gate to enter school grounds as they don’t like the colour. They say it frightens them but they don’t know why.

    The squat that we had lived in was partially covered in a tarpaulin which kept out the rain.

    Its colour? Royal blue.

    • Nameless,

      Your story broke my heart. NEVER be ashamed. What happened to you and your kids was not your fault in any way shape or form and you did what you had to do to keep those babies safe, sound and taken care of. In other words, you were their Mother at a time when they needed you the most. NEVER be ashamed of that or the fact that you have picked yourself up from your own personal rock bottom.


    Thank you for SHARING! Many need to see and understand this. Blessings to you and your family! 🙂

  14. My mother was homeless as a child and now works and makes an above average salary. Thank you so much for sharing your story and helping raise awareness. I also wish more people would be more considerate of homeless people. It’s truly appalling the way people treat the homeless.

  15. I was in your spot one time in my life. I was not speaking with my parents at the time, but i had to suck it up and ask if my kids could stay with my parents. While my kids stayed with my parents my husband and myself had lived out of our mini van for a year with our dog. The summers in NJ suck and the winters even more. So I know what it is like to get the looks when people pass the car and stare at what you can fit in there and still have room to sleep, and try to find places to go to the bathroom and try to get money up to get a motel room to get showers and hopefully get food. Plus find money to get dog food. But a lot of prayers later and I have my family back together under one roof again. Homeless people are not all alike and some want help. And just need that little stepping stone. May we all just take a step back and lend helping hand because it may be you some day who needs that stone.

  16. My heart goes out to homeless people and I realize that one day I could be there. Therefore, my husband and I give 1% of our income each month to our church just to help this population. I try not to judge, I have stopped my car to give my groceries away or a lunch-one day it was all I had. Maybe someone will help me if/when I need it.
    We should remember that Karma is a universal law recognized by all religions and taught in the Bible. What we send out WILL return to us. We are here to help each other regardless of of our station.
    Thank you for this post!

  17. Funny that I was talking to one of my dearest friends yesterday that I’m so greatful for the job I have now. Just before the “big crash” I left my private practice job (because of really sketchy practices) & struck out on my own. Not good timing. I wound up loosing my house, the practice, and thankfully I had wonderful friends was able to ‘couch surf’ for a few months before I moved east for a new job. 39 years old with an advanced professional degree and homeless. Who would have thunk?

    • Michele,

      You would likely be surprised at how many people found themselves in that same sort of situation back in 08 or 09. The scary part is that it really hasn’t eased up any and is still happening today at an even more rapid pace.

  18. Sherrie Wohlgemuth says

    This is a good example of the people that come to our shelter (Community Resource Center, Chillicothe Missouri) for help. It is also true that some of the people are trying to scam. The best way to avoid being scammed and to actually help homeless people is to donate to the shelter, not hand money to the homeless person. The way government funding is most shelters struggle to keep the doors open and could use all the help they can get. While is is necessary to have personal care items and clothing and even household goods, those items do not pay the rent or electric bills. Consider making a cash donation even if it is small. Every little bit helps. In the last year we served 101 homeless people, 8 of them were under the age of 18.

  19. I’m one that was homeless also . And some shelters will not let you work a night job because they close the doors to clean in day hours. So your work can only be days and fit shelters hours. Or your on the street at night. I was a lucky one took two years and I got back on my feet. Now I work two jobs and I’m 60 now.

  20. Thank you for writing this! I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying it would be to be homeless with a child. That really breaks my heart! I know if I ever found myself in that situation I would be afraid of CPS taking away my son. I don’t know if that’s something that could happen or not. The amount of shame and self doubt would be stifling. Fortunately I have never looked down on homeless folks, maybe been a little afraid of one or two only because they seemed unstable and were acting confused and violent.
    Gratitude is so important and far to often underrated! You are a very strong woman and I’m certain your child feels lucky to have you. I believe all children would rather be poor but loved rather than rich but lonely and ignored.

  21. Jacquelyn ne says

    Thank you for speaking up. Some of us are on social welfare because a) they lost their job and had a major depressionbecause they couldn’t find work and major events happened in the family. All that contributed to ending up in a shelter for a while. I’m m still on social, unable to work because if illness, im 58 years old. I have found this place that offers a romm, shared accommodations and it is run by a not for profit irganisation . I live in Canada. I am grateful for having this place and if my health was better I would work. I’m not alcoholic, on dugs but I smoke cigarettes. I have met people in similar situations.

  22. Thank you all for sharing your stories. Even though they break my heart! God bless you all & the shelters & families & friends who try to help.

  23. Stacey,
    I appreciate your personal story. It looks like it has touched so many. I am a nurse educator and would like to utilize your story as a vignette for a program offered to our students and our faculty. There is a potential of this being placed on the web for viewing. Would you be willing to allow us to use your story with credit given to you for your writing? I will be glad to speak personally with you if you desire.
    Thanks for your time, your consideration in educating future nurses, and your story that has touched so many and will continue to do so.

  24. Ya well my MIL was/is living off the system, compulsive gambler for approx. 30 years finally hit rock bottom. Her kids are tired of bailing her out, so she lost her apt. Due to non payment of rent, and on the streets she is. Don’t give the homeless money, because you know it’s not going in their stomach. She gets money from the system she’s abusing by gambling. Give food, drinks and personal necessities. Giving them money only keeps them where they’re at. Messed up

    • Stacy Ott says

      Justme, Fairly certain you missed the point of the post. Not going to argue with you as you’re entitled to your opinion as I am entitled to my own.

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