THE BLOG
01/25/2012 04:53 pm ET | Updated Mar 24, 2012

Dear Te-Erika Patterson

I just read your post about the "Rebuild your life project" and although I commend your efforts to "demystify" homelessness I wanted to share with you just how non-mysterious homelessness actually is. I too am a single parent but my experience for the past 8 years is not by choice, nor do I recommend that anyone deliberately go into homelessness just to see what it's like. For one thing, there is no one reason anybody becomes homeless. My concern for you is how long it will take you to get back on your feet once you discover the reality of slashed state budgeted programs or the lack of Section 8 since, in my state for example, it has been closed to application for several years now. The state, however, will take applications to be put on a waiting list with a minimum of 3-5 years wait time IF you're lucky.

Have you ever tried to get into a shelter? There's a process to that too. First, if the shelter isn't overwhelmed and has an opening to give, there's a waiting list for that, too. Where I'm at you will discover that calling shelters means listening to automated systems tell you that they either have no openings or they want you to keep calling back to let them know you still need help even though many shelters won't even call you back because they don't know when exactly they will have an opening. Also many shelters have time limits which mean you may only have 90 days to be there and then you're back out on the streets. Oh and don't get me started on the issue of bed bugs, safety, and theft!

A little background on myself in case you're wondering, I have worked 2 jobs since I was 12, and in order to survive, I cannot rely on practically non-existent child support, nor do I have unemployment checks coming in. When I first became homeless, a social worker from the Department of Health and Welfare Services told me that in order to get a measly $400 a month, I would have to sell my car which was our only transportation and shelter since we've been living out of our vehicle all this time. We don't have relatives or friends to take us in. If you have reliable resources or a support network of family and friends you can lean on to help you rebuild your life, then you will recover from the "homeless experience" sooner than those who don't.

It's one thing to choose to be homeless when you have resources to keep you afloat, it's another if you have absolutely nothing and are trying to rebuild your life while navigating through not being able to access resources due to not having an address or enough money for bus fare or food. Being homeless for real is a more than a full-time job in itself just to survive and more so if you have kids with you. Even though I've been homeless for a while, I still struggle with trying to get hired on to a living wage job; heck, I'd even take a part-time job but who's gonna watch my youngest daughter?

I have two YouTube videos for you to watch that I made myself. The first one is called "Tales from the Driver's Side", the second one is "Childcare blues". I made those videos to educate people on what the "homeless experience" is really like, well, what it's been like for me anyway.

I also invite you to stop and visit the site I've become the manager of. It's called We Are Visible, a community for the homeless by the homeless. I encourage homeless visitors to talk about their reality of surviving one day to the next while working or trying to find work. If your kids haven't been homeless before, maybe you'd like to hear what my 8-year-old daughter Maggie has to say about it in this article.

Every day I help the homeless youth where I'm at while trying to help myself at the same time and that's what I write about on Careyfuller.com and tweet about... daily! All of this was the result of a letter I sent to an editor at Change.org called "What it's like to be a homeless mother". I encourage you to read that letter and if, after doing so, you still think "going homeless" is a good idea, then I wish you the best of luck on your project. I can guarantee the experience will be a big eye opener and you will never forget it.