Living without a home of your own is a devastating experience. But sleeping without a home is downright difficult. Some of these places receive media attention. Others may surprise you. But all of these overnight accommodations are completely unacceptable for regular human habitation.
1. Storage Units Many have called storage units the modern-day cardboard box. Sure, they’re not ideal, but they’re dry, secure and beat the dangers of the street. And they offer a way for people to keep some of their belongings rather than abandon them or have them stolen.
2. Cars Living out of a vehicle may seem like a bearable solution to losing one’s home. But when your home is on four wheels, it’s impossible to sit still. Each day, you must be on the go to evade authorities and the expensive citations for illegal parking or sleeping in a vehicle (Yes, there are ordinances against this!). You sleep with one eye open; you can never be perfectly at ease. And the nomadic lifestyle makes it difficult for homeless organizations to stay in touch to provide help.
3. Motels Cheap motels became the newest thing in subsidized housing and the de facto shelter for families affected by the recession in 2009. For families, it’s an affordable alternative to shelter and safer than the streets. But with cramped rooms, unsafe conditions, and little space for cooking, it is far from a good alternative to safe, decent housing. And when money runs out, families are back on the street.
4. Tent Cities Since the economy has been hurting, homeless encampments have sprung up in communities across the U.S. Some – like Sacramento, Providence, or Nickels Ville – garner lots of media attention; others go quietly unnoticed. As diverse the residents and characteristics of these communities may be they all have one thing in common: they are cloaked in controversy.
5. Parks After walking all day or night, it’s tempting for a homeless man or woman to stretch out on the lawn or a bench for some rest. Parks are open to the public and a decent place to get a nap during the day. But sleeping in the park at night is usually interrupted by police asking offenders to move along.
6. Streets While it may seem counter-intuitive that a homeless person would choose to stay on the streets rather than in a homeless shelter, there are understandable reasons for doing so. Shelters tend to attract people who are chronically homeless and addicted. This can be frightening to someone newly homeless or to those who struggle with mental illness or social phobias.
7. Foreclosed Houses Across the country, hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes are boarded up, idle and empty. At the same time, homelessness has been on the rise and the need for decent affordable housing is as great as ever. It comes as no surprise that homeless men and women choose to become squatters in vacant homes.
8. Abandoned Buildings Much like the situation with foreclosed homes, there’s no shortage of empty warehouses and other business buildings where homeless men and women take shelter.
9. Couches When homelessness strikes, friends and relatives are often the first place of refuge. Homeless families and individuals sleep on couches, in garages/sheds and backyard tents. Although they are technically homeless, they are unseen and left uncounted in an official homeless census – until the hospitality wears out. Then, they end up on the street.
10. We Don’t Know For all of those homeless individuals whose unfortunate living situations are documented, recorded, and broadcast to the public, there are hundreds more who remain anonymous. The methodology for finding and counting homeless people is imperfect; we simply do not find everyone.