One aspect of my general decline leading to homelessness involved some poor decision making regarding money management. Disorganized paperwork, literally losing track of my current debts, overdrawing my account, etc. When I entered the homeless shelter I had no job and very little to work with. I did received my share of royalties from my dad’s book every six months but it was nothing you could live on independently. I also tended to have junker cars and did not maintain them well. Maintaining a vehicle is, most people realize, an important part of money management, or alternately, learning how to function without a vehicle can be crucial. I really learned that lesson well during the homeless period, when my car was sitting inoperable behind the shelters I landed in.
I remember having to declare bankruptcy during the pre-homeless period. I had lost control of a bill at a storage unit in Springfield, but as a part of the bankruptcy I was able to retrieve these possessions. Poor judgment associated with Bipolar undoubtedly contributed a great deal to my irresponsibility regarding money management, but even after getting on appropriate medication, I still had to learn the skills necessary to get back on my feet, financially. It may not be rocket science, money management, but a few key areas of mismanagement can spell disaster. For example, getting lost in credit card debt, taking payday and title loans, and, as I said, allowing your vehicle to go to ruin—all important. Getting lost in debt to the IRS is also a terrible mistake.
When I was in the shelters in Northampton, I walked a great deal, and this was also good for my general health. I also took advantage of the bus system. There was a free bus that ran from Northampton to Amherst, and this was a godsend for me. While in the Northampton shelter, I finally landed a teacher’s aide position in Amherst. Without access to public transportation, this transitional job would not have been possible for me.
The rehab shelter also took part of my wages and saved for me—to build up enough for a rental deposit when it was time for me to step out on my own. This was very helpful. I swallowed my pride, and realized I needed that kind of help at the time.
I don’t blame Bipolar for my entire problem with irresponsibility. To do so would be a cop-out. But it certainly contributed. So finding a way to obtain adequate mental and physical health care is vital for a homeless person—well, for any person.
Thankfully, I have learned money management skills. Now remarried, I handle most of our money management issues and we have been holding our own for 10 years now. But of course, I do screw up at times. I’m not perfect this this, or any area of life. Accepting one’s imperfections is also vital. I try to build on my strength while minimizing the negative impact of my weak areas.