What to do if You're Facing Homelessness

Members of the Austin Street Centre team, staff and clients alike, compiled this section trying to answer basic questions you may have if you are faced with becoming homeless.

You are not alone!

What you do before you become homeless will make it easier later on when you are ready to move into your own place again.

It is of the upmost importance, should you still have a job, do whatever it takes to keep that job. Income is what will help you get back on your feet!

There is no shame in becoming homeless, so don’t make it into a secret. Many of us live from paycheck to paycheck, and if you live in the Dallas area, Austin Street Centre offers full time employed clients the opportunity to participate in the Pathway House transitional living program. Check in your area for similar programs.

Consult family and friends for resources. Do not necessarily expect financial aid but information on organization that may be able to help you in your difficult situation. There are organizations, private and government that aim to help to avoid anyone becoming homeless. Depending on your situation they may help in paying a utility bill or the rent for a month or two if that is all that is needed to prevent you from losing your home. Be aware, those are short term fixes and not designed to support you indefinite.

Avoid being evicted, as an eviction stays on your record for several years. Most apartment complexes will not rent to someone with an eviction on their record. Your current apartment manager will tell you when you have to vacate the dwelling before he files for a court date. As hard as it may be for you, leave the day before that date and turn in your keys. If you are unable to remove your belongings, make sure the refrigerator is empty and the trash is taken out.

Make sure that you cancel all the utilities before you leave your home. You want your accounts in good standing once you are ready to move into a new place.

Visit your local post office and fill out a change of address card as soon as possible. Rent a post office box if you can afford it or ask a trusted family member or friend if you can receive your mail through them. If you are moving to a shelter ask if you can receive your mail there.

Go through your documents and make sure you carry your legal ID, your SSN card and any important documents, like insurance, with you.

This is a hard choice to make! If you have a car, consider if you can afford the upkeep, insurance, repairs, gasoline. Living in your car, meaning pulling over and sleeping in it, is almost impossible in any city now and shelters usually don’t have the space to permit parking on their property.

It is not advisable to leave your furniture and belongings in your home and just walk away. Have a yard sale if you are not able to pay for storage of your furniture and other belongings. You may raise some needed funds that way!

Pack one bag and one bag only! Make sure you have underwear for several days, socks, two pair of comfortable shoes, hygiene items, three sets of clean clothing and make sure they are appropriate for the season. You don’t need to carry your winter jacket in July, it is only extra weight. If your job requires you to wear a uniform, make sure you have that with you as well.

Contact local shelters and ask what programs they offer to help you get back on your feed. Most services are stretched over several organizations, but a good and caring case worker can put you in touch with the resources you need.

Buy a cheap disposable cell phone and make sure all relevant people in your life know your phone number and you have theirs!

These are just a few suggestions and by no means cover the entire issue of what to do when one knows that he or she will be homeless within a predictable period of time.