Is the thought of being homeless your worst nightmare? I know it’s mine.
Heck I can’t even entertain the idea of doing The Big Sleep Out. Incidentally, a friend of mine did it last year and said that it was incredibly hard. She also shared with me that they had it ‘easy’ with hot food before and after the event, a ground sheet and an insulating layer of plastic bubble wrap….
The image of homelessness conjures up an image and we often associate it with substance abuse or mental health issues. But what if you became homeless through a perfect storm of circumstances? You’d been in full time employment, been living a comfortable life and then it all changed.
My latest inspiring woman interview is with Bonnie S Hardie. Bonnie is a bubbly, confident entrepreneur, supporting business owners, with her services as a Virtual Assistant and Social Media Expert. Bonnie lives in Florida with her two gorgeous kittens. I was speechless when I discovered she’d been homeless for nearly two years (2015-2017). Her story of resilience and determination is simply inspiring.
What Were The Circumstances Leading To You Becoming Homeless?
Several things led up to my being homeless. I sustained a severe knee injury at work. I was working in a restaurant and so had to give up my job. Unfortunately the knee injury had revealed more extensive problems with my knees. While I was cleared to go back to work after the injury I struggled to find a job.
I applied for benefits but it’s an extremely long and arduous process in the US. I had no choice but to give up my accommodation, as I could no longer pay the rent.
A neighbour and I made an agreement. I would move in with her and help her with her mother who had Alzheimer’s. In return for helping her mother at night, when my neighbour worked I would live rent-free. Sadly only about three weeks into the arrangement her mother passed away.
We then made a new agreement that I would pay one week’s rent and she would pay the next week. This only lasted about a month before she decided to move to another state. I was unable to pay for the full amount of the rent on my own after this.
I didn’t consider myself “homeless” because I had a roof over my head and a bed to sleep on. I was living in a tent and sleeping on an Air Mattress. Instead I looked at it as being on an extended camping trip. Albeit without some of the comforts that we often take for granted on camping holidays.
What Was The Worst Thing About Being Homeless?
Having to deal with possums, raccoons and snakes coming up to my tent at night to chew on it!
Being regularly asked if I had any drugs or alcohol (I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs).
Other people. Those who judged me, showed a complete lack of respect and were rude, simply because of the way they viewed someone who was homeless.
The most frightening aspect was not having anyone to trust.
What Were Your Positive Takeaways From Being Homeless
It was down to me I only had myself to rely on.
I am a very resilient person so I dug deep and this helped me to stay strong. I managed to detach myself from the situation, to appreciate that it was happening for me and not to me.
Luckily I had neither animals nor children, so with no dependents it was easier. I really learned to appreciate what I did have. It was a great opportunity to learn a lot about myself during this time.
I met a lot of different people who were also homeless. They all had fascinating stories about how they’d become homeless.
Very often other homeless people were accommodating than non-homeless people. They were not judgmental.
If People You Knew Found Out You Were Homeless How Did They React?
I did not tell too many people about my situation because I was embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I was homeless.
Those I did tell were people at places where I hung out during the day (Library, Grocery Store, Coffee Shops) and they were generally nice.
It certainly helped that I made an extreme effort to stay clean (showering every day at a campsite). I was always polite to everyone I met and this meant others responded to me more positively.
What Impact Has Being Homeless Had On You As A Person?
I am more empathetic and sympathetic towards other people.
Before I was homeless, I got to know several homeless people. They would come in to the restaurant where I worked. I was always nice to them and treated them with respect. But being homeless has meant that I’m even more empathetic and sympathetic towards others.
It’s also fair to say that I am much more appreciative of what I have now.
It Is Easy To Judge People In A Negative Way Who Are Homeless How Did You Cope With That?
There were always a few “Negative Nellie’s”! Some people would insinuate that I was: lazy, a scammer, a bum and so on. So I just did my best to ignore them.
I am the only person who knows everything about what happened during the 2 years that I was homeless. I tried my best to do what I could with what I had.
Has Your Attitude Towards Homeless People Changed?
I was always empathetic to homeless people, even before it happened to me.
How can you judge someone when you don’t know his or her circumstances? You don’t know the story of why they became homeless.
What Would Be Your Advice To Anyone Facing Homelessness?
Just stay strong. I know that might sound easier said than done, but try to reframe your negatives into positives. So for example:
- I considered that sleeping outside meant I was getting plenty of fresh air;
- While I had no car, I did have a bike and that meant I got plenty of exercise;
- Although I had no shoes I had a pair of flip-flops. This helped me to develop a cool tan line!
Are There Charities In The US Who Support The Homeless?
Currently in the county I live in there are no homeless shelters. There are a few Churches who help the homeless. But transportation is often a barrier to getting to the facilities.
I applied for and was granted Food Stamps, which helped me to buy food. But with no cooking or refrigeration facilities my choices were limited as to what I could eat. Hot dogs or pasta out of a tin were regular meals for me.
How Did You Turn Things Around?
It was a long process.
I had to do a lot of Mindset work to get my confidence back. I had to believe that I had gifts to share with the world.
Luckily I was able to connect online with an awesome Mindset and Business Coach – Liz Hancock from England.
Liz believed in me more that I believed in myself. It was through her that I recovered my confidence and self-esteem. Without her help I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Liz and the other people in her private coaching group were very supportive of me and they always encouraged me.
We figured out what my Zone of Genius was & I was able to start offering Virtual Assistant, Social Media Marketing and Research Services on Facebook. I’m now proud to say that I have a great business with international clients and am in a much better place.
Care Bags For The Homeless
A project that I am working on right now is : “CARE BAGS FOR THE HOMELESS” — Putting the following in plastic bags: water — socks — hand sanitizer — tissues — lip balm — snacks ,etc. These can be filled for about $5 each. My plan is to hand out at least 150 of them. If you wish to donate follow the link: :
Do You Have A Story To Tell?
I’m looking for inspiring women to feature on my blog for 2019. You may think that you’re not very inspiring but I can promise you that the adversities we overcome and the challenges we deal with in everyday life are often the most inspiring. If you’re interested in being interviewed for 2019, please click fill in the form below.