This book is nothing new when it comes to homelessness. What has been written in these pages comes from a variety of resources, but it my hope that as a simple to the point read, it will reach those that can and want to help the homeless and others who want to help improve their lives.
My story is just that, my story As I say, I am no saint, and I have had my issues in life that have contributed to my current situation. But, even with those issues, I am a human being, just like the millions other people living on the streets around the world. We each need help in some way, and our governments have failed us. The human race is failing us. Our family, friends and others we interact with, have in some ways failed us with silence, ignorance or blindness. Even I have failed other homeless people, which I am hoping this book will help change.
Please take the time to read each section of this book. It may help you to see what is happening, and most importantly how you can change it.
Being a homeless person is not fun for anyone. Even when they have chosen to be homeless and live off the grid some aspects. Those, like myself, did not consciously choose to become homeless, we were somewhat forced into it for a variety of reasons. The top ten reasons are in section 2 of this book.
In my case, this is the second time I became homeless in 12 years. The first time was in 2011 when I had to file bankruptcy and lost the place I was living as the flow of income stopped for several months. At that time, I did not have a car, so I was lucky enough to live in a 10x10 storage unit for five years. It was a good setup considering the situation.
But even that fun had to come to an end and I was in a position at that time to not only have purchased a car but also I could afford an apartment. My business had grown enough that it allowed me the ability to move into a nice two-bedroom apartment for $1,100. I used one bedroom as my office so I could continue to grow the business. After three years there I had to reduce my expenses to maintain the business since I had lost my full-time job due to no fault of my own. Politics were the reason why I lost my job.
I then moved into a house and rented a room, which worked out well considering that the COVID pandemic would hit that year. It was this pandemic that looked like a blessing as the unemployment funds helped keep me and my businesses going, but it turned out to be a curse in the end.
My business depends on working with authors face-to-face and helping them to promote and market their books. The pandemic immediately stopped that activity and while we tried the internet promotions, it was not enough to keep things moving at the same pace. We ended up losing 80% of our income in 2020, with the remaining 20% being lost the following year. We went from $100,000 in income down to zero in two years.
While various arts programs in my city and state were helping artists and musicians, none of them were supporting authors. The only other program available to authors had thousands requesting help, thus the funds were depleted very fast.
Finally, in 2022 when we thought things were going to improve, it only got worse for me and the businesses. With Texas stopping the unemployment benefits early, the two nonprofit organizations I had created, and the business lost everything we had when I couldn’t pay the storage bills. I lost my only belongings on November 2, 2022, when the last storage until was confiscated and sold off at auction. All total, we lost over $30,000 worth of books for our museum and our bookstore, plus 10 years of history and thousands more in supplies. The only thing I had left was my vehicle, which I almost lost earlier in the year.
During 2022, I did submit several job applications and for whatever reason, I could not get hired by McDonald's, Walmart, grocery stores, etc. NOTHING! As some people say, it was God’s way of putting me in a position to learn from, to grow from, and to use in some way to make myself, and others better. But to be honest, I was so pissed off at what happened on many levels, it led to an overwhelming depression. I was able to get psych meds that I used for a month to help me get through the depression, which did help. My grit and determination finally kicked back in and that helped me to keep moving forward.
The lack of income for the businesses, and the nonprofits only became worse when inflation soared in 2022 cutting into everyone’s budget and reducing the extra spending power they once had. For authors, that extra spending power is what they used to fund their marketing campaigns and our business.
By my 62nd birthday in late November, I had already applied for early retirement through Social Security, which would kick in late January with the first payment. If I had waited until 65, my income would have been nearly double what I ended up with. Still, with $720 in SS funds, it is not a lot of money, but considering my situation, it was far better than nothing.
At this point, I was already selling my plasma twice a week, which at first was good, as I was earning $700 a month. By the end of 2022, that income dropped to $400 per month, as the company cut back payments to increase profits. Or, as staff said, to make up for the huge marketing loss they suffered in 2022. Which we found out was not true.
I was able to continue to make the monthly car payment on my van which allowed me to sleep in and to drive around as needed. With the additional income from the plasma, I was able to pay some bills and purchase food as needed. I was able to keep myself alive and going by showering at the gym that I could afford and working on my businesses and nonprofits at my local library.
All of this is not the ideal situation anyone should be living in. During the past year, I learned that 500-1,000 people were living in their cars in Austin alone. And they are not counted as part of the homelessness that continues to grow as more and more people are being forced out of their homes due to the ever-increasing housing costs.
In January while I believed things would begin to change for me for the better, I instead was finding myself caught up in things that I never expected to be involved in. This was the increase in crime and violence that is plaguing cities everywhere as people become more desperate and try to survive.
For me, it was not a direct crime that I committed or even an indirect crime. I had already lived that part of my life when I was younger, and I continued to live my life with more positive energy ever since.
However, the fact that citizens were shooting at each other in public parks, drive-by shootings, and finally a murder that happened just 300 feet from where I slept, became too much. I know that there was nothing I could do to stop it. But as a citizen, I made sure to call 911 when gunshots were being fired off near my sleeping spot. I was the one that alerted the police to the murder, and thankfully, it helped resolve the closing of that case due to my quick call.
The continued lack of support from the City of Austin and the State of Texas for the homeless is a major issue, as it is for every major city and every state. Don’t get me wrong, Austin has done things to help create shelters, when possible, but those were only for the people they kicked out of the parks, or out from under the bridges that the governor demanded. For those of us living in our cars, there is NO help. We are not counted in the annual census, nor are there direct programs for us. I assume that because we have jobs and a vehicle, we are not important to the overall homelessness that the State and Cities help contribute to.
While flipping through videos on Tik Tok, I happened to come across one that showed a homeless camp in Los Angeles. These sheds were temporary homes for a few hundred people. But they reminded me of prison cells, but even worse. They had no restroom facilities in the shed, the person had to use a common area for showers and restrooms. The feeding area was under a tin roof that was over park-style benches. A better living situation than being on the streets, but barely enough respect for the people who needed it most. Yes, I am grateful that they did create something that does help, and I know funding is limited, which is a major part of the problem.
It was this final assault on us homeless people that caused me to write this book and launch my Help Homeless Find Homes Foundation.
In Austin, we have one of the top-rated tiny home parks that are designed to help get people off the streets and into permanent housing. It cost millions to create and maintain and has helped over 500 people move off the streets. It was created and operated by Fishes and Loaves a Christian organization that has been helping to feed the homeless for many years. You can learn more about them and other organizations with similar programs at the end of the book.
But this is not enough!
I have the strength to be able to deal with my situation and work hard to resolve it and overcome the obstacles I have to deal with. However, the average person doesn’t, and they need as much help as they can get. Starting with their mental health, physical health, and well-being as the top two keys to success and recovery. The type of housing is most important and a shied does not work, nor give someone the positive respect that they deserve and need to begin believing that they are valuable to society.
I’ve seen it too many times, where people living on the streets have slowly gone downhill and ended up dead, or worse hurting others. They continue to feel unwanted, disrespected, and homeless as they see the lack of programs or the lack of ability to get help. I have experienced this myself. Getting medical assistance is hard enough as it is without insurance. Even getting listed in programs for help means that a person can go years before being at the top of the list and getting the help they need. By that time, they are further in a deep depression, lost hope, and have a strong feeling of despair.
The Feds, States, and Cities have added to the ever-increasing homeless population by their lack of help in changing laws that would help. Or the lack of funding programs to help those who can use the help and who have the desire to improve their lives. That is why this book is written. Bring awareness to what causes homelessness, and how the general public can help resolve it.
As shown in the book, there are way too many reasons people become homeless, and the greed that exists in our country is adding to the problems. The desire of companies to pay as little as possible to their employees, the states, like Texas refusing to increase the minimum wage so people have an opportunity to make a fair living, and so much more. All of this the politicians say that this is to help keep the cost of government down, and to help keep businesses profitable. What a bunch of BS! Corporate greed and profits are at an all-time high and that’s because of their lack of fair wages or bleeding the public dry with false inflation and other items. I don’t mean to get into the political aspect, but the reality is this. The lack of government support is adding to the problem on two levels.
First and the most important aspect is the increased number of homeless people due to economic reasons. The moral issues that our politicians have been promoting in 2023 will also see a higher number of homeless youths on the streets soon enough.
Second, by not giving people the opportunity to earn a fair wage, the cost of helping homeless people then falls to the public, who pay for programs through taxes, with direct program assistance, but also through additional costs such as repairing the streets, parks, and other areas, the homeless are forced to live at. The additional expenses of housing the homeless that are arrested for living on the streets, committing a crime, etc., are also paid for by the public.
The only way to resolve homelessness is for the public to step up and pay for programs out of their own pockets. Investing in tiny home programs as mentioned earlier and again later in the book, and supporting programs that help homeless people to find jobs and get mental and physical support is what will make a difference.
While I barely make money at this time, it is my commitment to use the funds from the sale of this book, and other related programs to get the foundation off the ground and support existing programs that are working.
At the end of the book are ten ways that the general public can help and there is something that everyone can do. Every bit of help is needed and all of it can help these programs.
While I am asking for the public’s support, I ask that they DO NOT give money to the homeless standing on the street corners. This doesn’t help in the long term. Yes, the money will help them to get food, drinks, etc., but it keeps them away from the programs that can be of greater value to them. It’s a temporary fix to a long-term problem. Send your money to the various charities that can help them to get off the streets. The millions of dollars given on the streets will make a huge difference to those that are living on the streets.
Above all else, if you are of the mindset to not give money to the organizations that can help, then at least vote for politicians of any party that are willing to help the homeless. There are more homeless in our country than there are transgender people, or drag queens. Your vote helps get the priority back to help the people that need the help and not beat up on those that are trying to live their lives healthily.
You can keep up to date on my living situation on Tik Tok (HomelessFound) and Instagram (@BAlanBourgeois) But I will warn you, I put my life out there on these social media channels, so be careful what you watch, not for the faint at heart.
I am no angel; my friends will tell you that. But I, like every human being in the world deserve to be treated with respect and when we need help, to have access to programs that will help us, instead of being treated as scum and forced to live on the street. You don’t know me, but you may be surprised to learn of a friend or family member that has or is living on the streets.
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