Jobless & Homeless: There but for the Grace of God

My husband owns an antique car business where he buys, sells and parts out classic cars. He has a lot of men working for him over the years that work for a period of time before moving on. The work is hard and the pay is only about $10 an hour. Most of the time, his helpers work other jobs, coming in to supplement their income. He has met a lot of homeless people due to where his shop is located. One day a guy came in who was living in his car with his invalid wife. We have watched his misfortune evolve. His skills are limited and he and his partner’s struggle is heartbreaking. Last week she had a stroke, was hospitalized for 3 days, then turned out to a cold car to fend on her own. They didn’t know that she didn’t have to leave the hospital, if they didn’t have a home to go to. Yes, we did help get information for them, but honestly it took hours of my time to figure out the maze we call a system, just to get a call back and some direction for them. Why doesn’t he work? He does, but he has to run out of work, every time she needs hospitalization for the multitude of medical issues. Why doesn’t she work? She did for years at one of the public agencies that she is not forced to take part in. Many homeless people start out with jobs and stable residences, but then social and economic factors intervene, causing a rapid change in their living situation. The two biggest factors driving homelessness are poverty and the lack of affordable housing.

As we assess the many different natural disasters, traumatic events and worldwide, global catastrophe’s, we see an upsurge in the homeless encampments everywhere. I chose LA, because of the recent fires, but I could see these encampments all over the country, from Hawaii to Florida. One woman living under a bridge a beautiful soul, when asked of her plight, she repeated the positive messages reminded her of a better state of life, she finds gratitude in a beautiful leaf and that is how she gets through things.

I sensed in her case, it was some kind of personal matter that got her where she was, thought she didn't say, “… Individual and relational factors apply to the personal circumstances of a homeless person, and may include: traumatic events (e.g. house fire or job loss), personal crisis (e.g. family break-up or domestic violence), mental health and addictions challenges (including brain injury and fetal alcohol syndrome…” [1] Homelessness causes are different by gender. For women in particular, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness. the country report that top causes of homelessness among families were: (1) lack of affordable housing, (2) unemployment, (3) poverty, and (4) low wages, in that order. Low wages are directly tied to skill set development and availability of the type of work that a person is able to accomplish. “Frequently references are made that homelessness as we know it today is rooted in severe HUD cuts in the early 1980s. While policy changes did have a large impact exacerbating the problem, homelessness has been documented in America since 1640.” [2]

In my wonderment, at one point, I went to several homeless shelters to discuss the issues around homelessness. There were a lot of factors, and truthfully, when homelessness occurs in a person with addictions, shelters require that they maintain sobriety at the shelter, this sometimes is too much for those who need professional services. Homeless is not only tied to addiction however, as many factors cause the downward cycle. When people are helped by family and friends who mean well, the friction and power struggles can end relationships quickly. It all seems so simple, just get a job, get a place and get moving. Of course, there is much more involved: an active address, resume, computer skills, nourishing food, access to showers, transportation, good attitude, etc. We want and expect people to get on their feet much quicker than the average person can do so. Why? Because they can’t get their “stuff together” without some kind of healing, think PTSD…post-traumatic stress is a process, not a culmination of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get moving.”

The most common reasons people give for losing their accommodation is that a friend or relatives are no longer able to provide support or because of relationship breakdown. However, there are often a wide number of factors at play. Individuals can arrive at the point of homelessness after a long chain of other life events. [3] When I see the distressed person, I think to myself, "There but for the grace of God, go I." Allegedly from a mid-sixteenth-century statement by John Bradford, which stems from the reference to a group of prisoners being led to execution. The bottom line here is that there is no easy answer, and sometimes people just need to believe they belong to society again. Without the “trappings of home, job, etc.” the homeless person has difficulty remembering where they came from, where they need to be going and how they got to this point in the first place, to get past everything and get to the goal of employed. In a synchronistic twist, I was editing this article, when the phone rang. Someone from Mercy Clinic of Loaves and Fishes had called them. Whomever this was left my number, both landline and cell numbers, with the simple message, “help me.”

PS: No, I have never called Mercy, nor would I have left a cryptic message like this one.

Shirley Ryan, PhD, CCHt is a certified clinical and practicing hypnotherapist, Performance Coach, spiritual counselor and teacher. She has written 3 spiritual books and designed a 36 session training development program to create inner coherence, balance and harmony. See more at my performance coaching website:


  1. Homelessness Hub,

  2. How Things Work

  3. Causes of Homelessness

  4. Bradford, John, "There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford. A paraphrase from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:8-10, which states, "Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.

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