The first thing to address when dealing with the prospect of homelessness is to realize whether you actually fall into the “at risk” group. Many people are closer to being without a home than they realize. Those most at risk are people who are living paycheck to paycheck. Those who don’t have a family support system where they could go if something bad happened and they had to miss a paycheck or two.

Analyze your situation. We know it’s hard to sit down and look at the financial side of your life when you are in a cycle of struggle. Most would prefer to avoid looking too deeply, as financial struggles and depression are very closely linked. However, it’s very important that you analyze your individual situation. Ask yourself these questions.

1) If I missed two or three weeks of work, could I pay rent, utilities and have food?

2) If I couldn’t pay rent, would I have a place to stay if I were evicted?

3) How much do I spend on things that aren’t truly a necessity? (Fast food, premium phone, expensive clothes, entertainment, travel)

4) How much money can I save each month if I cut down on unnecessary expenses?

5) Can I afford an unforeseen expense? (Car repair, medical emergency, home emergency such as appliance or heating system repair)

6) Do I have high interest debt? (Credit cards, predatory loans)

7) Do I use or abuse drugs, tobacco or alcohol?

We completely understand that times get very hard and that humans need some luxuries at times. However, becoming homeless is an extremely dire outcome. On average, the life expectancy of the homeless is as much as thirty years lower than people who aren’t homeless.

In rural Appalachia there are troubling trends when it comes to money management. People tend to eat a lot of fast food in the region and studies have shown that even those who receive SNAP assistance such as food stamps also consume fast food at a high rate. That ten dollar fast food purchase could have made two or three meals for an individual or went into a savings account for those with SNAP assistance.

Tobacco is extremely expensive and in Appalachia, it’s use is prevalent. 25.2 percent of Appalachian adults use tobacco products. That is ten percent higher than the rest of the nation. Many don’t seem to realize the expensive nature of their habit. I had a friend who wanted a small fishing boat but said he couldn’t afford it. He and his wife each smoked a pack of cigarettes every day. Their tobacco habit was checking in at over three hundred dollars per month. There was his boat.

The worst thing about smoking or tobacco products in general, they severely impact health. Their use leads to many bad outcomes that lead to missed work, crippling medical debt and can very easily wipe out the savings of even the most secure families. If you are struggling financially and use tobacco products, do everything within your power to stop. It’s vital for both your health and your financial security. How much could you save with an extra one, two or even three hundred dollars a month? Thats significant for anyone who is struggling to make ends meet.

Alcohol falls into this same category. It’s an unnecessary expense that can be very detrimental to your physical and mental well-being.

Obviously drug/opioid addiction is a crippling habit that can very quickly spiral into homelessness. It goes without saying that some fell into this addiction cycle due to deception by the pharmaceutical industry. We cannot stress enough that there are treatment options out there and we can help you find them.

Fast food also has negative health effects. Even if you only eat out once or twice a week, that quickly adds up in both cost and health. Take lunch with you to work. Make larger meals at home. Don’t be afraid of leftovers. You’ll be more healthy and the savings will add up.

Cell phones have become a necessity in the modern world. They are needed for work and many other things like scheduling medical appointments, paying bills, and being a participant in the social structure. However many cheaper phones and phone packages work well. You don’t need the newest and best I-product or Galaxy super phone.  A prepaid device for a reasonable price is better for anyone who is on the edge financially. This set up is around 50 percent cheaper per month than a contract I-product. Sometimes even more according to your phone usage. You may even qualify for government assistance in getting a basic phone.

Stay away from credit cards or predatory loans. It’s tempting, we know. Many fall into the trap of quick money. However the interest on these cards and loans can be crippling. You can end up paying more in interest than the cost of the item you bought. Medical debt and high interest  debt are the two biggest reasons for bankruptcy in the United States.

If you find yourself in a place where you are considering one of these loans or a credit card, look closely at why you need it. If, for instance you need an appliance and absolutely can’t pay cash for it, look for store cards where you can defer interest for up to a year. If you do this, make sure you pay off the item before the grace period ends. The fact that it’s a store only card will also eliminate the ability to use the card on items from other places, meaning it’s less tempting than a traditional credit card.

If you don’t qualify for a store card or loan that isn’t high interest, look for used appliances. Just make sure they are working when you go look at them. Absolutely avoid the high interest loans.

If you rent monthly, always be on the look out for cheaper rentals. Make sure you don’t have too much house or apartment. The financial housing crash of 2008 was spurred in part by people who bought much larger homes than they needed. They quickly became upside down in those homes when the job market slowed and the economy tanked. People were out on the street because of an initial decision to buy way more than they needed. We realize that some people can’t follow all this advice or that they already do and are still struggling. If you find yourself on the edge of homelessness, in a situation where you can’t afford food, or utilities, reach out to Pinnacle Resource Center. We will set down with you and look over your individual situation and see what we can do to help you. Our job is easier if we can prevent homelessness. Our mission is to make sure people are food secure and housed. We see those in our community as family and even when you don’t have family to turn to, we at Pinnacle will treat you like family.

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