I am submitting this one last time to try and answer any questions I can about my experience. However, it is challenging to document my homelessness as we did not stay in a shelter. Rather, we slept in our cars, and no documentation exists of these dwellings. In addition, this happened almost 10 years ago, so I couldn't have predicted one day needing proof of this experience. If you've asked me a question already, it can be found in the previous thread here. Otherwise, please ask away!

My short bio: Growing up, I had a turbulent childhood. My parents divorced when I was a young age, leaving my unprepared mother to raise me herself. She wasn't always able to provide and also constantly conflicted with landlords, so we experienced homelessness on multiple occasions when I was growing up. The first time we were homeless was when I was 9, and the last time was when I was 15. My memory is slightly foggy as to how long we were homeless each time, as it has been years since this occurred. From what I recall, the shortest time span was about 1 week, while the longest lasted a month. During this time, I still emphasized my schoolwork, often completing my homework by a car light, candle light, or by flashlight.

I dreamed of pursuing a college education, so I worked hard to do well in high school. I managed to graduate at the top of my class, and worked my way through a college degree. I now have a B.A. in Psychology, and have been working towards my Ph.D. in the same field for the last few years.

Now, life is extremely comfortable. But I'd like to share my story for others to know about my experiences with homelessness, the value of education, and what it means to persist through adversity. I welcome any questions that you may have for me!

My Proof: I have three pieces of proof.

First, here's a copy of the personal statement for when I applied to grad school. It discusses my experiences being homeless. (For all you applying to graduate programs, feel free to use my statement as a reference, but please submit an original document in your applications!)

Here's a photo of my diploma to show that I have graduated with my B.A.

Finally, here's a screenshot of the court case minutes in which the judge ruled to evict us from our house. This was the home before we were homeless the third time, and should suffice as proof. Otherwise, I cannot offer much else to prove my homelessness.

Feel free to ask for any other proof!

Comments: 95 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

halsar117 karma

I was homeless as a youth too. I too put myself through college and earned a Masters Degree. Unfortunately, that didn't buy me anything when it came time to obtain a job. I have found applying useless. I then tried holding a sign "Have Master's Degree-Need Job" only to find myself harassed by police. After failed small business, and After selling anything of value, I now survive on food stamps and live in an abandon house. It would be much more impressive to me if yours said-I was homeless and now have a job where I own my own home. Do you have a bunch of school debt now?

not_a_homeless_phd12 karma

I'm sorry to hear that your post-graduate experience hasn't been positive. It's a struggle to find employment, and I honestly hope things start to look up for you. I'm sure you'll be able to find something that you love!

Personally, I do have a fair amount of debt. I have over $40,000 from my undergraduate degree. Thankfully, grad school is covered 100% by my university so I am not paying for my PhD. But I've heard horror stories of folks who have $200k+ in student debt.

halsar16 karma

I'm among the uncounted unemployed and have given up. I'll get food stamps for the next 22 years until I get social security retirement-if i don't go crazy first and get disability.

not_a_homeless_phd4 karma

Have you looked towards community colleges in the area to adjunct teach? It's not anything glamorous that comes with remarkable benefits, but it can give you a decent chunk of change depending on how many classes you can pick up.

GodofWar12344 karma

How did you and your mom manage to get food?

Did your mom receive government assistance?

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

My mom survived paycheck-to-paycheck, but she never placed any of her money into savings for emergencies. Whenever we were homeless, we would have some money to pay for food, but not enough to afford first months rent + security deposit on a new place.

As for government assistance, she did receive assistance. However, I cannot remember the timing (if it came before or after our homeless episodes).

cyranotheanteater2 karma

I'm so sorry to hear the situation that you were in.

You mentioned that you were homeless multiple times. Which experience was the worse: when you were 9 or 15?

not_a_homeless_phd2 karma

It's okay; things are much, much better these days!

The worst time was easily when I was 15. When I was little, I thought that we were camping whenever we were homeless. But I understood what homelessness was when I was a teenager, so it was hard to deal with.

spnutbro1 karma

What did you think you did differently that got you to where you are now compared to other people who were in the same situation as you but didn't pursue an education? It must be very difficult to go to college with nothing saved up, i wish i have the same persistence and determination as you OP :)

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

It's hard to pinpoint, because it is truly a mixture of factors. I was extremely dedicated to school and had teachers who were supportive of me going to college. Had I not had either of those qualities, I don't know how I would have succeeded. Part of me wants to feel like I would have found a way, and knowing me, I probably would have. But it would have been much more difficult without the guidance and support of others.

And thank you. :) It was a challenge, but I eventually starting working part-time during my college years, which helped me to have some funds for necessary expenses.

findn3cro1 karma

ever et raw meat?

not_a_homeless_phd2 karma

Not intentionally, at least as far as I know.

Does sushi count? If so, then yes.

findn3cro1 karma

My apologies, that was a stupid ancient reference to a Stephen King interview where some fan sent him a letter asking him that and it, for some reason, disturbed him a bit. Which made an impact on me given the content of his stories.
I thought it was odd at the time and it stayed with me. Your story is inspiring. I was paid to do my grad work. All the psych people I know all pursued PhD's as they said it's needed to do anything useful or make any kind of money. Best of continued luck to you!

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

Haha, no worries! This is an AMA after all and not an AMalmostA. It was fair game.

But thank you very much!

seal751 karma

What motivated you to keep going, when times were rough and work was hard?

not_a_homeless_phd2 karma

The most motivating to me was being able to imagine an idealistic future for myself. I would daydream about what my campus would look like when I finally went to college, or what it would be like to live away from home. What classes would be like or stuff of the sort. They're small, insignificant details, but just having that sort of stuff to look forward to helped put my struggles into perspective.

seal751 karma

Thanks for the answer. You are so inspiring

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

Thank you for those kind words!

korthlm1 karma

What (or who) gave you the drive to work hard enough to overcome your obstacles?

not_a_homeless_phd2 karma

What: I liked to imagine what my future life would look like after I left for college, and being able to think about this idealistic future made me feel motivated to try and achieve it.

Who: I had a number of supportive teachers who gave me the encouragement to pursue a college education. Two specifically come to mind. One was our school's guidance counselor who made it his mission to get me into college with funding. The guy was so generous that he even paid out of pocket for my AP testing fees when my mom couldn't afford them. (In my school, you were required to take the AP test if you took an AP class.) Another gave me emotional support in coming to terms with my situation, while also helping me realize there was more to life beyond the bullshit I was being put through in the present.

misspropanda1 karma

Do you think your experiences with poverty and homelessness impacted your choice of field of study? Or were there other formative events and/or important people in your life that pushed you toward Psychology?

not_a_homeless_phd3 karma

I would say my experiences with poverty and homelessness shaped my research interests within psychology. I study resilience through trauma, which is no doubt in part because of my experiences.

As for psychology as a field, I would ask questions about the human mind ever since I was a little kid. Once I hit high school and learned that the sort of questions I'd ponder were within psychology, I was hooked in studying more about it.

ijustchoseausername1 karma

What do you want to do with your degree?

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

Eventually, I want to land a tenure-track professorship. I love research, and I also want to be involved with teaching college courses. Since the educators in my life played a huge role in helping me succeed, I want to give back to the academic community.

thefoodie211 karma

Can you describe how being homeless affected your social life? Did any teachers or adults at school find out about your living situation and gave you and your mom support (food, clothes, books, etc)?

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

One teacher found out the first time we were homeless. I was a kid and didn't understand the severity of being homeless. I thought we were just camping. My mom got mad when she found out and told me I needed to keep it a secret.

Past that, I didn't tell anyone about our situation. In the times that we were homeless, people generally did not know.

MrMashFace1 karma

I grew up in a similar situation and was homeless as well from the age of 6 to around 8 on and off; homeless meaning it was anywhere from a homeless shelter to pandering behind a gas station for food and went through foster care when I was older.

I was bullied alot through my earlier years for being homeless and being in the situation I was in, kids would beat me up or ridicule me in class for asking for a pencil throughout most of elementary school, and I was wondering if you ever had to deal with it and to what extent?

Did you ever feel hopeless or feel as if you have the odds stacked against you during your teenage/early adult years? It seems to be something I struggle with alot now that I am completely on my own.

Another question I have is more oriented towards college and not towards your situation overall; I was kicked out a week after I turned 18 and was homeless for a while (right before my graduation) and when you went to college what was the hardest part about it? I have no support financially and little to no support emotionally and family wise, and was wondering if that was difficult to deal with during your undergraduate?

Sorry for the broad questions, they have been on my mind for a while and there aren't many people I can ask or talk to about it. Also, it's nice to see some people can go through shitty situations that I went through as well and still come out on top as it gives me hope for my future rather than having to stress about me being another statistic of a foster child not graduating college or being able to get out of the cycle I was raised in. So thank you for that.

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

I'm sorry to hear about what you had to go through in the past, and I hope that things are looking up for you.

1) I was not bullied for being homeless, because I never told anyone. The one time I did tell someone was a teacher the first time I was homeless. I didn't understand the severity of homelessness and thought that we were just camping. My mom got angry at me when she found out and told me to keep it a secret, which I subsequently did. When I was homeless in high school, I kept it to myself out of embarrassment.

2) I had the same issue, where I had no support financially and no emotional support from my mom. (In fact, my mom was extremely negative towards the educational and career choices I made in college, so she constantly voiced her displeasure about it.)

It made it hard at the beginning of college. I saw my friends and dormmates with their supportive parents. My roommate's parents were a 30 minute drive from the college, and they dropped by constantly to drop things off and check in on him. All of this made me feel pretty alone, because in a way, I was handling this transition on my own. It got better as time went on; I started to develop a better sense of self-confidence and I landed myself some part-time jobs to help keep myself better afloat financially. By the time I was a senior, the lack of support didn't matter much anymore. But it was still hard that first semester.

Feel free to PM me any time. I know there aren't many people to talk to about these experiences, but I am happy to chat with you or to be someone you can vent to if you need it. :)

Squantoooo1 karma

Not trying to bash op cause this is an inspirational story. Just curious, but how does op go to u Portland when he graduated at the top of his class and have such an inspirational story for essays and possible empathy points of admission officers?

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

To be honest, going to an Ivy League or a better college was not something that appealed to me. I probably could have pulled at the heart strings of admissions officers, but there were qualities about U Portland that I found to be much better to attend.

[deleted]1 karma


not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

I'll be honest with you. It's always a bit of a disconnect. Most of my friends now are people who have acknowledged never having experienced any sort of hardship in their lives.

I can only speak to my own experiences in adjusting. When I first moved to college, I felt like an outsider because my experiences were so vastly different. As I continued to adjust to a "normal" life, I found myself adapting to the change in my circumstances, and I was able to start socializing and connecting with others who had a different sent of experiences.

Of course, there's still a small disconnect, and parts of me do feel lonely that there's experiences I've had the people at this stage of my life will likely not have had. But it does start to get easier with time.

tl;dr: It's going to be hard. My suggestion is to first drop the weight as you don't need to carry it around as much. It's going to happen slowly over time, but eventually you'll see that the conditions of your past are becoming more distant. Leave yourself open to new opportunities, and give others the benefit of the doubt when forming friendships.

Arvind_Roopun1 karma

Did you have anybody who told you that you couldn't achieve what your dream of going through college and pursuing a PhD?

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

From what I could recall, I didn't have anyone outwardly say that I couldn't go to college. I did well in high school and participated frequently in extra-cirriculur activities at school, so I had a solid resume for college applications. So I had support in terms of going to college. There was some conflict between my mom and me about which college and what I'd study when I got there, though.

As for a PhD, I actually experienced the opposite. Graduate programs liked that I had this experience, because they felt it added to the diversity of their programs. So being homeless as a teen actually helped me land interviews for PhD programs as an adult.

Arvind_Roopun1 karma

That's lovely to hear, thank you for doing this AMA, I very much enjoyed hearing about your story :)

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

Of course! I'm happy to share my experiences.

Timator1 karma

How is your relationship with your mother?

I'm not trying to pry so it's fine if you don't feel like answering. I'm just curious on the way your success affects the relationship. It must be hard for a parent to know they couldn't provide for their family but still manage to get a son that is successful in life.

not_a_homeless_phd3 karma

This is why I'm using a throwaway account. Nothing is off limits now!

The relationship with my mom is extremely strained. She was not a great parent towards me in many regards that go beyond the financial struggles, which is the main source of our distance now. I truly don't blame her for the financial hardship, but I do feel disappointed in how she treated me as a consequence.

My success now is challenging. As my education and career grows, so does the distance between us. It is hard for us to relate now because of the changes I've gone through since leaving home. But I'm trying to establish something civil between us for the time being.

Timator3 karma

Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. I know it can be a touchy subject.

I get why it must be a difficult relationship. I really hope you can fix things with your mom.

not_a_homeless_phd2 karma

Of course. I have no problem discussing this sort of stuff, because I know it may help others who struggle with similar hardships.

I'm still at a point in my life where I'm hesitant to fix things, because I am skeptical things could actually improve. But I'm also past being angry at her. At this point, I feel sorry for her for the things that have happened in her life, and I'm willing to at least try and work on having us on speaking terms again.

thenoblechip1 karma

Was there times where you were tempted to forget the whole College education and pursue something else? (ie. a job not requiring a College degree)

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

Honestly, no. I was fortunate that my grades were good enough to get me scholarships to a nice high school, where teachers encouraged me to pursue college.

In addition, my mom didn't go to college beyond credentials from a community college, and constantly ran into issues finding employment due to a lack of education. This also contributed towards my decision to attend college.

Of course, I know now that you don't need a college degree to be successful. But at the time, I was focused on my degree.

thenoblechip1 karma

That's great to hear, props to you for doing so well :)

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

Thank you very much! It hasn't been easy, but I've living a very comfortable life now. It has all been worth it. :)

Jkon12771 karma

Did you have any influential teachers that encouraged you as you grew up? If so, what made them so great? (I ask because I am a high school teacher in an under resourced community and a few of my kids have similar stories to you.)

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

I had a number of great teachers in high school that helped me to succeed. They were like a support time, where each played different roles. Some helped me with scholarship applications, others encouraged me to get involved with clubs, and one was supportive in that they helped me realize the bad things that happened in my life were not my fault.

And it is amazing that you're a high school teacher. You have so much impact on these kids, and I know you'll help them reach their potential.

totallynotsnowden0 karma

How has the Argentinian debt crisis of 2000/2001 affected you?

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

To be honest, I don't know. I was too young to really know the impact back then.

telenoobies0 karma

This story sounds sketchy.... how did op afford university? And You would think he would take something more useful and not an arts degree.....

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

I afforded university through scholarships, student loans, and working part-time while I was in college.

I also pursued a liberal arts degree because I was more passionate about psychology than a more practical degree such as something in engineering or business.

telenoobies0 karma

Do you have proof of scholarship and loans?

Your story has loopholes. How can you not remember how long you've been homeless? Sounds like a traumatic event in any teenager's life that can scar him for a very long time.

Saying you are passionate about psychology and not engineering because engineering is practical sounds like something a spoil suburban teen would say.

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

I have proof of loans, although it may take me a moment to access proof of scholarships. The system which is could access my undergrad's financial aid has changed, and I haven't logged in since. Would you like me to provide proof of loans?

Considering that the last time I was homeless was over ten years ago, it is hard to say "I lived in a car for exactly 23 days." I can tell you general time frames for each instance if you would like.

And finally, I was simply agreeing with you that an arts degree is not the most useful, and that I could have pursued something that was more useful. Engineering and business were the first things I could think of as being more useful degrees. It was not my intention to sound like a "spoiled suburban teen," which I definitely was not.

telenoobies1 karma

If you think providing proof of scholarships and loans will help your case proving that you were indeed financially struggling, then do it.

I am not asking for the exact number of days, but the approximate length of the period should be fairly easy to remember. But since you said "My memory is slightly foggy as to how long we were homeless each time" which leads to to question the validity of your claims.

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

I think providing a copy of the court case minutes in which we were evicted from our house (and which say we were four months behind on rent) should signal that we struggled financially.

When I said "slightly foggy," I mean that I wouldn't be able to give specifics. However, I can tell you that I have been homeless (in the sense that we were living out of a car, and not staying with friends) 3 times.

The first time was when I was 9, and lasted for about two weeks.

The second time was when I was 11, and it lasted a week.

The third time I was when I was 15, and that lasted for a little over a month.

Hopefully this helps to make things seem less suspect.

StupidLiberalFaggot-1 karma

My question is: Why are you lying? Everyone knows that bootstraps is a myth created by evil Republicans. All successful people are just lucky and you are no exception.

not_a_homeless_phd1 karma

You know, I will acknowledge part of my success is luck. I was fortunate enough to have certain teachers who were supportive of my goals. Had they not been a part of my life, who knows what could have happened?

But there's still a lot of work that I put in on my end to achieve what I did. And the efforts I put in should not be minimized, even if parts of what brought me out of my past life was luck.