Where Facts And Controversy In The News Come Together In Truth

Sunday, July 8, 2012

If You Are Homeless…You Are Not A Bum

Brianna Karp Puts A New Face To An Old Problem Known As Being Homeless… by Jack Swint

Brianna Karp, pictured to the left, is the new face of homelessness, or at least the face people will listen to. She's articulate, bright-eyed, pretty and for a year she lived alone with her pet Neapolitan Mastiff in an RV on a Walmart parking lot with no electric, water or sewer. She's the spoonful of sugar to make the plight of the homeless go down. Some say she really wasn’t ‘homeless’ per se because she did have the shelter of an RV that her father had left her.

But as she says, "being homeless doesn't mean that you don't have some form of shelter. Homeless does not equal rained on."

Being Homeless

According to The State Of Homelessness In America 2012 report, (linked below) the nation’s homeless population decreased 1 percent from 643,067 in 2009 to 636,017 in 2011. The largest decrease was among homeless veterans, whose population declined 11 percent. The national rate of homelessness was 21 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population. The number of homeless veterans went from 75,609 in 2009 to 67,495 in 2011.

Homelessness cuts across the socio-economic fabric of our world. They aren’t always the drunk, the drug abuser, the poor, or the one with constant bad luck and making bad decisions in life. We like to call the homeless bums, but should we be quick to call them bums when more and more are college-educated, smart, and are doing everything they can to land a job and earn income once again.

From the single person who tackles three part-time jobs and lives out of their car, to the person who searches and interview jobs after using a restroom in a Walmart, Perkins, or any other public places to wash up and brush their teeth, is the new sign of the changing times for the homeless trying to get back on track. Just the shame of telling anyone that they are homeless is challenging in itself.

Bottom line, unfortunate things happen, by our decisions or by something we can’t control. It should be a temporary problem, but if there is no support, no direction, and no place to go, sadly it becomes permanent. Some choose to give up because they are hopeless. Other choose to keep finding a way, no matter how low life can be.

One of the fastest growing homeless subsets are known as the "mobile homeless" vehicle-dwellers. They're living conditions are not considered fixed, regular and adequate accommodations designed for permanent habitation. This is where Brianna’s story begins.

Brianna Karp

According to her biography and several interviews we found, Brianna Karp was raised in Orange County, California, the daughter of an abusive, mentally ill mother and a father who left the family before she had any memories of him. She got her first job at age 10, a legal work permit at age 12, and supported her mother and younger sister by working multiple jobs from age 12 to 18, when she left home for good. She enrolled in community college and worked her way from entry-level, minimum wage jobs into administrative and legal-secretary positions upward to an executive-assistant position.

Although her young life was scarred by violence and abuse, Karp stayed focused on her dream of a steady job and a home of her own. By age twenty-two her dream became reality. Karp loved her job as an executive assistant making $50,000 a year. She signed a lease on a tiny cottage near the beach.

And then the Great Recession hit! Karp, like millions of others lost her job. In the six months between the day she was laid off and the day she was forced out onto the street, Karp scrambled for temp work and filed hundreds of job applications, only to find all doors closed. When she inherited a thirty-foot travel trailer after her father’s suicide, Karp parked it in a Walmart parking lot with no water, electric or sewer.

Living On The Walmart Parking Lot

Karp describes how by sheer coincidence, her biological father, who had sexually abused her as a child and abandoned the family when she was about two years old, committed suicide mere weeks before her becoming homeless. "As the next of kin, I inherited the few possessions he had left, among them were a truck and a camper. When I was thrown out of my mother’s house, I utilized the only resources that I had available to me."

Walmart's policy of allowing campers and RV-ers to stay in their parking lot overnight turned into a one-year stay.

"I did my best to blend in with the other campers and vehicles there, some of which came and went, and some of which were more permanent residents. There were no utility hookups, no water or electricity. I boiled water on my car radiator to cook food. I bought a $10/month membership at a mom-n-pop gym 8 miles away and drove there to shower every other day. I realized the legality of my staying there long-term might be shaky, despite Walmart’s policy, and I lived in fear of the policy changing or an overzealous policeman having me towed."

She purchased a jumbo flashlight at Walmart and aimed it at the ceiling of the trailer at night so that it wasn’t pitch black inside, and she could read or build resumes. "I just sort of etched out a sustainable existence and devised a routine that I stuck to as closely as possible, but it was nothing that could ever be considered a permanent solution."

Brianna spent days in Starbucks job-hunting on her laptop, sometimes up to 10 hours at a time, and sent out several hundred resumes every month. "I did work several temp and freelance jobs on and off throughout my period of homelessness. Permanent work was near to impossible to find; the competition was enormous due to the recession, and as an additional blow against me, although I had years of experience due to entering the work force so young, I had no college degree, as Jehovah’s Witnesses vehemently discourage higher education."

Potential employers could choose between the "best of the best" because everybody was out of work, and nearly every job posting required a college degree.

"When I did find temporary jobs, they usually paid very little and I was living paycheck-to-paycheck. Scraping together enough money for first and last month’s rent plus deposit on housing was out of the question and would have taken years at the rate I was finding work. Additionally, without a permanent position, I had no reliable source of income. Even if I had somehow been able to land an apartment or a roommate, there was no way of knowing whether I would be able to continue paying rent or would find myself evicted."

A Neapolitan Mastiff Named Fezzik

Many homeless have pets, and it is a controversial issue. "I knew from the beginning that if I reached a point where I wouldn’t be able to take care of Fezzik properly, I would have to find an adoptive home for him, despite how much it would crush me. He is a Neapolitan Mastiff, a huge lovable lunk, and he served not only as my companion during times of loneliness (and there were many), but as my protector."

She goes on to say that, "Despite his sweetness, he has a very deep, formidable bark, and people give me a wide berth when they see me walking down the street with him. It was a source of much reassurance, because being not only homeless, but a homeless woman, left me in a highly vulnerable position."

"ELLE Magazine" Steps In To Help

Brianna had been an avid reader of ELLE Magazine columnist Jean Carroll for 9 years. One day she wrote Carroll a letter explaining her situation and asking for advice. "Several months later, not only did she publish my letter and her response in Elle, but she offered me a telecommuting internship that would forever change my life, open a lot of doors for me, and also provide me with an expanded platform to talk about homelessness."

In Closing….

In May of 2011 Brianna got a wonderful, permanent job that she adores. "With awesome and supportive co-workers, so that’s a huge bonus. I’ve been there about three months. And yes, I have a book coming out, which is exciting and which I’m hoping will reach a wider audience, alter perceptions and stereotypes about what it means to be homeless, and invite further discussion as to solutions."

As far as her living conditions in 2011… "the Federal government would still consider me homeless, though I consider myself in sort of a limbo state. Right now, I’m living in a converted shed on a lot in the middle of the Southern California desert. I commute 80 miles round-trip to work every day from there. The property owner rents the lot to homeless and down-on-their luck individuals on a month-to-month basis, so it’s become a sort of informal homeless commune in which we live out of campers, vehicles, or converted sheds and garages.

Similar makeshift residences and "tent cities" have sprung up in the news all over the nation since the recession, so I suppose we’re in good company. It is a step up from a camper in a Walmart parking lot, for which I’m super grateful. But it’s not a permanent home by any stretch of the imagination. I know that there are no "Cinderella" stories and that I’ll have to work extra hard to get myself out of this, and it’s what I do, day in and day out."

Brianna did write and published her biography detailing those life struggles and hopefully, a happy ending to it all. Her book, "The Girls Guide To Homelessness" is linked below.

End of Story…

Jack Swint-Publisher
West Virginia News
E-Mail: WestVirginiaNews@gmail.com
Website: http://WVNewsOnline.com
Blog: http://WestVirginiaNews.blogspot.com
Twitter: @WVNewsOnline
LinkedIn: Jack Swint


The Girls Guide To Homelessness… by Brianna Karp

The State Of Homelessness In America 2012

Brianna Karp 'Facebook'

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