How Floods, Fires, and Other Disasters Impact Homeless People

floods and fires lead to homelessness

I recently learned that a friend of mine suffered a horrific tragedy. While she was out, her house caught on fire. It was probably an electrical fire, but I don’t think they determined the cause yet.

Losing all worldly possessions in a house fire is devastating for any of us. But the story is even more tragic in this case because she lost all her pets in the fire. I can’t imagine how coming home to this would feel.

Her story reminded me of another woman I once knew who had a similar tragedy. Her house burned down, and she had to stay with friends. Eventually, the insurance company paid her something, but it was less than she had hoped. She eventually did find somewhere else to live. But being forced from home with very few of her possessions left was not unlike what happens to so many of us forced to leave home because we can’t afford to live there.

These stories serve as reminders that in 2023, many of the people who are without housing are not “bums” or people who “chose to live this way.”

Earthquakes, floods, house fires, wildfires, and other unforeseen disasters can leave a person displaced and homeless. In many cases, the person has lost everything and has nowhere to go, not even a car.

In these disasters, people lose family, belongings, pets, housing, and even limbs and health. Granted, they are usually shown a little more sympathy than someone who works three jobs and still cannot afford the bills and rent and end up homeless.

At the end of the day, if they end up in a tent or car, nobody will stop to ask them, “How did this horrible thing happen to you?” Instead, they will be judged on the spot by the masses who lack any compassion for their fellow human beings. To the judgmental, there is no differentiation between disaster victims and victims of poverty. When they are sitting out on the street, they’re all “bums.”

We live in a society where very few people have the luxury of creating savings for an emergency. Forget about the massive amount of money it would take to deal with a natural disaster.

When I ask friends about emergency money, to compare notes, most have between $0 and $2,000 as a “life savings” and no retirement plans. Few people I know have more than that.

How can anyone put money aside in modern America?

When disaster strikes, people must beg their friends and family for help; when that isn’t possible, they must beg online. These are working people who pay rent and bills and have nothing left to save at the end of the month. One vehicle disaster can easily wipe out that small savings. After all, $2,000 in today’s world is “chump change,” as the saying goes. 

Since 2020, I have had several significant disasters requiring me to beg for help. I had three considerable repairs to my vehicle, which amounted to almost $7,000 combined! I also had a dental emergency that amounted to nearly $3,000.

Luckily, in all those emergencies, I had raised funds by selling stuff online through my friend’s eBay, directly selling via word of mouth by posting on social media, or through Gofundme donations.

In late June, I developed an infection in my jaw (the opposite side of the jaw from the 2020 disaster) and had no savings to fall back on. So, we did what we always do. My friend made an emergency Gofundme.

I was facing a dental crisis, a vehicle service fee, and another expense simultaneously, and no money for it all. The Gofundme was the worst one I’d ever had. My friend set it for $2,000; I got less than $350.

July is a horrific time of year to need help.

People have all their money put aside for travel and vacations, and people are out more and online less, so they don’t see your campaign or listings. From all my years of selling on eBay (I started when eBay was new), summer is the worst time for sales. It’s the best time to buy since sellers are eager for sales and willing to let stuff go cheaper. 

In the end, I had two friends help me with personal donations to cover the van servicing, the dental exam, and the dentist for the surgery. Thankfully, it was far cheaper than the dental disaster in 2020. And thankfully, the van didn’t need a significant repair at this time (knocks wood). I just hope it stays in good running order for a while.

The other part of the request was to collect some money to cover a payment to a homeowner willing to let me sleep on the floor in a tiny home office. Now don’t get excited. This is not any sort of permanent housing. This is just a port in a storm for a while.

It would allow me to remain indoors and have access to a shower and kitchen for however long it lasts. But it could end anytime, and then it’s back in the van. Let’s call it a form of “extended couch surfing.” 

Temporary is better than nothing, and I am grateful as can be. With any luck, I can get some crafting stuff made to sell for autumn when people are looking for gifts for the upcoming holidays.

The reality is people like me don’t get permanent housing. We get what I’ve had for years – going in and out of homelessness.

For a while, I slept on the floor of a filthy old warehouse in my “hobo tent.” There is no nest egg for emergencies, no savings toward buying a home or land, no permanence or peace of mind.

I have never qualified for a credit card because I never had enough income. Being disabled and chronically ill has ruined my life. My health is not good, and I cannot work anywhere other than from home.

But how can you do that without a home?

Even if I make and sell crafts this year, which I hope to, we all know that doesn’t bring in much money. I will consider myself very lucky if I can put a couple of hundred dollars in an envelope for the next big disaster.

As wildfires and floods become more frequent and extreme, more people will be displaced. Agencies, which already have no way to house everyone, will be even more overwhelmed. We are facing a dystopian future; make no mistake, it’s already begun.

Homeless Loki

Homeless Loki


Homeless Loki is a disabled homeless person also on the autism spectrum currently homeless in upstate New York

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