The Little Things that Make Homelessness Hard


In life, they say it is the little things that matter. The fresh dew in the morning, the sweet cream in that cup of coffee, the first drop of rain to touch the sand on the baseball field one hour before the game begins, the lost battery to the remote control. These tiny details can make or break your day.

This is true in homelessness as well.

While you may think hunger and cold are the most glaring problems homeless people face, other seemingly smaller things like wet socks, a lost license, or a car running out of gas can also majorly impact a homeless person’s situation.

Even the tiny details that led up to homelessness in the first place lend a great deal to the story and its possible ending. Here are a few of the itty-bitty details that make homelessness feel like a hopeless hurdle.

Not Having Proper Identification

You might not look at it this way if you’ve never been without it, but your photo identification is a key to the city just sitting in the back of your cell phone waiting to be whipped out.

In today’s world, a photo license is required for almost everything, from taking a mundane trip to the doctor to opening a bank account from renting a hotel room to purchasing a vehicle, not to mention driving that vehicle from point A to point B, etc. In most legal employment positions, you can’t even get paid without photo identification placed on record. Even if you managed to find “work under the table,” you’d still need that same ID to cash your check.

So, what happens if you don’t have photo identification on hand? If you’re housed, you simply whip open your laptop and apply for a new one. If you’re homeless, things are much more complicated.

People experiencing homelessness need their photo ID cards to access life-saving aid, including services that could help them escape homelessness. However, it is very common for this marginalized population not to have proper identification or even a way to replace it if it gets lost.

Below are just some examples of how homeless community members lose their IDs and the status that often comes with them:

  • Sweeps
  • Robberies
  • Fires
  • Relocation
  • Never had one in the first place and many more

Why It Makes Homelessness Hard

Many of the services offered as aid, be that financial aid, mental health aid, extreme weather aid, or otherwise, require photo identification to apply. Even if you have some form of photo ID, it won’t matter much if you are not a certain age.

For example, an unaccompanied youth would be unable to rent a hotel room if they are under 21. In some places, the age limit is 25. Therefore, you can have photo identification handy but still not be the proper age.

This is one of the little things that makes a big difference.

Wet Socks and Improper Clothing

In many instances, if you are homeless, all it takes is a pair of wet socks to put a damper on the day. Just because you have clothing doesn’t mean it’s in season, or that it is clean, or appropriate for a job interview.

Why It Makes Homelessness Hard

Improper clothing does more than just cramp somebody’s style. It can change the way people perceive you and the way you perceive yourself. If things are really bad – say, for example, that it rained a few inches and your socks are damp from the night before, then that clothing can become a health hazard, putting you at risk for things like frostbite and hypothermia.

It isn’t just about being able to access proper clothing either. If you have no way to wash or iron your clothing, it is that much more difficult to secure housing, employment, and social acceptance.


We all experience self-doubt from time to time, but this state of existence can pose a serious threat if you are homeless because you need to rely more heavily on your instincts. As such, doubt creeping into your mental state can ruin the entire day.

Why It Makes Homelessness Hard

Fears that would otherwise seem irrational are actually somewhat rational if you are unhoused. This extreme warps reality, making it difficult to distinguish what is reasonable or even what is true.

Think about it. When was the last time you were genuinely afraid that your feet would get frozen and fall right off? When was the last time you worried you’d get arrested for going to the bathroom? When was the last time you thought, “I better not go to sleep just yet. It’s too dark outside and a car might hit me”?

These are not regular, everyday thoughts, except that they are if you are homeless. Doubting those thoughts because they seem too extreme can turn into a matter of life and death.

Running Out of Something

Running out of something is no big deal when you can head to the market and replenish, but a homeless person might not have that opportunity. For them, the end of a tank of gas, the last feminine product in the package, and the broken charger that won’t charge the phone anymore can swiftly become a doomsday situation.

Why It Makes Homelessness Hard

The limited access to necessities causes all sorts of hardships including some that are unforeseen. If a person experiencing homelessness has a dead charger and no way to replace it, for example, this tiny thing creates an even bigger barrier between them and the world. Obstacles abound.

We need change. Now.

Talk to Your Representatives About Their Plans to End Homelessness

There are so many social justice causes to get behind, and all are worthy of attention. One thing that makes homelessness stand out in the modern era is the fact that it is easily solved. Whether one has a functioning charger, a full gas tank, or a dry pair of socks, 100% of homeless people need housing. 

Let’s make it a human right.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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