An American’s True Story: “How I Went From Middle Class… To Homeless”

Posted by: Carnell Simon Tags: There is no tags | Categories: Client Stories



This is Joe. He used to make a stable steady income in the manufacturing field, but the work has slowly disappeared. Now, he’s left with selling everything and moving into his van.


Joe is just one of the 71% of Americans who think that the current U.S. economic system is “weighted in favor of certain industries,” according to a recent poll by Marketplace and Edison Research. The poll asked a simple question: “Which of the following comes closer to your opinion on the economic system in the U.S.”

People could select between three options:

  • The economic system is rigged in favor of certain groups
  • The economy system is fair to all Americans
  • Don’t know

The most selected was a rigged economy.

As CNN added, it didn’t matter if the person was Caucasian, African American or Hispanic, or regardless of political affiliation. The majority of people feel the American Dream comes with an asterisk that reads “only for the favored few”, that other jobs are slowly being phased out or replaced in market fields.

Americans have good merit to thinking this way. The typical middle-class family is shown earning about the same amount of money adjusted for inflation, just under $54,000, as they did in 1996, according to some data sources.

That means at the top that as the rich get richer, the middle class has seen little growth or an improvement in its lifestyle in the last 20 years. On top of that, the Great Recession knocked out many people’s safety net savings after they lost jobs or homes or both. Even people who have jobs say they feel unstable as if they’re one step away from financial ruin. The fear of a life of “little dead-end jobs with little wages”, barely meeting bills and living cost.

People like Joe, 60, who lives in a mobile home with his mother outside of Philadelphia and is desperate. He last held a job in early 2013: “The first seven weeks I was there we were busier than I’ve ever seen a small company be, and then like someone flipped a switch. The work just stopped.”

“I would like to work,” he says. “I still have skills and abilities and I still know how to use them. I have two associate degrees, one’s in electrical engineering, one’s in mechanical engineering.”

He then discusses the impossible dream for the lower middle class of which he would like to be part of: “I consider $15/hour to be lower middle class. If I had been able to go permanently with a company, probably I would have reached middle class in a few years. I’d settle for lower middle class right now but even that’s almost the impossible dream.”

So what does Joe’s future hold? “If I don’t hear back from any of these applications, if I’m not working I’ll be out of here. With the last couple of thousand dollars, we got the minivan. I’ll have enough room for a sleeping bag and some clothes. My mom said if you ever have to sell the house, I want you to take the lamp. But I can’t take the lamp either.”

And his morbid conclusion: “Poor people have significantly shorter lifespans than more affluent people. In fact, I keep having this argument with my doctor. He keeps telling me ‘you have another 30 years.’ I tell him no; I don’t expect to make it past seventy.” In other words, Joe thinks he has another 10 years of working class despondency before he can finally rest.

Here at Project WeHope we offer programs that teach skill sets that may open opportunities for stable employment. We having programs that work hand in hand as a process for securing a permanently housed living situation. Our Transitional Supportive Housing program comes full circle with ensuring that the individual doesn’t have to do it alone, and we are here to assist them and support them into a more secure permanent living situation. That’s how we help. Find out how you can help by contacting us at, giving us a call at 650-330-8000 or writing a letter which you can send to P.O. BOX 50624, Palo Alto, CA 94303.