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The Girl‚Äö?Ñ?¥s Guide to Homelessness

May 12 2011
Book urges the public to rethink their views on homelessness, says author Brianna Karp

An ex-rough sleeper has published The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness about her experiences. She hopes it will demonstrate that homelessness can happen to anyone.

In February 2009, Brianna Karp found herself out on the streets. She considered herself a typical young woman from Orange County, South Carolina. She had worked hard and achieved well at school, and found decent work and independence. She had a complicated life at home, with one parent suffering with mental health problems, and low income meant she’d had to work to support siblings from a young age, but Karp did not feel this has negatively affected her own mindset.

But when her company laid off more than half of its staff and her benefit payments meant she had to give up her own home and return to her parents, she lost everything. And finally, when her parent attacked her, she was evicted from her refuge. Feeling that her friends had too many of their own problems to support her as well, Karp resolve to strike out on her own, to take the streets on and survive, with just $300 to her name.

In the global recession, one per cent of US citizens (around 670,000 people in 2009) have experienced homelessness, and the majority of them are families. Karp is by no means the first rough sleeper to put pen to paper, but she hopes to smash the stereotypes of rough sleeping with her book. Her blog states: “I am an educated woman with stable employment and residence history. I have never done drugs. I am not mentally ill. I am a career executive assistant - coherent, opinionated, poised, and capable. If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t have assumed that I lived in a parking lot. In short, I was just like you - except without the convenience of a permanent address.”

Although critics have praised her work as a tale of triumph over adversity, Karp sees it as more of an exercise in urging the public to rethink their views on homelessness. Her work began life as an online blog that detailed the day-to-day challenges she faced when seeking work and a new life with neither a home nor a permanent base.

The book will be released on 26 April 2011 in the United States.