We uprooted our family and moved across the world for a new job. We knew no one here, had nowhere to live, and had no stuff; it was all crossing the Atlantic on a boat.

Our temporary lodging, while waiting for closing on our home, was a one-room hotel room with two queen-sized beds, no couch, and no kitchenette. We did have free breakfast and coffee in the breakfast room, and microwave, mini dorm fridge, and a coffee pot in our room.

We have two small kids who go to bed around 7:30pm and in our one-room lodging, this translates to all of us having early bedtimes. My husband and I slept in one bed, my eldest child slept in the second, and my two girls slept on the floor, one actually slept under the desk. Before our hotel-living experience, our smallest was still taking 2-3 hour naps, but her naps disappeared, which makes for an extra cranky three year old, and consequently, four other cranky humans as well.

I looked on every website I could think of to find something that would be a little bit roomier for our family of five within driving distance of my husband’s new job, but I found nothing that was under $100 a night. We were already paying $140 a night for a room that was too small for us.

I found another hotel nearby that offered a two-burner stove, non-mini fridge, microwave, coffee pot, and free breakfast, but it still was only one room with two queen-sized beds. At least the place offered weekly rates, $450, or approximately $64 a day, which was considerably cheaper than the other hotel.

So, yay, we’re saving money, but we still have weeks left in this hotel. If we stay here for an entire month, it would be $1800. For $1800 we lived in an eight-bedroom house in Germany, with a garage, carport, shed, yard, kitchen, bathrooms, all the extras.

If making a good income, $1800 is an okay amount to pay for a mortgage, but for a simple hotel room, it really is a bit excessive. Even worse is to think about someone who is homeless or starting over. This person gets a new suit, applies for a job, and gets hired. Then work starts and a paycheck comes in 2-3 weeks. At that point, at least $1350 has been paid for just for lodging. How on earth can you get ahead when you’re already starting so far behind? If you’re homeless, chances are you aren’t going to be getting paid $20 an hour. How can you make it work? I know there are shelters out there that can offer temporary assistance as well as organizations that help out with new clothes for interviews, but is that enough?

I see people holding signs on the street corners, and I used to think “hey, you have money to buy a sign and a pen, you could have spent that $5 on some something to eat”, but now I am not so quick to judge. After a few days of being in my situation, I was ready to go start handing out $20 bills to anyone I thought could use it, but that really is not a solution.

So here I am, eager to help, but unaware of how best to do so, while the majority of my friends and acquaintances are unaware of the struggle and haven’t had their eyes opened yet. My first step in how I can help with the homeless situation is to bring awareness and share my story. The next steps, well, I haven’t figured those out, but I’m not done yet.

Teri Gray

Teri has a bachelors degree in German and Mathematics and a master's degree in Education. She spent eight years teaching at Boys Town High School for at-risk youth before moving to Germany, where her husband was stationed with the military for almost five years. She has three children 10, 5, and 3. Teri knew everything there was about parenting before she had her second child, who continues to shatter every mold ever created and test her on a daily basis. Teri hails from Omaha, Nebraska, but currently resides in the Seattle area. Her favorite forms of therapy are baking, cooking, and running. Honesty and hilarity are integral parts of her personality.