Brianna Karp is the author of the well-publicized book, The Girl's Guide to Homelessness. The book was born out of homelessness, first as a blog, on a laptop from a trailer parked in a department store lot. Brianna never imagined that she would find herself in this situation. As she says, “It really hadn’t crossed my radar until it happened to me at the age of 24. I had stereotypes that people who were homeless were either mentally ill or suffered from addiction.” Most of the people she met were down on their luck although all, “well, they were good people.”
Brianna describes her harrowing childhood and early teenage years in detail in the first half of The Girl's Guide to Homelessness. She reveals inner steel and resiliency. After her mother threw her out of the house and she learned of her father’s death, she traveled to her father’s property to secure somewhere to live. An old trailer in need of work became her home. She discovered quickly a department store chain that did not ask people to move trailers from its parking lots.
She was careful to keep a low profile and spent much of her time searching for work, connecting with others online in similar situations, writing a blog, and finding places to stay clean. Eventually her networking online garnered the attention of Elle magazine and other national media outlets. Brianna gave a new face to homelessness. However, despite having a published book and the media’s attention, it is still difficult to exit homelessness. Brianna’s attitude about her experiences is to press on under duress.
“People think I am rich because I wrote that book—that I made a fortune. I’m not. I am living in a trailer lot . . . but recently someone reported me to the owner. Enforcement came along and said everyone had to leave. I left and then came back and moved into one of the sheds, but they are not up to code, so it is not a permanent solution. I take it a day at a time,” says Brianna.
She developed a strong network of people experiencing homelessness online. She received many critical comments that having a laptop was a luxury and she should buy a house instead. However, Brianna’s online connections helped her to become a published author and to find a job. She is also now a co-founder, with John Glacken, of Ireland’s World Homeless Action Day. This effort reaches more than 100 countries every October.
Currently, Brianna works for a nonprofit theater company. The organization is supportive of her travel schedule for promoting the book. She says that she is happy to be part of a community and her job offers a creative outlet. She admits that doing book tours and speaking engagements at homeless service agencies takes an emotional toll.
Brianna would like to write another book. “This one was written as it was happening to me. Hopefully a second book would have a happier ending. It has been suggested to me that I write one geared toward families,” says Brianna.
She needed a lot of convincing to write The Girl's Guide to Homelessness. “I didn’t think I had the chops to do it,” says Brianna. She knew it would burn the last family bridge. She weighed all the considerations and examined the number of people she could help by writing the book. She explains that the last third of the book was the most difficult to write. She felt she was too young and that there was no ending yet. As her publisher implored her to wrap it up and end it, Brianna kept saying, “But I am young! I have the rest of my life ahead of me.”
And she does. She is now 26.
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