One of Speak Up’s longtime street writers requested that this question be put to the Speak Up community:

“If you were homeless and all of your belongings were in the pack on your back and you just received a Twelve Hundred Dollar stimulus check, what would you do?”

We asked Speak Up’s community of friends and supporters for their feedback. The responses that came back were so helpful, that sharing them publicly—for the benefit of others—seemed necessary.


I would go to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Chiefly: food, shelter and clothing.  Understanding that $1,200 may not go far in the way of shelter I would take that off the table.  This would leave food and clothing.  This money isn’t enough to cover all the basic needs for the long haul.  However, if it covers two of the three for the next couple of months, the peace of mind that comes with being able to eat and buy adequate clothing are significant.  In short, I would restrict it to food and clothing only and keep those as minimal as possible while he focuses on the other aspects of his life SpeakUp can help address.  These will lead to stable shelter, income and ultimately freedom.

— JF

Without knowing the specifics of his circumstances, I can only offer “generalized” suggestions which may or may not be remotely applicable to his situation.. but I will offer them, at his request, none the less.  

Could he pray about it, and ask God how He would want him to use the money.  Then whatever answer he gets, do exactly that with the money… believing that God in turn will take care of him because he trusted and obeyed in the way he believed He heard God direct him. 

Does he have Any prospects of getting off the street that this money might be useful to move him along in this direction?  ie: paperwork he needs, or clothing for a job, or use it every day for bus fare to be able to get to a certain location that he needs to get to? 

Can it be used for transportation to get him to Any relatives who might be able to help him in any way?.

Could he use it to take out an ad in a newspaper or online somewhere to advertise that he is available for some type of work… and just be honest about his situation and how he came to be homeless.  (Again that is presuming he is physically capable of work and wants to work). 

If he is able, is there any way he could use the $ for any type of necessary certification for a job he wouldn’t be able to get without the certification?  

Could he take the stimulus check to a church and offer the check as a tithe and in return ask the church if they will “adopt him” and help him get back on his feet again?  He could suggest the church / congregants offer ideas, donations, and strategies about how to help this person with lodging, food, mental and physical health support, and ultimately a job. 

Could he keep it for food and slowly use a certain amount over the next several months to build up his strength and also share some with other homeless people? 

Could he use some of it for personal hygiene maintenance if he needs that?  Which in turn may be helpful for any endeavors to gain any type of employment?

If there are “kitchens” where he can get food on some days… could he rely on that each day and then ask around if anyone has a bed/room they would be willing to rent for $75-$100/month, and then he could get off the street for several months, possibly enough time to build up his strength and find some type of employment?  He could use the rest for food.  


Maybe open a bank account and let it sit while you decide the best direction.


There are a few issues:

1. keeping the check secure until it can be cashed.

If this person trusts somebody to keep the check safe until the check can be cashed, let that person hold on to the check until it can be cashed.

Be careful of scam artists. A trusted friend should be somebody you have known for a while.

Let the least amount of people as possible know that you have the check.

2. cashing the check.

If you trust a person with a checking account, have that person cash the check and divvy out the minimum amount you need at periodic intervals until the $ 1200.00 has been given back.

If there is nobody you trust with your check, then secure the check the best you can, until it can be cashed.

I am in Georgia and businesses are going live Friday may 1st, other areas are not opening up untilMay 8th.

I am sure that check cashing places will open immediately. If you are living out of a backpack and do not have a trusted friend then cash the check as soon as possible. I have never used a check            cashing place, so have as much ID as possible and expect to pay a percentage when the check is cashed.

3. what to do with the money after the check is cashed.

Let the least amount of people know that you have cash.

Separate your cash as much as possible. Separate amounts in pockets, socks, backpack.

hopefully you have a friend with locked doors, that you trust. Let them divvy out the proceeds as you need them.


Take half of the amount or as much as you can afford and pay off part of your debts. Save the rest in a bank account for a weekly draw to live on.

This would also be a good time to cut down on, if not eliminate, cigarette and or alcohol purchases and save that money too. You, like everyone else, will need that saving sooner rather than later.


He should talk with Jason Finns, the “Doing Money God’s Way” author. I do not know the person nor his needs. I know we put ours towards a newer vehicle.

But we are not homeless, nor are we destitute. 


I would hold on to it and use it sparingly for basics until I could get on my feet with some much needed help from a kind-hearted soul.  

It would just be nice to know I have money in my pocket.


Oh this is such a tough question— in my experience, I’ve seen so many people spend SO MUCH MONEY on pay by the week motels because they cannot cover the down payment on an apartment when they’re spending $1500+ a month at the motel.

I would probably do whatever possible to find a very low cost (which of course means different things to different people) apartment and use this money to cover part of a down payment. However, I wouldn’t use it ALL for a down payment because you want it to help cover rent at first. I realize that “go find an apartment” is INFINITELY easier said than done. 


What do you advise?

Please comment on the Facebook thread or let us know by email.

Share this Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email