When I use the word “homeless,” a lot of you probably assume the worst situation possible. They envision someone sleeping in a box underneath a highway overpass, a ragged person begging on the side of the road, or a drunken man passed out on a park bench. But housing for homeless people (or lack thereof) tends to be a bit more complicated than that.

While those situations do occur in big metropolitan cities with large indigent populations, most cases of homelessness are not like that at all. Homelessness doesn’t necessarily involve living on the streets. Rather, it means that someone or a group of people don’t have a permanent dwelling. The key word here is “permanent.”

How My Family Became Homeless

My family endured our second bout of homelessness just a few months ago. In March 2016, we were forced out of our home by our landlord, who refused to fix a rotting bathroom floor and a flooding basement, among other problems. Fortunately, I had received my income tax refund a few days before we were required to be out of our home. I had us covered — or so I thought.

Before any of this happened, we had been searching for months for a rental home that was within our budget. We were itching to get out of that place.

We looked far and wide — within a 60-mile radius — with no luck.

Three-bedroom homes were just too expensive in our area, especially considering that 18.5 percent of Kentucky’s population lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

We altered our search to something that we hoped we’d never have to do: move into a two-bedroom home. The three-bedroom homes that we’d lived in for as long as I could remember were a squeeze for four people. And now we would be moving into a new place with 30 percent less living space.

Finding Places to Stay When Homeless

Remember when I thought I had it covered? I didn’t. We moved into a hotel for a few days until we found the rental. It was supposed to be a short stay that was within our budget. It turns out that living in a hotel room is quite expensive.

After three weeks, my funds were nearly depleted. We seemed to be the verge of living in our car.

I decided to start a GoFundMe page. After a few days, I garnered $750 in donations, which was enough to see us through a little more than another week. My mom started working for a local nonprofit to help cover part of the security deposit on our new place when we found it, and eventually we did move.

In mid-April 2016, after a month of living in a hotel room, we found a place that we thought could work. It was a two-bedroom home, and even so, it cost almost 40 percent of my mom’s monthly income. We knew we would have to find things to cut back on in our budget. It was going to be tough, but we would make it work, like we had so many times before.