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55 yr old man, homeless. Has degree in electrical engineer and physics!

  1. Dec 4, 2011 #1

    He obtained his degrees in Purdue University in electrical engineering and in physics. How can Mr. Johnson be homeless? I think there's more to it than it meets the eye. Do we still have a shot for us upcoming engineers to find jobs in the market? Is the engineering field still hot? What do you guys think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2011 #2
    I knew a few guys who had PhDs and were homeless, just kinda happens. One of my close friends worked the 2010 census and enumerated the homeless population in Atlantic City under the docks. From what he described at one point, there are loads of guys out there who are decorated veterans, former naval officers, PhDs, JDs, MBAs, and yeah living under docks.

    Speaking from experience, it doesn't take much. When my father and grandfather both passed away within months of each other, I had to temporarily withdraw from medical school to take care of all kinds of arrangements and whatnot. Neither of them were financially in a good place, so when they died, any insurance they had went to paying their debt or medical bills. My dad's house had to be sold to pay his medical bills. He was an unemployed electrical engineer who used to work for Westinghouse elevators (which became Schindler) ... so he had no insurance and little savings left due to being out of work for a few years and living off his retirement while still looking for a new job ... but being in his early 60s there's no way anybody was going to hire him.

    Anyway, I tried to get back to med school and was unable to secure loans from anywhere I tried. I had too much debt from undergrad and the first years of medical school (that's what a few loan specialists and bank directors told me at least). I didn't have any cosigners since I am an only child, have very few relatives who are still alive, and the few that are, have been laid off from work or even had to declare bankruptcy. One kinda distant relative tried to cosign for me but we were still rejected due to them not having strong enough credit. It probably made my situation worse since when I applied for loans after that, they saw all the rejections on my credit report, but I had to keep trying ... medicine was my dream at the time and I was doing very well so far.

    Basically, all I'm saying is that it doesn't take much for somebody who's in a good place with their career to completely derail and end up on the streets (like I did for a bit over a year). Luckily I managed to eventually have some friends take me in, borrowed a few suits, went to more interviews, found a part-time job (which I lost about a year ago due to the economy and the small business having to downsize and lay me and two other people off), and eventually I met the girl of my dreams. I'm technically still homeless (because I'm "squatting" at her university housing until we move to grad school) but yeah, I'm hoping things will get much better since I'm making sure I'm more than qualified for graduate school, so with any luck, I'll be back in academia within the next year or two and things will begin to get better.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2011
  4. Dec 4, 2011 #3
    This guy can get a job being my physics/math tutor
  5. Dec 4, 2011 #4
    bpatrick, join the army and they will pay for your medical school.
  6. Dec 4, 2011 #5
    Thanks for the advice, however, I looked into that years ago (this all happened back in 2007). Needless to say, although I am otherwise perfectly healthy (run + work out regularly and got a perfect 300 or whatever it was on all 4 branches of the military's PFT ... yeah I can run an 8 min 1.5 mile, do 15+ pullups, 100+ pushups, etc...), I was unable to pursue that route due to a medical disqualification.

    but to the OT: there are still jobs in engineering out there, some more easy to come by than others, good luck if it's what you want to do. I have way more acquaintances who it's worked out for than ones who have had bad luck and ended up unemployed/underemployed/homeless.
  7. Dec 4, 2011 #6


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    In my experience, the majority of homeless people are often those who struggle with substance abuse issues, have survived horribly abusive situations, have post-traumatic stress disorder, foetal alcohol symdrome, and/or mental illness.

    Having a degree does not make you immune from any of these (although, perhaps in the case of FAS, it would be a lot more difficult to obtain the degree in the first place).
  8. Dec 4, 2011 #7
    bpatrick I'm sorry to hear your loss, I hope all is well with you and I hope you'll do great in the future.
    No jobs are secure and your right about how one has it going for them and all of a sudden they're in the streets. In my belief I still strongly believe one must still go to college to boost their chances in the future in terms of finding a job. College is still a gateway to success even in tough economical times like these. Mr. Johnson's story, I believe shows us that we're not immune to the effects that our economy is bringing us. But we're still better off in school (for those of us who are still attending) due to the amounts of accessible knowledge that it provides.
  9. Dec 4, 2011 #8
    Atleast he has a chance at getting a job...all those other homeless without degrees in physics and electrical engineering are way less likely to find work than he is
  10. Dec 4, 2011 #9
    I agree with Choppy,

    here's a famous example
    Grigory Perelman

    It has little to do with qualifications, it's all about willingness to work and I think most long-term homeless people simply don't want to work.
  11. Dec 4, 2011 #10
    why are the most brilliant mathematicians always recluses...they are a strange breed of people

    That guy is a lot different than the engineer guy, he is a social recluse and wouldn't want to be around people. The engineer guy is approachable and hireable
  12. Dec 5, 2011 #11
    True that, even Tesla ended up poor(not homeless) certainly because he had mental problems.

    Also in the USA it's pretty common to lose everything you owe to pay medical bills.
  13. Dec 5, 2011 #12
    You think wrongly, sir. I work at ground level with the homeless, and although there is a good percentage with substance abuse problems; the newest batch are untreated vets and former professionals who've lost everything in the current mess. They are disoriented, scared, and without the coping or survival skills their more acclimated tent mates have.
    Try as hard as you like to say "they aren't us". You're just wrong. A click of a lawyers, mortgage banker's or a CEO's pen, and you will be there, too.
  14. Dec 5, 2011 #13
    Are unemployed people looking for work at age 60+ pretty much screwed nowadays?
  15. Dec 5, 2011 #14
    Unfortunately, for people to actually believe this, they have to experience it themselves or have someone close to them get screwed over. It's just too easy to assign blame because then you have the illusion of control over your own situation.
  16. Dec 5, 2011 #15


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    It is absolutely true that at any given time, a professional's financial situation could take a nose dive. But there are a lot of steps between comfortably employed, mentally healthy, financially literate professional with a mortgage who loses his or her job in a bad economy, and living on the street.

    It's always been relatively more difficult for people to change careers as they approach retirement age, but this depends on the marketability of your skill set and your field a lot more than your age. Sometimes it can be an advantage to hire on a 60 year old. Consider situations were you need someone with experience in the field, or you're looking at a ~ 5 year project with no guarantee of being able to extend employment beyond that. There is also a perceived work ethic difference. Apparently generation Y is perceived (this is based on single professional conference presentation) as being both lazier and having a stronger sense of entitlement than generation X or the baby boomers.
  17. Dec 6, 2011 #16
    One thing to note is that, according to his LinkedIn profile, he hasn't worked as an engineer since 1990. His is probably a fairly unique case, being out of the field for 20 years. It's not hard to imagine someone like that having difficulty finding an engineering job in a really bad economy.
  18. Dec 6, 2011 #17
    there is no homeless in Turkey because people, family, relatives, friends, neighbours are all very helpful to each other.
    moreover, official social securities of Turkey are much better than that of the USA.
    Turkey is very poor compared to the USA but no homeless.
  19. Dec 6, 2011 #18

    D H

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    Unfortunately, he his chances of finding a job are much slimmer than you think. He is five times damned. He
    1. Is 55.
      Age discrimination laws that are supposed to protect older employees backfire when one is looking for a job. One goal of those laws was to make it harder to fire or lay off older employers. An unintended consequence is that employers do not relish hiring such a person. What if they need to downsize? Although employers are not supposed to discriminate in hiring when it comes to age, they do. While unemployment in people 55 and up is less than it is for society as a whole, once unemployed, finding a new job takes a lot longer for someone 55 and up.

    2. Is of a minority.
      A similar set problems apply here as for age. Plus there is the added problem that discrimination based on skin color still does exist in this country.

    3. Is highly educated.
      Employers are leery of hiring someone deemed to be overqualified. Employers perceive that overqualified employees will be on the hunt for a better job from day one and thus won't contribute, and that they eventually will find that better job and won't recoup the initial negative value that pertains to almost every new hire.

    4. Has worked on his own.
      Another red flag when it comes to hiring someone. Employers perceive that people who have run their own companies are looking for a job just to tide them over until the economy improves.

    5. Has been unemployed for over a year (per his linked in page).
      Yet one more red flag. Employers perceive that people who have gaps in their employment records must have something wrong with them.
  20. Dec 6, 2011 #19
    Engineers still have a much easier time finding jobs than virtually any other field. Finding a job isn't exactly easy (especially not at his age), but your chances are still a lot higher than finding a job with anything else.
    My dad is about 56 years old, and has a CS degree, and he's been unemployed for a while now.

    Luckily, our situation is not as bad as the one for the guy in the article, but that's just how life is sometimes.

    For someone to become homeless, there are usually other factors (like mental illness and drug abuse) in play.

    Just remember that no matter what your degree is in, and no matter how smart you are, a lot of bad luck can still screw you over sometimes.
  21. Dec 13, 2011 #20
    the mosting important thing is not to just get the cetifcaiton, it is more important to get more practical experience. keep studying and studying... not be washed out by the society
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