Last month, I began preparing to become unhoused. I've been sharing my journey on TikTok to debunk misconceptions about homelessness.

Picture of the TikToker and a screenshot of her hotel room
Saphire Callisto has been telling their 22,000 TikTok followers what it's been like to be unhoused.Saphire Callisto
  • Saphire Callisto and their wife were unhoused in April after falling behind on rent.

  • Callisto has been using TikTok to take viewers with them as they moved out into a hotel.

  • This is the story of how Callisto is using TikTok to make a difference, as told to Charissa Cheong.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with 21-year-old Saphire Callisto, and it has been edited for length and clarity.

For the past three weeks, my wife and I have been living in hotel rooms.

We received an eviction notice last month and had to move out of our apartment in Chicago Metropolitan Area, Illinois. My wife stopped working a few years ago because of a bad flare-up with their disability, and we've been relying on my unstable income as a nanny since then. Eventually, we found ourselves in a place where we were struggling so much financially that we could no longer afford rent.

When we realized we were going to be unhoused, I decided to document the arrangements we were making on TikTok, as I already had an account where I shared life updates at the time. I began giving short explanations about our situation in a series I called "Preparing to be homeless."

I wanted to show viewers what the experience of being unhoused looks like from the perspective of a 21-year-old who's dealing with it. I felt that there were a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes about how a person like me would end up in this situation that I wanted to challenge.

I wanted to show that homelessness doesn't happen overnight, even though I had to be vulnerable to do so 

I think that for some people, their idea of being made homeless is that your stuff gets thrown out on the street one day and you don't see it coming, but for us, the process didn't happen overnight, and we had a few weeks to prepare and work out our next steps.

In my videos about the preparation process, I explained to my viewers that I was looking for storage units to keep our stuff, as well as a new apartment more within our budget that we might eventually be able to move into.

I shared this because I wanted to show people in vulnerable financial situations that when you're prepared, you can make better and safer choices. Because I sat down and weighed my options up, and because I knew the eviction was coming, I was able to save money to be able to afford to live in a hotel, for example.

Living out of a hotel has been emotionally draining, but I wanted to show that even though it can be hard, you can still make the best of your circumstances, which is why I started filming a series about being unhoused once the preparation stage was over, showing people our living situation and explaining a bit about our feelings during this time.

People on TikTok have been really supportive, and have said they appreciate me being honest about my situation and are somewhat taken aback by how positive my tone is in a lot of my posts.

I see myself as a very positive person and have been trying to treat being unhoused as an opportunity to learn and grow, but at the same time, this has been a super vulnerable time for me. I've been letting people see the hardest part of my life so far, and not a lot of people on social media really do that.

I have had a hard time knowing that once you put something out there on the internet, it's out of your hands and you can't control the reaction, but I'm hoping it will be worth it.

My hope is that these TikToks will challenge many common misconceptions about homelessness 

Sadly, I think a lot of people assume that if you're unhoused, you're unemployed, or you do a lot of drugs, or you're lazy.

I work as a nanny Monday through Friday and sometimes do weekend shifts if I have to, but even if that wasn't the case, I still don't think I, or anyone, should be without a home.

The TikToker and their wife.
The TikToker and their wife, Peyton Treacy.Saphire Callisto

People sometimes think it's really easy to find housing but I think it's exceedingly difficult to make minimum wage and afford a one-bedroom apartment in lots of places in this country. The level of competition for housing has gone up hugely in recent years, and it sometimes feels like you have to be the perfect person to find an apartment.

The reality is that many Americans are just one medical bill or missed paycheck away from being unhoused, and I really hope my video series shows that as a society, we need to think about our housing situation, because if this can happen to someone like me, it could quite possibly happen to anyone.

It's way easier to say that people who don't have homes are bad people who made bad choices. But I'm trying to show them that I'm not a bad person, I don't make bad choices — and this happened to me anyway.

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