Adam Shepard read Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed in college. As an experiment, she tried to live on minimum wage, and found it nearly impossible to feed, clothe, and, especially, house herself on minimum wage. Shepard wondered if it would really be so hard to work up from nothing, if you were disciplined and not self-destructive. Putting his money where his mouth was, he took the clothes on his back and $25 to Charleston (chosen at random). He tells his story in Scratch Beginnings.
He found a homeless shelter the first night. He took every job he could find. He managed his money very carefully. He didn't smoke, drink, or buy lottery tickets - the specific ways his sheltermates wasted their little extra money.
Most importantly, he learned that he was never going to get a regular job by filling out want ads when he lived at a homeless shelter. Instead, he took himself to an employer who caught his eye - a moving company, but it could have been any of dozens of blue collar jobs - and made a determined pitch that he was a hard worker who could be relied on. They took a chance on him. He wasn't a great mover, but he learned. He worked civilly with the other movers, especially the good ones. And he just kept showing up reliably, taking harder jobs as they were offered.
Shepard gave himself one year to have himself housed with next month's rent ready (Ehrenreich's standard) plus have a working vehicle and $2,500 in the bank. Through hard work and diligence, he met those goals within 8 months. He also made friends, and learned to respect the guys at the bottom who kept working honestly.
Adam Shepard gives a good answer to Barbara Ehrenreich's main claim that the bottom rung jobs are not enough to sustain a worker.