How to Live Homeless

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Homelessness is a fact of life in modern civilization. If you suddenly find yourself homeless, you must learn how to take care of your most pressing needs immediately: food, warmth, sleep and psychological peace.

  • Assess your needs and estimate how long you can go without each need. Are you hungry? Get food right now. To learn where, ask a panhandler or police officer. Be polite and direct: "Excuse me. I am starving. Do you know where I can get some free food around here?" To set him at ease and get a straight answer, look them in the eye, hold your hands calmly at your sides and speak clearly. If she does not respond or does not know, thank them and move on to someone else. Do this quickly and efficiently. Sooner or later you will be directed toward a soup kitchen or food shelter. Write down the directions or memorize them as best you can. Go get your food, and take all that they offer, but do not break the house rules of the soup kitchen or food shelf. You need to keep up a good reputation.

  • Are you freezing cold? Get inside. Loiter where you can. Try to stay inconspicuous and do not panhandle inside a private business. Be kind and polite, and refrain from ranting or raving about anything. You are not crazy, so do not act like it, or you will wear out your welcome quickly wherever you tread. If you can afford to buy a coffee somewhere, do it. It will sharpen your mind, warm you up a little, and make you look like a paying customer (which you are). Never be embarrassed about your appearance if you are dirty, and do not take it personally if someone kicks you out. Just stay smart and move on.

  • Is it evening? Do you have a place to sleep indoors? It is safer indoors than on a park bench. Homeless people are statistically the commonest, most vulnerable targets for random acts of violence. Try to find a shelter. Tell a street person or police officer you need emergency shelter for the night. Again, look her in the eye, hands at your side, and speak clearly and politely. Allow yourself to appear a little desperate, but do not overplay it. You need to establish a rapport with whomever you are asking assistance or directions. The panhandler or police officer might give you directions to a shelter. Listen carefully to any warnings they give you about the shelter as far as rules (when you are allowed to enter, what you are allowed to bring in with you, etc.)

  • When staying in a shelter, obey all shelter rules. Make yourself inconspicuous. Most shelters have curfews, and most are lock-in type shelters. Once you are in, you are in for the night. The reason they have lock-in procedures is to control any contraband--drugs, weapons--that might sneak their way into this vulnerable population. It is for your protection. Yes, it curtails your freedom, but once you meet a few of the people in the shelter and hear their stories, you will be glad the management is strict. On the positive side, the constricting rules of conduct that exist at most shelters are a great motivator for eventually getting out of homelessness.

  • When at the shelter, ask management and other "clients" (the word for people who stay in shelters) what kind of immediate services are available from other agencies in town besides the shelter itself. Can they hook you up with a job? Can they get you free bus passes so you can get back and forth for work? If you have any sort of chemical dependency problem and feel you need help with that, is there a counselor you can speak with for free? Remember, you are in a desperate situation and you should take whatever hand-outs exist, for now.

  • At the soup kitchen or food shelf, observe the rules. Get in line, do not budge ahead of someone, and say your pleases and thank-yous. Never take it for granted. Not all towns and cities have social services for the destitute. If the soup kitchen says prayers before eating, play along even if you are not religious. Fold your hands, close your eyes, and listen to the prayer being spoken. No matter what your religious attitude, this is a good moment to be grateful. Gratitude will change your attitude, and it will give you strength to carry on for the rest of the day.

  • If your town or city has no shelters, soup kitchens, food shelves, or other social services that are immediately accessible, it is time to get really creative. You need to do everything you can to survive. Do not hurt someone or mug someone. Do not get caught foolishly stealing food from a store. Do dumpster-dive. Oftentimes gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores will throw out food that is about to expire but is still good. Sneak into the dumpster and search for food that is wrapped up and appears not to be rotten. Taste-test food before wolfing it down.

  • Panhandling is a thankless activity. It is far more exhausting, and requires far more patience, than a real job. If you decide to do it, the worst way to get money is to target someone, lie to them forever, and practically bully them into giving you a few coins. No. The best way is to stand or sit in one spot where there is a lot of traffic. Do not loiter directly outside an establishment if possible, as you will likely be turned away by management. Smile, be pleasant, be funny if you are able, anything to catch attention and set the public at ease about your presence. Make no bones about it; it's tough work, panhandling.

  • If you have a car, sleep in it. You need to try and find a place that is semi-hidden, or you will be disturbed by police or concerned citizens. Be creative in finding a good spot, and take what you can get. Wrap yourself up warm if you have clothes or blankets, and do not leave the car running for heat; you will need to conserve precious gas. Essentially, you are sleeping outdoors and it will be cold.

  • You need to stay at peace with yourself. You need to accept responsibility for your actions and admit that you had a part in arriving at this juncture called homelessness. You must vow to get out of homelessness, because it is a harder way of life than having a regular job, believe it or not. The last thing a homeless person is, is lazy. No. It takes great willpower to live homeless. Develop a spiritual outlook. Realize the world, the universe, is exactly as it should be, and that your role in it, however inconsequential, is real and alive. You are alive! That is the miracle. Despite all that has happened to you, this fragile life goes on. You will find yourself with plenty of time to think. When thinking, think positive. Think strong. Think love. Think, "Here I am, there is where I want to be, and I am going to get there, and nothing will stop me." Do not lose your kindness, and stay alive. Then get out of homelessness. Godspeed.

  • As mentioned in a previous step, homeless people are the biggest targets for violence. Try not to sleep outdoors in public. Be kind to people, for then they will be more likely to be peaceful towards you. Mind your own business as much as possible. Be prepared to defend yourself violently if someone obviously intends to do harm unto your sacred body.

  • Be smart. Be wily. Be unstoppable. Smile. Sing to yourself. Believe it or not, attitudes like these and a song in your heart will literally save your life from time to time.

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