How to Make a Makeshift Homeless Shelter


Living on the streets is rough, especially in unfavorable climates where wind, rain, snow or heat can cause serious health issues. To protect yourself against the elements, a makeshift shelter is a good place to start. Learn to use what you can find as supplies and resources. Make the shelter with the weather in mind, anticipating the needed strength of the materials.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood, pipes or hard plastic poles
  • Waterproof tarp material
  • Rope
  • Blankets

Make a Shelter

  • Gather materials. Look for strong poles. These can be made of any material including wood, plastic or metal. You are looking for at least four poles to create the structure of your shelter. They must be strong enough to withstand the elements in your area, but light enough to carry with you wherever you need to go. Also look for tarp-like material to create the outside of the shelter. If it rains a lot in your area, try to find something that is fairly thick and waterproof. Try to find a material that is a neutral color. If your shelter is covered in a bright color, such as red or yellow, it will be more noticeable to the public and might attract the wrong kind of attention from police. Also, look for any type of blankets and as much rope material as you can find.

  • Find a location for your shelter. Try to select a location that is fairly close to community service agencies. If you are regularly getting food from a soup kitchen or using the computer at a library, it is best to build your shelter close to these landmarks. Once you select your general location based on resources, look for a spot that is already shielded from the elements, such as an alley or under a bridge. Also keep in mind that you do not want to draw a lot of attention. For safety reasons, look for a location that is hidden from plain sight.

  • Build your structure. Hold your poles together and tie the top with rope. Carefully spread the bottom ends of the poles outward, creating a teepee-like structure. Wrap more rope around the tops of each pole. If you found hollow poles, loop the rope through the poles and tie to the other poles at the top. If possible, try to attach your shelter to something around you for additional strength.

  • Cover the structure. Use your tarp-like material to place on top of the structure. If you have extra rope, attach the tarp to your structure or to something else sturdy around you. You can do this by using a sharp rock to pierce holes through the tarp and hooking rope through the holes. In cold climates, tie the rope tightly or find rocks to place on the bottom of the tent to reduce air flow through the tent.

  • Lay your blankets on the ground inside the shelter. If your location is on a hard surface, try gathering pine needles or sand to create a soft flooring for your shelter. You may need to use the blankets to wrap around you for warmth, so look for anything that could replace them as bedding.

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