So, you've fallen on hard times. You’ve lost your home, you’re broke, and the whole world has gone against you. So what do you do? Forget everything you knew about your cozy life before. Now is the time for survival. You have got to be prepared for what is to come. The sooner you prepare, the better.
I know what it is like to be homeless and starving. Multiple times in my life, I have been in that position. I got back on my feet, thankfully, but some people may not be so lucky. I cared for my homeless, disabled father for half a year before becoming homeless myself at 18 years-old. Here, I am going to share with you a guide on how to secure yourself after losing your home and resources.
Step 1 - Find Shelter and Community
The first and most important step is to acquire stable shelter within a community that focuses on helping each other. Ideally, friends or family would let you stay with them. However, if you are lacking supportive family or friends, your goal would be to find somewhere that protects you from the elements and danger. A local shelter would be the best bet. If they have the space to let you in, you will most likely be able to stay there. Sometimes shelters do not have the room for more occupants and you will be left on the street. In this case, your last option is to squat. No, I don’t mean taking a poop on their doorstep as a big middle finger to them; most shelters are completely full and simply cannot accommodate more warm bodies by the law of fire code or lack of food.
When I say “squat,” I mean that you need to find an abandoned home or building to make a base. Be careful if it comes down to this. Squatting in many states is illegal and can be counted as trespassing. Be discreet and pick your shelter wisely. Avoid places with known drug and violent activity. Find a place to sleep and store your belongings that is tucked away and hard to notice at first glance. This way, if someone hostile enters your environment while you are asleep, you will be hidden and have the advantage of stealth. This will also give you time to wake up and establish a plan to escape.
A community is extremely valuable, although not essential, to ensuring survival. If you find yourself alone, seek docile and welcoming groups of other homeless folks. Try to peacefully integrate yourself into their circle and make yourself useful. There will always be safety in numbers.
If you are lucky enough to have a vehicle left from anything that has been repossessed, use this as your base. Find a place to park at night that is safe and camera monitored. Lock your doors at night and sleep in the back seat. Store any valuables under the seats or in any hidden compartments. Park in supermarket parking lots and apartment complexes that have free parking. The closer you are to friendly public that you can call to for help, the better. Just make sure you are not parking illegally and imposing on private property. Do not park anywhere near a law enforcement building, law enforcement is trained to disperse troublesome homeless people. You can get in a lot of trouble and possibly even arrested.
Step 2 - Finding Food
Food is priority number two. Now, I’m not a nutritionist, so I’m not sure what foods would contribute the most to your survival. I just know how to get cheap food.
Learn where your local food banks and soup kitchens are. Utilize these to your advantage.
Start enjoying the generic versions of food. Taste is no longer a concern. Taste is a luxury. Calories, sugars, and carbs are necessary. If you do not have a vehicle, these will be necessary to provide you the energy it takes to walk to your destinations.
Farmers markets will usually sell produce for low prices. If you choose to purchase fresh goods, be sure to plan how and when you will consume them before they rot. Fresh food is the least recommended way to eat in this situation since you have no way to preserve it, but if you are starving, anything goes at that moment. Try to only buy what you will need to survive until the next market so that you don’t end up with rotten goods.
Although this one may be a stretch, ask restaurants to give you a portion of food that they offer complimentary anyway. It is sad to say, but I have seen a few restaurant owners shoo the homeless away for asking for complementary goods or even water, which is free at majority of eateries. If you are lucky enough to find a kind-hearted manager, you may end up with a free meal or bread. Just don’t go overboard and ask too much. If you take advantage of their kindness, they may not be so kind after. The restaurant community is connected, so other managers will hear about that greedy homeless person who comes in every day and never says thank you or continuously asks for more and more. Be kind, courteous, understanding, and humble.
Planning your meals at the dollar menu at fast food places is another viable solution to getting cheap food.
Everyone knows that water is the lifeblood of the human body. If you do not have money for a filtered bottle, get yourself a large bottle and fill up at clean water sources (fountains in malls, hospitals, and parks.) If you have the money, invest in a large water bottle with a good filter in it. This allows you to fill up at any tap available so that you can drink almost anywhere.
Step 3 - Hygiene
This is extremely important to prevent sickness and to ensure any chance at reaching employment if you are unemployed while homeless.
Baking soda is your best friend. With baking soda, water, and a few drops of essential oil, you can make a homemade paste that will act as soap. Mix the ingredients in a bowl and stir until you get a nice, smooth paste. Store this in a glass or ceramic container. Baking soda mixed with water can also function as a basic toothpaste.
If you have clean rivers that run nearby, shower in those. If you live somewhere more urban, try gyms and truck stops. Gyms usually have cheap showers as long as you are a member. Truck stops usually reserve their hygiene services for truckers, but if you speak kindly with the manager of the facility and explain your situation, they may be willing to let you clean off there.
Anywhere with a sink will do. If you can't find an actual shower, use the sink. Sink baths are a bit unpleasant, but they’re better than the next option.
If worst comes to worst and water isn’t available, baby wipes are your best friend. Buy some cheap baby wipes and wipe your particularly smelly areas clean (crotch, pits, and buttocks).
Cheap perfumes and colognes from the dollar store will help with the smell.
As for laundry, laundromats aren’t super expensive. If you need a cheaper option though, apartment complexes offer their own laundromats for almost a dollar. In times of need, you can buy a plastic bucket (not metal, due to rust) and some liquid dish or laundry soap and wash it in there. Hang your clothes over whatever you can and let them sit in the sun to dry.
Step 4 - Protection
If you are a six foot, burly man, you may only need your fists or even just your stature to intimidate potential predators. If you are smaller and frailer or female: I advise you to acquire protection. A gun is usually too obvious and in most cases, will get you reported. A good sized hunting or assault knife is the best thing to carry, as it is easy to conceal and very deadly if used correctly.
Gain and keep your strength, you never know when you will need to defend yourself from rape or assault. Stay in well-lit, well-populated areas. Use the sensitive points and pressure points on the body as go-to attack points to disable attackers and run as fast as you can, calling for help. If you are being followed, enter a populated business and ask for the counterperson (cashiers, customer services) or manager to call the police. Protect yourself at all costs.
If you feel that your life is truly in danger, call the police or find a cop. Although they are required to shoo homeless people away from public areas to maintain a "clean image," they are still human. If you ask for help, they will protect you. It is their duty and moral obligation to protect the public regardless of race, sex, and societal position.
Step 5 - Acquiring Employment
You need to get back on your feet. You most likely won't be able to do this on your own without a job. To get a job while homeless can be a huge challenge. Focus on your hygiene. Stay well-groomed and do not become a public nuisance. If you stay clean, both hygienically and within the public eye, employers will consider your application next to anyone else. Refer back to the hygiene section of this article to learn how to stay clean for a possible job interview.
Be open and pleasant. Visit shops in person and introduce yourself to the hiring manager. Stay clean, patient, and open to all positions that they may offer. Beggars can't be choosers. Well, they can, but then they usually stay beggars.
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