Tips for people that are or have ended up homeless or think that they may end up homeless. These tips will save you money, time, aggravation, patience and keep you healthy and mentally sane and give you a much needed boost in self confidence and dignity. This will make sure that if any opportunities come your way they are maximised. The best approach to surviving on the streets and roughing it, is a combination of the backpacker/hiker approach mixed with a good dose of a stealth and military tactics. Approach homelessness this way and you will be a survivor. It really is just a case of letting go of the lifestyle you used to know and adapting to the new one. Instead of being based in one location you are based in many. You may even enjoy it and find it liberating but make no mistake it is tough with a Capital T especially at night, during the winter and when it rains heavily.
You´ve got to figure out quickly how you are going to approach homelessness. Are you going to be independent or go it alone or get help from the authorities. Are you going to join a band of other homeless people with the benefits and drawbacks that brings or are you going to be homeless and try to blend in with society on your own the best you can with the benefits and drawbcks that brings.
Basically your approach to life changes dramatically and you will need to focus primarily on the four main things for human survival that we take for granted when we have a roof over our heads. Food and Water, Clothing, Shelter, Heat and Light and Security become the main priorities in your life along with the real No1 your HEALTH and getting a good nights sleep.
Everybody experiences disasters in their lifetimes but fortunately homelessness is more easily anticipated than other disasters. You often can see it coming months in advance. But even those who do may prefer to live in denial. You may think it cannot happen to you but you must plan ahead, if you don´t plan ahead it inevitably will happen. The more you plan ahead, the less you will have to rely on Government or local charitable services and retain your independence and dignity.
If you’re one of the lucky few who have nothing to worry about financially, remember that poverty is not the only cause of homelessness. Things like chemical spills, radiation leaks, brush fires, mudslides, arson, water main breaking, and civil unrestand riots could all force you from your home as surely as mounting debt can or the loss of a job. Hurricane Katrina rendered an entire city’s population homeless within hours. So have tornadoes in America’s heartland and nuclear meltdown in Japan, to name just a few examples.
Here´s some tips that have been gianed either from personal experience or colated from the internet or both. These are geared up to people that are going to be living on the streets as opposed to staying in a shelter or hostel overnight. The more seasoned street dwellers live this way and they do so for good reason.
1. Blend In! This has got to be one of the most important tips. Just because you are living on the streets doesn´t mean you have to look as if you are. The trick is to be blend in. You may be sleeping rough in an alleyway doorway over night but if you clean yourself up and take pride in your appearance like everybody else carrying normal baggage it will make a world of difference how your day will go. Look presentable and you can walk in with a moderate backpack into Selfridges or Harrods or John Lewis use the toilets without anybody looking at you in a strange manner or security following you around in a menacing way. If you look normal and act normal and above all smell normal, people will think you are normal and treat you as such. All the tips below are designed to make life easier on yourself.
2. Hygiene: Keep yourself clean, make it a number one priority. Psychologically you will feel better, look better, you will avoid major health problems and more doors will open for you that open to people who are not in your situation. If you let your hygiene go life will be even more difficult and doors will close. People in close proximity will start giving you strange looks and move as far away as possible from you. Hardly a confidence boost in an already not great situation. Keep on top of areas of the body where you sweat. I call it FAG. Feet, Armpits and Groin. Wash these daily with soap and water and get a cheap deoderant they work effectively. That will keep 95% of body odours at bay. Oral hygiene is also important. Toothpaste and toothburshes cost next to nothing. Hair is self cleaning but a quick damp under the tap and daily comb never does any harm. You´ll be surprised what gets in your hair overnight. Newspapers make a good makeshift towel, some the ink comes away when damp, others are more permanent. The Evening Standard (Free) is better than most, also makes good make shift toilet paper. Keep a collapsible Bucket handy for filling and using as a sink in Public Toilets for washing in private.
Microfibre cloths make a good portable and compact towel and dry out quickly, available from Poundland and 99p stores. Don´t waste your time with full size towels that are heavy when wet, bulky and take ages to dry out and are a breeding ground for bacteria when stuffed into a backpack or bag.
Facial cleansing cloths, wet naps, and hand sanitizer can keep you clean without water and again are cheap these days.
A good all in one cleaner is the supermarket brand washing up liquid in one of those fruity smells, they are designed to be kind to skin but tough on grease as the advert says. Makes a good hand wash, body wash, is compact in size, can be used for washing utensils and at a push for washing hair. Not recommended when living normally but when on the streets you need something to strip out the grunge you will pick up living on the streets. Many uses in one.
Use a high SPF sunscreen during the summer months to avoid the tell tale sunburn that many homeless people have.
When you definetly need a hot shower, visit a gym, YMCA, or university athletic center for the day, all of which have well appointed locker rooms. Fitness centers on college campuses may just be the cheapest, cleanest and safest, and are usually open to the public.
3. Keep Warm Think Layers. In the winter instead of a couple of big bulky big layers of clothing, think 4 or 5 thinner layers. If sleeping on the ground no matter how many sleeping bags you have the cold will conduct from the ground through the bag and you will get cold and get little or no sleep. Cardboard boxes are used by seasoned homeless people for a reason, make a good make shift mattress and insulating layer, cost nothing and provide a massive improvement and are freely available. Newspaper also freely avaialble (think Evening Standard and Metro) also make good insulating items stuffed down your clothing and a good wind stopper and insulating layer. Drink hot drinks and avoid alcohol which reduces the bodies ability to handle the cold and also will get you dehydrated.
4. Keep Dry. Breathable waterproof clothing are cheap these days. Avoid the cheap plastic non breathable bin bag style waterproofs, you´ll get wetter than wearing nothing at all as they don´t breathe. Once clothes get wet especially in winter they will take ages to dry out, start to stink and in the meantime you are susceptible to getting a cold or worse pneumonia which could turn into something even worse. Waterproof breathable packamacs and trousers will keep you dry, pack down next to nothing. Get an umbrella, they cost nothing at Poundland. Keeping dry is like a health insurance. If you are on the streets you do NOT want to be sick. Trust me
5. Backpack A backpack is used by everybody these days and especially tourists in Central London. Use a backpack even if it´s a reasonable size and you will blend in on the streets. Avoid the massive backpacks though. Avoid those big Sports Direct Bags or similar, these will mark you out not as somebody that has been just been shopping at Sports Direct but a homeless person. Large suitcases read ditto. Urban commuter bags and messenger bags also work well for the city.
6. Shelter Those who stay in the city are restricted by laws against putting up any kind of temporary shelter. This is why the homeless are so often seen huddling in doorways, alcoves, tunnels, etc. Homeless shelters may be no better. Filled with drugs and mental illness, they can be more dangerous than the streets, and many transients know enough to avoid them. Similar problems exist in tent cities. Diseases and parasites can easily spread when many people, all with poor hygiene, live close together.
When I was homeless I never stayed in the city I moved out to the suburbs and found a private wild wooded area, stayed there overnight and buried my stuff during the day carrying just backpack and cycled into Central London on a bike that was obtained for nothing from a friend. Here´s some tips on this sort of living
A tent is one of the best possible temporary shelters you can use and gives a sense of security, even if it is mostly psychological.
A “pop-up “camouflage dome tent can be found cheap online. A pop-up tent can be set up and taken down extremely fast, with very little effort. stealth camping I call it.
If you can´t run to a pop up tent, the Argos Value Tent last seen at 12.99 from Argos comes recommended. It is single skinned, not that bulky, easy to assemble, in a blend in the background dull green and waterproof to an extent when new. There can be minor leaks when there are heavy rain storms. Camp on a slope and any water runs to the bottom of the tent and put newspaper round the edge and you and your gear will stay dry….that´s from my personal experience. A cheap tarp from poundland over the top during bad weather can keep the worst of as well and double as something to cover your gear during the day. Used this combo right down to -6 at night no problem.
Boot Sales are a real gem for getting cheap camping gear and other items. Best time is after the school holidays when the camping season is coming to a close. I got a Eurohike Tent (Wye Model) that a woman was desperate to get rid of for 1.50. Still was going 2 years later and went through some horrific storms and downpours and bone dry inside. Got a 4 season sleeping bag hardly used for 2.00. Boot Sales are normally near the edge of town (another advantage of not being based in Central London)
Tents also make a good private place to have a wash, more so than public toilets.
If you need a hot shower Campgrounds are another good place to look and will cost relatively little.
The Travel section of the pound stores is a good place to pick up lightweight hygiene products like mini shampoo, mouthwash and toothpaste, some even sell camping essentials which Poundland does during the camping season such as mergency shelters, camping pillows, foldable water containers, headband torches, tent pegs, camping cutlery and crockery and much more all 1.00
See also Food for Soup Runs and Soup Kitchens that provide free hot food. You should never be short of food in Central London, there is an abundance of cheap and nutritious options available and the chance for free food is mind boggling and will not involve you searching through a waste bin.
Scenario 1. I remember once bumping into a homeless guy who was standing outside a Sushi bar whilst I was there at bang on 10pm. He looked at me an said the assistant normally has loads of stuff leftover, come and have a look. We went round the back and he came out with a Massive Bin Bag of Sushi products, all fresh and packaged, prices ranging from 3.99-8.99. I took half a dozen ( about 30 quids worth) and lived off Sushi for the next day and he said he was going to share out this with his friends. I wished him all the best and it was an eye opener.
Scenario 2. I an old guy I see regularly who lives in Hyde Park came into McDonalds and I was waiting in the queue, he go preferential treatment and walked out with a Big Mac and Fries and a Tea without paying. I´ve seen him many times walking with a McD bag and eating a burger walking down the road.
These are just two examples, Supermarkets reduce food to silly prices near the end of the day, I´ve bought luxury yoghurts at 2.00 reduced to 15p, exotic fruits, milk, bread all next to nothing. Bakeries if they don´t sell all their products they can´t sell them the following day, another opportunity. You would not believe what supermarkets throw out into their bins round the back.
Aldi and Lidl are renowned for selling good food and very cheap prices, if you have just limited funds they are a good source for cheap food.
Peanut butter is an excellent choice, being easy to carry and eat, high in calories and protein, will fill you up and needing no refrigeration and the budget versions cost next to nothing.
Dried foods are lighter and easier to store think beef jerky, granola bars, raisins and other dried fruits, corn chips, banana chips, buns, bagels, raisin bread, peanuts, instant soups, cereals etc.
Milk is so cheap and nutritious at the time of writing 45p a pint or 4 pints for 1.00. It´s a no brainer. No need to carry it around with supermarkets now open early till late and in Central London 24 hours.
Look into the ultra-light, compact kitchen utensils that backpackers use. Such products are designed to fit inside each other and take up minimum space. You can fit two stoves, fuel canisters, two bowls, pot, mug, cutlery, can opener, and even a Steripen water purifier into a bag less than 9” wide by 11” tall.
See Food for places you can get Free Food such as Soup Kitchens and mobile versions provided by some religious groups. It is a massive eye opener. In summary if you are struggling to get food and you are homeless, you are doing something radically wrong.
carry at least one 1L water bottle and get in the habit of topping it up every time you come to a tap or drinking fountain. Hydration is important
Camping in the woods, large rivers are the preferred water source and you’ll want to camp near one if possible. A fast moving stream will be cleaner than a pool of standing water. Chalk streams if you can find one are the best as they naturally cleanse and filter out the pollutants and chemicals. Best to buy the cheap basic 2L of water from the Supermarket for 20p and use the river water for washing clothes, washing yourself and washing utensils when boiled.
Internet access is essential even when homeless. It is how you will look for jobs, send resumes, learn survival tips, and keep in contact with the wider world and family and friends. Email addresses are free, try Gmail. Internet for free is everywhere these days via Wi Fi, especially if you can provide your own laptop, iPad or netbook or smartphone. Find out all the free wi-fi zones in your vicinity. Large district libraries and reference libraries can be ideal and will get you in the warm and doing something productive and keep your mind active. McDonalds is another good option but it may cost you a cup of tea (99p) to get a couple of hours at max access.
Use it to check weather reports daily when you are unable to access the internet, and choose your attire and shelter areas accordingly. Or just for a bit of company on a cold evening. Even the cheapest mobiles have radio these days and can be obtained for a couple of pounds down boot sales or online. Alternatively Poundland used to do a miniature radio for 1.00 but requires earphones and battery. Alternatively again the old style radios can be bought for next to nothing.
Keep the one you have before you were on the streets, if the contract runs out you still have a phone number. You will need this if you want to get a job. If it´s on PAYG again you can still use it for incoming calls. Remember to charge it and your other wireless devices whenever you come across an available outlet.
Just because you don´t have your last address any more doesn´t mean you can´t receive mail. Some places may let you have your mail sent to your old address for a certain period of time, ususally months until you sort out another address. Hve a word with the landlord before you leave. Renting a PO Box is a cheap option and many can give you an option where the address doesn´t say PO Box but says Flat or Room or Suite instead. Using a friends address is another option. A phone number and an address just keeps you fifty steps ahead of the homeless crowd who have no address and no phone.
Check if you are entitled to free travel on London Transport or if not at a reduced rate, you should be. Many people living on the streets use the London night buses as kip over options to snatch some sleep when the weather is bad such as storms, heavy rain ,snow or freezing cold or all of these. If they can do it then you should be able and eligible to do so as well.
If not get a bicylce, a bike makes everything seem much closer than if you were walking, and will expand your range considerably and give you a feeling of increased independence. You don´t want the latest model just something that works, blends in the background that nobody is going to knick. Get acheap U lock (on Ebay for 6-7 pounds) and alwatsuse the cycle racks you see in town. Cable locks no matter how thick will be cut through in no time, don´t waste your time wuth them. In the last year or so I´ve seen half a dozen or so abandoned, took advantage of a couple. My latest bike I got from ebay for 15 quid. It will just give you more options which means you´re not dependent on living in the centre of town ,you can head out of London to sleep at night and can cover a huge area during the day. You will get a better nights sleep than you will in Central London when further out,and experience less problems, that is guaranteed and based on personal experience. It´s also a good way to get warmed up quickly in the winter. See waterproofs for wet weather riding.
Clean, even elegant restrooms can be found in upscale shopping centers, colleges, theatres, airports, office buildings, musuems, art galleries, places the homeless will not normally go mainly because they will not get in there in the first place. If you are clean, presentable, look like a tourist, don´t have an attitude problem you will be ble to go where eveybody else goes. It really is a confidence booster and gives your self image a boost even if your situation in reality is prett dire.
The Cold and Winter
Dress in layers and always cover your head, even when sleeping. Wool is arguably the best material as it insulates so well, even when wet.
A sleeping pad is just as essential as a sleeping bag. If you can´t afford or just don´t want to carry around, cardboard boxes broken up and flattened (corrugated is best) will work just as well and are cheap and disposable
You will be relying on your own body heat for warmth. Don’t lose it by leaving your shelter at night. If you have to relieve yourself, use a bottle instead.
Anything that does not take well to freezing – laptops, cell phones, water bottles – should share the sleeping bag with you, down near your feet
heavy camouflage tarp as a groundsheet, protecting the tent floor from sharp debris. This can double as a cover for your gear,
Do not try to weather a serious storm in a tent. At such times, train stations, bus stations and airports. They are open 24 hours a day. Believe me I´ve had near misses with trees coming down in gale force winds.
black should be the color of all your items, including bags Black looks right at home in the city, can go longer between washings without looking dirty and is perfecxt camouflage at night
waterproof hiking shoes or the best hiking boots you can get such as CAT or Timblerland. Try the Charity Shops or Boot Sales. Mine are 100 quid boots (CAT) new which I got for 3.00 at a boot sale hardly used.
Paratrooper or cargo pants (lots of pockets)
Alternate pair of waterproof pants
Fleece jumpers or jackets now out of fashion you can get them cheap. They breathe, dry out quick when wet and are a good layer.
Expedition vest filled with pockets
Waterproof and Breathable coat with hood
Avoid Camo Gear, it sends out the wrong signals. Black and Grey are the best colours for urban and centre of town and the same mixed with dull green colours for in the suburbs or the sticks
Thermal hat (15% of body heat is lost through the head)
Add to this a week’s worth of clean socks and underwear (Primark), as well as duplicate trousers and hoodie so you’ll still have something to wear when doing laundry. In cold weather, add wool socks, thermal insoles, wool turtleneck, thermal underwear, waterproof mitts, and a balaclava (for night not during the day)
Newspaper: good as an insulater in winter, as a make shift towel or handkerchief and as toilet paper when out in more rugged wild areas.
Cardboard Boxes. The corrugated ones make a good ground insulator for sleeping on and the corrugated boxes trap air and give good cushioning. Change once every couple of weeks for maximum effeciveness. They cost nothing and are freely available.
Industrial bin Bags. Cheap at Poundland these don´t rip and are essential for keeping things dry. handy to put over your backpack when walking in wet weather and hundreds of other uses.
Needle and Thread. Handy for repairing socks, rucksacks, stitching buttons back on clothing and a host of other uses.
First Aid Kit. Get a cheap travel one with the basics, cuts and sores can go septic very quickly and lead to other complications
This has been left till last but is probably the most important because without this you will have problems. Army Suvival Books are an essential read and will prepare you mentally for what you will be up against especially in winter.
Here´s a few words from The Survivalist Blog about “Street Psychology” where some of this information was obtained
If it helps, don’t think of yourself as homeless but as a nomad practicing an alternative lifestyle. Without such an attitude or plan, you will start to resemble the typical homeless who wander without direction or purpose. Who have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nothing to hope for. Homelessness does not have to look like that. Develop the skills of the urban nomad and practice distributed living. Keep your basic needs met and your mind clear, and you can always live a dignified existence whatever your situation may be.
The one thing you will experience is a massive reduction in the quality of sleep you will get when you are living rough and are homeless. Shelters, Hostels and other services will keep you dry and warm but getting a good nights sleep can be an issue. Churches are slightly better. That´s why you see many homeless (many of the seasoned and hardcore) sleeping in alleyways, doorways, parks, tunnels and other places. The further you get away from Central London the greater the chance of getting a good nights sleep. Again a good nights sleep is not guaranteed. A tent I think is the best option and a woods or park beyond Zone 3 at least, that is not maintained or patrolled or some wild land is the best place to get a good nights sleep but again you´ll be surprised what wildlife is creeping around at night and some are quite noisy…foxes in particular. Dog walkers will be in abundance first thing in the morning, you will have to get up early in the morning to avoid them giving your game away. This ties in quite closely with Psychology, if you have had a bad nights sleep it will affect your day adversely, you´ll look and feel rough and people will react accordingly. Also the other tell tale sign of homelessness is falling asleep on park benches, on buses and in McDonalds and Libraries, which will also give the game away. A pack of earplugs are a good investment and again Poundland is the place to go. Drawback of using them though is you lose the ability to hear anything that may be a threat to your security.
This article is a blending of my personal experinces and some survival tips from the article at the http://www.thesurvivalistblog.net/ A highly recommended read How to survive being homeless http://www.thesurvivalistblog.net/how-to-survive-being-homeless-2/