Besides going to prison, I think being homeless would be one of the most terrifying and soul-crushing experiences a person could go through.
The uncertainty, the danger, facing the harsh elements: it all sounds absolutely terrible.
But what would you do in the first 24-72 hours if you did become homeless?
Here’s what AskReddit users had to say about this.
1. Join a gym.
“Joining a gym is a great way to still maintain shower access, assuming you can pay for one.
That failing, assuming none of those are options and again, you have nowhere else to turn, you may have to get used to the idea of bathing out of the bathroom sinks.
Gas station is your best bet.”
2. The city.
“Go to the closest city with more than 50,000 people.
Every moderately sized city will have at least some homeless services.”
3. Practical advice.
“Been homeless in Florida and Mississippi.
Get a tent, sleeping bag, and use your vehicle as a storage unit.
You can take showers at truck stops.”
4. Good tip.
“Locate a Gurudhwara Temple. You can have free meals every day.
No judgment will be made and you will find hundreds of people that will lend you a hand for work and a place to stay.
Be Positive, good things are just round the corner.”
5. The basics.
“Planet fitness $10/month
Costco membership $5/month.
So for $15/month with those 2 places you can have somewhere 24/7 you can be with a restroom and shower. Also costco has free samples so free food for roughly 12 hours a day + cheap food from the food court.
After that it’s just about saving up for a vehicle if you don’t have one. Then you will have all necessities to live and after that it’s just about building a plan to escape homelessness by getting a job or a better paying job to get an apartment or something.”
6. Stay warm.
“Concrete does not warm up no matter how long you lay on it.
If you’ve gotta, find cardboard, newspaper, anything to place between you and it.”
7. Do your homework.
“Be very wary of homeless shelters.
Homework is definitely required, including actually talking to some of the people sheltering there about the conditions.
A homeless shelter is not necessarily a safer place than the street.”
8. At the library.
“If you need a place to hang out during the day, please go to the library.
They’re free and climate controlled and most librarians are great at helping you find resources.
Also, books, wifi, bathrooms, and water fountains.”
9. The plan.
“Move into my Jeep.
Winterize my tiny cargo trailer. Install a solar panel kit.
And find a safe place to park.
Been like this since February this year. Got a gym membership to shower.”
10. Be honest.
“Offer to sweep the parking lot and break down boxes for a meal and some coffee. This shows initiative to work and you will be so much more welcome than homeless people that just ask for stuff.
Do this for a few weeks as regularly as possible, so you become predictable. Ask for an application, be honest about your situation.”
11. Breakin’ the law.
“Accept that you are going to have to break some laws.
That’s the very first step, and it’s the hardest one. If you’re facing homelessness, you may have to trespass, you will certainly have to loiter, and you will probably have to steal. Laws in most cities are deliberately designed to target the homeless and make their lives difficult.
Vagrancy itself is a crime in most jurisdictions. If you’ve been a law abiding person up until now, you’re gonna have to get used to the idea of not being one anymore, and get used to it fast.
For the rest of this post, I’ll be assuming you live in the US.
Step two is to figure out a safe place to sleep. If you have a car, great. That’s home now. Most walmarts and truck stops will let you park overnight. You’ll want to keep moving, and not “settle” in any particular one long enough for them to notice you specifically, though. Being tolerated only lasts as long as you’re not annoying.
If you don’t have a car, things are much more difficult. Squatting is always a better option than freezing to death. Unless you are okay with living on the ragged edge of society long term, avoid homeless encampments and skid row type streets as much as possible. While they’re good places to set up and not get chased off, they’re also great places to get robbed, sick, or trafficked.
Not worth it. An abandoned building someplace quiet and removed from downtown areas is better. Just be careful not to intrude on anyone else. Keep to yourself and things should be fine. Trespassing is usually a misdemeanor ticket as long as you don’t burglarize or damage anything.
Step three is food. Reach out to a local punk group like food not bombs or punks with lunch if there’s one in your city. Look into Sikh temples in your area- most of them have a rule to always have food ready to provide for anyone who asks.
You can steal food if you need to, but honestly, you won’t usually need to. Water is much less of a concern, as you can generally find water fountains and such at malls and so forth. Just keep a water bottle handy and refill it if you need to.
Step four, and this is super important, is to keep yourself clean. Joining a gym is often as cheap as 20 dollars a month, and will give you a place to take a shower- not to mention something to do all day and a well lit place to be- and a laundromat will be your best bet for keeping clean clothes.
Avoiding the “homeless look” is crucial. You spend sixteen hours a day awake and about, and you’re gonna have to find someplace to spend them. Looking like a vagrant will get you kicked out of most restaurants, malls, and so forth, but a clean, decently dressed person is just another customer.
Decent clothes and a book to read will let you spend hours in a bookstore or library without anyone taking any notice of you at all, and in a cold winter or hot summer, those air conditioned hours can be the difference between life or death.
Honestly, once you’ve got those basics taken care of, you’ll find that it’s surprisingly easy. Learning to blend in with crowds and not be noticed is a skill that develops pretty fast, and once you have that down you can usually avoid the hassles and pitfalls that are most dangerous for homeless people.
Everything else is just a matter of learning to be okay with being uncomfortable- essentially, the only difference between sleeping rough and camping is how happy you are when you do it. We’re an adaptable species, and you’re tougher than you think you are.”
“Find a resource location you wanna make home base.
This can be really a wide variety of places,outright shelters, public libraries,or even a decent park. You want it to be centralized as much as possible, but one good thing bout street life, you can always pick up and move.
This of course is advice for if you intend on staying in city bounds. If you got gear and want for off grid living, at least for awhile, id hit a storage unit up if i had something like SSI payments, if not, take what i can carry and hitch to the nearest national park.
Ive been chronically homeless since I was 17, and just got housing at age 30. What you do within the first few days really depends on what youre immediate goals are, and what resources you have right then and there to work with.
I could write a whole book on different situations that present themselves when you live on the street or on the outskirts of society.”
Now it’s your turn.
Tell us what you think about this in the comments.
Thanks a lot!