Finding yourself homeless is an overwhelming and scary situation, but if you use some of these quick survival strategies, you can make it through this transitional period of your life.
In a recent conversation online, people shared how to handle homelessness. Here are ten of their tips to navigate it.
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Keep Your Documents Safe
Getting a job, an apartment, and even a bank account is nearly impossible if you don’t have your important legal documents. Keeping them safe should be a top priority.
One person said, “Keep your documents. Drivers license, birth certificate, social security card. Keep these sacred because life is hard without them.”
Don’t Look Homeless
Being homeless is okay, but you just can’t look homeless. You will find it easier to find a place to be, such as a hotel lobby or coffee shop, if you don’t look homeless.
One person said, “To find a job, you can be homeless, but can’t look homeless. Shower daily, brush your teeth, don’t drink alcohol/use drugs and have clean clothes.”
Get a Gym Membership
There are several gyms that offer memberships for just a few dollars a month. While every dollar counts when you are homeless, a gym gives you a place to shower, use the restroom, exercise, and just to be.
One former homeless person said, “If you can afford it, get a gym membership. Access to clean facilities where you can shower, use the toilet, charge your devices, change for work, and yes a workout will help a tremendous amount for your mental and physical well being”.
Find a Church With Food
Being hungry can lead to making unsafe or unwise decisions, but there are options for finding food, like food banks, shelters, and community kitchens. There are also churches that provide meals daily.
One person said, “If there is a Sikh community in your area seek them out. The food is good. And it’s every day for everyone. Churches or any other place of worship are something I would go to even though I’m not religious myself, but given a choice I would pick a Gurdwara every time.”
Having a positive attitude can make your situation better. You can be upset if you like, but it won’t change your position.
A formerly homeless person said, “Attitude is everything. Stay positive, work hard, and know that you’ll get out of it. Yeah, life may suck for a bit, but keep the right frame of mind and you’ll be fine.”
Rent a Storage Unit
If you can afford it, rent a storage unit. You’ll have somewhere safe for your belongings, carry just what you need, and keep items you might need later.
One person said, “Having a small storage unit made homeless life so much easier. I was able to keep all my important documents, and personal items safe; and I could go out with only a backpacks worth of stuff for the day and swap things out as needed at that unit.”
Get a Cell Phone
If you don’t already have a cell phone, you need to get one. There are free government phones available for many people, so be sure to check into that.
One person said, “If you don’t have a phone and you’re homeless you can get a government phone pretty easily. You need a phone number so people can reach you and you can reach people.”
They continue, “This is critical when looking for a job, benefits, assistance, etc. If you have the ability, basic old smart phones are really cheap and a charity might donate them. This lets you email, Google, and do all the things you need to organize a path forward.”
Gather Clothing and Hygiene Supplies
You are going to need seasonal clothing and hygiene supplies to keep you comfortable and to keep you from looking homeless. Homeless shelters can help you with some of these items.
One person said, “Get a pack of tall socks, a knitted cap, mittens/gloves for winter, or sunscreen, a lightweight hat, and a cooling towel for summer, refillable container for water/coffee, first aid kit, a fleece blanket, and a backpack to hold it all.”
Find Somewhere to Sleep
Don’t depend on being able to stay in a homeless shelter since they are often full. If you have a vehicle, you can sleep in it, or ask friends and family if you can sleep on their couch for a night or two. If you can’t find anything else, get a tent and a sleeping bag.
One experienced commenter said, “I’ve been repeatedly homeless so many times but before that even happens I always have an idea of where I’m gonna camp out and try to have a tent and sleeping bag at all times. You learn over time what tents are the best, prolonged exposure to the weather wears them down to near unusable within about three months if you’re getting one from Walmart.”
Know Where to Look For Food
Grocery stores and restaurants throw out large quantities of perfectly edible food each day, so their dumpsters can be a place to find a meal when you are desperate. One commenter said, “Food service guy here. Offer to sweep the parking lot and break down boxes for a meal and some coffee.”
They continue, “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.”
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This thread inspired this post.
I’m John Schmoll, a former stockbroker, MBA-grad, published finance writer, and founder of Frugal Rules.
As a veteran of the financial services industry, I’ve worked as a mutual fund administrator, banker, and stockbroker and was Series 7 and 63-licensed, but I left all that behind in 2012 to help people learn how to manage their money.
My goal is to help you gain the knowledge you need to become financially independent with personally-tested financial tools and money-saving solutions.