Survival Skills

How to Be Homeless: Short Guide for Survival

How to Be Homeless

We may encounter two types of homelessness: the chosen one and the forced one. There are people who choose to live on the streets, as a way of expressing their freedom and others who are forced to do it, not being able to pay their bills and their mortgage. They must know how to be homeless so they can survive on the street.

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If someone becomes homeless by choice it’s usually because people want to be free. They are tired of taking care of tomorrow’s meals, of the money they have to pay to the banks and they want to keep the latter for better purposes like traveling. Or they simply want to enjoy their freedom, they know something about homeless survival and they can get the taxes out of their life equation.

On the other hand, the second type of people without a home represents the largest part of this “community”. There are a lot of persons who lost their jobs, get evicted from their homes and end up living on the street. This is due to the global recession from the last years. These people need to learn how to live homeless and this is not an easy thing to do. The number of people without a home is increasing each day.

You may find all kinds of people out there: teenagers who ran from their homes, youngsters who were sent out when they turned 18, adults who lost their job. Life may be hard when you are struggling with your job and taxes, but it gets harder when you are on the streets.

These people should know that there are many ways of surviving as a homeless and here is a short guide about what you need to focus on while you are homeless.

Where to sleep

The homeless people can be also categorized after the car possession: the ones who own a car and the ones who don’t.

Sleeping in your car

If you have a car, the shelter problem is solved. You have some place to sleep, away from the rain, wind, snow or suffocating heat. You will need to find an isolated parking place, but do not let your car stand alone. It should be near other cars, though away from the eyes of police or property owners.

Find a place with a lot of light so you can read and write in the car. This could be somewhere under a street lamp. This way it is a smaller probability that some thief will attack you. They usually avoid light. Try to choose a place where your car won’t be noticed. It would be best if it doesn’t stand in the way of the morning sun. This will allow you to sleep later. Find out what to put inside the go home bag to help you get all your essentials on hand.

Create a routine that is not regular. In case someone observes you and want to file a complaint, it would be easier for the police to catch you if they always find at the same place, in the same day. In case you sleep somewhere else each day of the week they will surely fail to get their hands on you.

If you don’t have a car, you will have to try some other options.


It is probably a good idea to invest some money to buy a tent. Some of them are extra light and small and they can be carried anywhere. The problem in this situation is that you need to find a safe place to camp and you are not protected from the natural elements that can give you a hard time.

Homeless Camping

A good alternative would be camping in National Parks, but they should be in your area if you don’t have a mean of transportation. Camping there is usually charged and there are few places where you may camp for free. Also be careful to set your tent in an area where you can find food and water. For affordable solo tents, see our article reviews on the topic to find our more.

Couch surfing

One other option would be to sleep over your friends or family members. If they are not available, access some sites like where some people register their homes as being free to stay in. This is a solution for one night only and it was developed for travelers, so pretend you are one of them.


These are places for young people and are usually cheaper than the hotel rooms. You should probably make a reservation over the Internet or by phone to be sure you will have a place to sleep. You may find where hostels are located if you browse for them or even in the phone book.


In case you have no money to spend on hostels or camping, go to a shelter. You will find a free place to sleep over there. There may be a few requirements, such as getting up early or doing some work so you can pay for the hosting.

Homeless Shelter

You have more chances to find shelters in bigger cities. Only remember one thing: in a shelter you will find a lot of homeless people. This is why you should take care of your belongings if you have some because you don’t want them to be stolen. Another risk factor is that someone may be sick with a contagious disease.

Sleeping in public places

If you choose to sleep in the open air, you will certainly need some items like a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag. You should also purchase some waterproof poncho or tarp for rainy weather.

The risk of being robbed or attacked is lower in public places and police usually let homeless people alone in this situation. As for the place to sleep, it is better to choose a park. It is warmer and the grass could be a good bed. You can lay your tarp and get a good sleep for a few hours.

Another place considered good for sleeping is the beach. Place your tarp above the high tide line and be sure to wear sunscreen so you don’t get burn. If you don’t have any sun protection, cover your body with clothes.

Homeless Sleeping on the Bench

When it comes to sleeping on the street at night, you have to figure out other solutions. Try to find places where other people already do this. It is probably an area where the police leave them alone. Be careful so you don’t get rubbed. The others may try to intimidate you or to send you away.

If you are not able to find such a place, go to a spot with a lot of light though out of the way of the passers-by. There is a chance that the cops will harass you, but this is far more better than to put yourself in danger on a dark alley.

You may also go to sleep on rooftops of the buildings. It is safer than sleeping on the street. There are relatively few chances that someone finds you. Find a rooftop with obstacles or alcoves that will prevent you from rolling over. Although this is not legal and may be classed as trespassing, it is a good choice for you.

Choosing an abandoned building as your shelter may be an option. This way the rain won’t reach you. But pay attention to the structure of the building as it may be weak, this being the reason why it was abandoned. Also search for other homeless inhabitants because you don’t want to get involved in some conflict.

You might want to find a spot that is not visible and can assure you some intimacy. If that so, search for a bushy area, with trees around. This could be a good place to hide.

How to eat

This is one aspect of your homeless life that should concern you big time. If you make some money, go find cheap restaurants or fast foods that will provide you with all the food you can afford.

Homeless Food

If you don’t have any money, you should consider one of the following options:

  • Go to groceries and ask for the free samples they give away, for example the old bread. This may be a weekly food supply.
  • Dumpster dive is another solution. You may find good food which is thrown by people in stores or food places. Make sure you don’t dive into other people’s dumpster so you don’t get yourself in a dangerous situation.
  • A good option is to get free condiments from McDonald’s, for example. You will have barbecue sauce, mayonnaise and mustard. Find free sugar packets almost everywhere. Get a bottle which can be reused and make a gallon of drink with Kool-Aid powder.
  • Good food can be found at farmers markets. At the closing, it is possible to get squashed items which farmers don’t want to take with them anymore.
  • Other places to find free food are shelters or churches. You may work there for food donations. Get there early to find a meal as they don’t have unlimited supplies. The principle is first in, first served.


It is obviously that you won’t have access to a toilet and to a shower as much as you would like to while you are homeless.


Use the public restrooms from the big shopping malls or stores. Try to get there during the day when you will be less noticeable. Make a map so you would know where these stores are located near you. You may also use the toilet from McDonald’s, it is free. If you are a man and you own a car, keep a bottle inside during the night. Empty it the next day in a public restroom and then throw it away to a garbage bin.


When you want to take a shower you may go to a shelter, they will probably let you do this even if you are not sleeping over there.

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The best choice is to get a membership to a local gym. That would be possible if you are making money to pay for it. You will be able to use their showers and stay in shape at the same time. It would be even better to get the membership to a nationwide gym so that you have access to a shower everywhere you travel.

Hot Shower

If you leave near a beach, you may use the public showers. They are placed there so that people may remove the salt that remains on the body after swimming in the ocean. Purchase a bathing suit because showering naked is illegal.

When you know that you will not be able to reach to a shower very soon, you may buy some baby wipes. These are soaked in cleaning substances and you can find them in about any store like Walmart. Use them to clean certain parts of the body so that you can keep a minimum level of hygiene.

How to make money

There are several ways of making money while you are homeless. None of them will make you rich, but you will be able to survive and to buy different stuff that will help.

Aluminum cans

You may search for aluminum cans, collect them and sell them to recycling centers. The best place to look for them is the garbage bin behind the big restaurants.

Collect change

Collect all the coins you find.

Collecting Change

When you have enough of them go to a store and change them with bills.


In order to have Internet access you may get a card at a public library, for free. This way you will have access to their computers. There are many ways of making money on-line, such as writing articles.

Selling sperm or plasma

If you are perfectly healthy you may sell plasma or sperm to get money and help other people. When it comes to plasma, take care to eat first and do not do it too many times. Most of the centers that collect it from donors won’t let you donate more than two times a week so that your cells can regenerate.

You may apply for becoming a sperm donor, but not all the requests are approved. The sperm must have a very high quality. In some centers you may donate anonymously.

Participate in trials and Surveys

There are certain companies that will pay you to try some new medicines or products. You have to apply first and wait for them to call you. Be careful because some of the products could be dangerous for your health.

Get a job

Your appearance is very important if you want to get a job and to keep it. Keep your clothes clean and ironed. You may not have friends who will help you with their washing machine, so you will have to go to Laundromats. Washing your clothes may be quite expensive because you will probably not have so many of them. Try to protect the “good” ones and wear a shirt under them so they don’t get sweaty.

Homeless Job

Buy a cheap cell phone so that your employer may reach you. You may get a home address through a mailbox from a UPS store.

Have a nice haircut, smile and don’t forget about your skills. This is a certain path for getting a job.

Medical care

Health issues may occur when you’re homeless. You may present to any emergency room from the hospitals in that area. You have the right to be treated even if you are not able to pay.

For non-emergency situations you may look for clinics that offer medical care to the people with low income.

Homeless and Cold

Try to keep away from direct sun rays. Wear sunscreen because otherwise you may get burns, infections and eventually skin cancer. The radiations are very powerful and they may affect you even on cloudy days. Wear a hat that will protect your face and neck. That hat may be used as a cover for your face while sleeping during the day so that the sun rays don’t get into your eyes. It can be efficient against mosquitoes too.

Your ultimate purpose when you are homeless is to get back on your feet and eventually go back to your previously way of life. Homelessness may be seen as a good way to save money.

There are many shelters and churches which may help you find a job. Or you may talk to a labor agency that deals with part time or full time contracts.

One other way to earn more money is to start your own business by selling virtual things on the Internet.

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The most important aspect of this entire situation is your mental state. Do not despair and stay calm and lucid. This is the way you will survive and get through this tough period of your life. Make a plan and stick to it. You will eventually get to live better days.

Check out our article on living off the grid and without money – it’s a very useful resource.

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About the author

David Dawson

David Dawson is a retired security specialist with over 20 years of experience. He worked for a secret manufacturing facilities and hospitals in Illinois. David's responsibility was to protect people in case of any disaster or cataclysm that might occur. Now he keeps on doing it through teaching others about how to prepare and survive flood, earthquake or even war.


  • Homelessness is a grave threat; it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Anyone can climb out of it and own a home. I know someone who lived this way for years but with determination and planning he was able to free himself, he is healthy and active now.

    • Yes, it is, but I believe anyone can circumvent homelessness if he or she does the following: know where you stand financially; stop eating fastfood to curb spending; and cut your bigger expenses.

  • I hope there is only a small ratio of people who are ‘homeless by choice’ and that kids do not find this as an escape route. A lot of people are doing their best every day just to survive and are contributing to society even when all they want is to quit. So I hope everyone who reads this is a legit homeless person who wants to survive right now but will eventually get out of the streets or people who appreciate what they have and will strive in life.

  • Being homeless is not an easy thing, especially when you are not homeless by choice. However, we have provided you with more than enough tips and tricks to help you through.

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