March 29, 2014 at 2:44 pm #4946
Hi SHTF School,
I recently posted my experience with homelessness of a social media site and was asked to contribute my experience towards the forums here. I learnt a bit about urban survival during that time, so I’ll run over a brief history of me and what I learned. My original post can be found here: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/21ml9a/former_homeless_people_of_reddit_what_unwritten/cgemtwp?context=3
My situation was that I was kicked out of my home when I was seventeen by my slightly delusional mother. I won’t go into details, but the situation was pretty serious. I spent a month on the streets, in and out of a homeless shelter. I eventually got a spot in transitional housing and today I rent a nice apartment.
A few of my best tips from that first month would be:
– Use condoms to keep electronics dry. Put your things inside and take them out when you need to use them. Condoms can be blown up to larger sizes than you think and can also be used as makeshift pillows in an emergency. I suppose they could use be used to carry water, though I never had to do that. They can be obtained for free from a lot of charities in the interest of sexual health, so take lots and learn to use them. They’re also good for sex.
– Never tell anyone your identity or where you are sleeping. It’s surprising how many people want to buy your identity; it’s very valuable for accessing public services.
– If you are ever in need, don’t be afraid to use food banks and emergency shelters. That’s what they’re there for.
– DON’T DO DRUGS! It doesn’t matter how bad your situation is, there is never a good option.
– Be very wary around people who have vomited or are bleeding. There is a high risk of HIV/AIDS infection and catching it will severely restrict your access to community health care.
– Drunks are “tipsy”. Grab their legs to take them out below the waistline and run far away.
– Cops and mental health have a bit of an “agenda” against the homeless. Unless you truly need their help, best to stay away from their services.
The best option by far however, is to avoid becoming displaced in the first place. Once you are homeless, it’s a tough cycle to get out of. I highly recommend not leaving your home or shelter unless you absolutely have to and already have another bed lined up somewhere, like a transitional housing unit.
Urban shelter options include the usual; building overhangs, vent grates (really warm), bridges, that kind of thing.
If you or friends know this is coming in your life, find and begin to access services like food banks and transitional housing. It is very difficult to find them once you are in a sticky situation.
Fellow homeless are surprisingly kind. Help each other out when you can and don’t fight with each other. Everyone’s in the same situation and wants to help. Being amicable with other homeless goes a long way.March 29, 2014 at 3:54 pm #4987
Thank you for passing on these lessons; that is incredible advice without the downside of having to live it, and I can also see ways it might be applicable to other SHTF-type situations.
I did have one clarification request: in the part regarding social workers when you suggest using their preconceived notions and/or ignorance in your favor, could you elaborate? Do you mean that you should pretend to be one of those types listed (schizo, etc.), so that the worker is more likely to grant you access to much-deserved services, or do you mean that you should use your intellect to overwhelm/manipulate them to get what you need? I can see the second backfiring if you make them feel stupid and they have a chip on their shoulders, but that is just a theory; since you actually lived it, I’d like to know a little bit more about that.
Thank you!March 29, 2014 at 5:55 pm #5054
Thank you very much for sharing this experience with us Uxcf. There are lot of lessons to learn from this experience.
Can you go little bit in details about your sleeping setups, your places, what did you do to make it more comfortable, warmer and similar?
Did this experience of being homeless change your view about humans?March 29, 2014 at 6:13 pm #5079
Solid advice and tips, thanks for sharing. Agree with Selco, a little more detail would be fantastic!March 30, 2014 at 1:14 am #5247
Hey glad you came over here! Would be great to hear some of your favorite locations where you slept and what you carried along on a daily basis for example.
Alea iacta est ("The die has been cast")March 31, 2014 at 7:22 pm #5915
You mention some of the items that were “cool” to have, but what else was really useful to have always with you? Is there any items that you find “new” use in terms of finding something useful that you did not think about prior your experience?March 31, 2014 at 9:57 pm #5951
Thank you so much for sharing!
I’m glad to hear you’re in a better situation now.
I’d love to hear more about your time on the streets (basically what Jay and Selco asked.)
HannahOctober 18, 2014 at 7:22 am #27330
After I lost my job, then the apartment, and my family completely disowned me and wouldn’t believe I had thousands of resumes out, I ended up on the street as well.
My first night was in early spring just after the snow melted, all i had was long underwear and my healy hanson, shivered all night. Id sold all my possessions previously to pay rent as long as possible, so I didnt have much aside from cloths, and the work boots.
The first night I slept on the cold ground outside the city, couldnt have a fire… the next three days I was in a dark place mentally. Managed to grab a few wood boards to get me off the ground. It was hard to not just want to shut down or throw a rope over a tree. Actually the police chopper that flew 100ft over head every day motivated me I suppose. No doubt had me on flir, people doing what i was doing must have been common enough to be worth patrolling the perimeter of the city. Hard to believe its illegal to exist unless you pay a land lord…
My pride finally broke down and I went to the gov building seeking social assistance, only to find out that if i had done so during that period of time i was selling my furniture to pay rent, they could have helped me… but now without a mailing address i was told politely to **** off. Actually it really wasnt polite at all… the second social worker i talked to was suggesting a padded room… Didn’t go back after that.
Fought like hell to get off the street afterwords, had to put up with a lot of bullshit from people who let me use there couch over the next month, and by some stroke of miracle I landed a part time job, just enough to rent a room with 8 china men and feed myself, transportation was still 2 feet and a heart beat. More expensive every year for transit, that year it was take the bus or eat… pick one…
Managed to get myself into a better position at a different kitchen with my 100% clear criminal record at a casino, then the owners sold the building and i got fired/replaced, probably by some ******* on a six month visa…
Thats about the time i started building my kit… had managed to save some money up by eating kraft dinner and other bachalor food, for six months ( take fiber pills…) and built up a basic food supply.
Been prepping ever since i googled, “why cant i find a job”.
More than a few experiences i care not to remember. It wasn’t that survival was hard, it was the label and social isolation. People think you want to be on the street, cause that is there fucked up view of homelessness. That its a choice… *big middle finger*
I lost many of my pre conceived beliefs about right and wrong during that experience. It left me very bitter.
I am still un employed, tho I have two options available for work, neither is satisfactory, just enough to get by if I where to move back to a main city… or, if i want to suck up sulphir in prince george and get brain lesions…
It might get better now that our canadian government has been exposed letting in immigrants who will work for less than minimum in lue of canadians like me. But i doubt it.
Wracked my brain for a long year on what my options where. Talked with my father, the only family member I have managed to salvage, and now we are gold prospecting. We found the first tid bit of gold he has ever found in his life this year, next year I hope to find a deposit large enough to pull off my next goals.
I will never work for anyone else ever again… never had a good boss.
one thing that makes me smile tho, after that first boss fired me a week before xmass i just happened to be walking by his house one summer afternoon months later while he and his wife where packing the rv. ****** couldnt stop shaking, he knew exactly what he did to me, he and his group spent months trying to get rid of me, finally gave up and cut me a check… fuckin drug addicts…
Never be afraid to do the righteous thing, nothing righteous is ever easy.October 18, 2014 at 8:49 am #27332
When I was a kid and homeless finding a spot to sleep was the hardest. I was small so the base of low pine trees were good. They had pine needles to keep fromt he getting wet, the pine tree itself was ever green and sheltered from the wind some and snow. If I could find a pine tree near a fence or something, like in a park, was best. A bed of pine needles isn’t bad.
The other option was to sleep over a grate that expelled hot air but you never knew what chemicals you were inhaling. The advantage was a roof that kept most of the rain out and heat in frigid northern winters.
I slept in abandoned buildings with other homeless kids. Huddled up like hamsters and called each other family so long as we were together.
I slept in apartment stairwells, store frontages of closed stores, shed of houses that were vacation homes, in a tree house once. I even slept under bridges and in old cars that were in junk yards. Staying out of the rain ain’t hard, it’s staying warm that is. Body heat is best which is why you see so many kids “hooked up” and dating.
I even went to the public library to take short sponge baths in the bathrooms, drink water, relieve myself, and take naps in the “study” corners. I looked like a student so I could grab a nap or two and look like it was just hard to study. I carried around a book bag with pencil and paper. The book bag was all I owned and it was waterproof. No electronics, I was too poor for that. If anyone asked I was a highschool or college student researching some boring paper on genetics or something.
As far as identity, create a new one. Every time I moved from one town to another using the bus system, I had a different name and sometimes gender. I actually have lost track of all my aliases. Moving every month or two was necessary to keep cops, social workers, and other “do gooders” away from you. Everyone thinks they help…but they don’t. I would panhandle enough for a bus pass to a town or two away and just leave in the middle of the night. That way I got to sleep in a warm and somewhat safe environment.
Being seen as male had advantages, “no rapey people” and being female had advantages “people want to save you.” In an urban environment I presented a male image and in a suburban or rural environment I always dressed female. I am female by the way. Being small and small breasted was an advantage as most took me for a prepubescent boy when I dressed, spoke, and answered to a male name.
You have to be creative and adapt to your environment. There is so much man…if you have questions I would be happy to answer. BTW own my own home and went to college…so you can make it off the street.
When was the last time you went without electricity, running water, food, and had babies screaming for food...now you know why I prep. These are the things a mother's nightmares are made of.October 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm #27336
Thanks uxcf, KOS, and Aukxsona for sharing your stories. I have never walked in your shoes and can only hope that I’d have the inner strength that you have were it to be me. When I was a kid a few times what in those days was called a hobo came to the door looking for a meal. My mother would tell him to go around to the back door and wait while she prepared a plate for him. He’d sit on the back stoop and eat it, and then would be on his way. This was a blue collar neighborhood. Not sure where they came from or where they went. We didn’t have much ourselves but I learned a valuable lesson from my mother’s example.
Aukxsona, how did you make it off the street? KOS, I hope you do find that gold deposit. There seems to be somewhat of a theme that the “do gooders” and social services folks aren’t really helping. What would have been helpful in your situations?October 18, 2014 at 8:43 pm #27359
It’s a long story, but my mother essentially sold me. I had a child and was living with a boyfriend at 16. We had our own place. He had a good job. However money wasn’t good. My mother used the state social services to scare the hell out of me. She broke my boyfriend and I up after I had spent years on the street trying to get a place and finally had a place. She told me I had to come home or she would take my baby and threatened to put my then 21 year old boyfriend in jail. (Remember she kicked me out and this was the most stability I had in years)
I go home and suddenly there is this ex-boyfriend telling me I have to marry him. I didn’t want to…found out he paid my mom 2500 to get me to marry him. Lots of arguing and a few calls to CPS later from my mom because I wouldn’t marry him, I caved and married the guy. CPS closed their investigation and everything was considered fine, it’s just my mother told me she was going to keep calling until she got my kid or I married him. She didn’t want to have to pay him back the money. I didn’t want her to have my kid because …well she was obviously abusive. I considered adoption too btw but then CPS brought my mother in and was going to give HER my child if she went up for adoption. I had a couple chosen and everything so I ended up keeping her to keep her safe from the abuse I endured.
Anyway, long story short the marriage to the ex-boyfriend happened when I was 17 under duress. I married and even told the city clerk I was marrying because I had to. No one cared. They signed the papers and I was led to the alter. The marriage was a business agreement at best. It was legalized rape and slavery at worst, even still I started to feel for my enslaver. I guess that’s what happens when you are with someone long enough. He used to make a point to say in front of any guests we had how he “owned” me. He was abusive, violent, a drunk, and a coke head. He had a closet homosexual relationship. He made me cook and clean for him from 8 am until 2 am. If it wasn’t right, I got hit. If I didn’t cook what he wanted, I got hit. He tried to throw me down a flight of stairs with my daughter in my arms. It was the worst two years of my life. I would have went back tot he street, but I feared my mother calling CPS and taking my daughter. He was a dog none the less and when my mother died 2 years later I divorced him.
Because I was a child and forced to marry him…and threatened to expose it ALL he paid me off in the settlement. I had enough physical evidence, letters he wrote to my mother that were given to me after her death, to prove I was enslaved. I had pictures my friends took of my black eyes. I had witnesses that could testify he said he owned me and threatened me with violence for the slightest infraction. I had professionals I was friends with, that were trying to help me outside of the system, which could testify to his behaviour. It was all a gamble when I threatened him, but I did have enough evidence to put him away for a long time. All I wanted was enough money to make sure my kid never ended up homeless like I did. He gave me the majority of the proceeds from selling our house and I moved back to my ex boyfriend that I had when I was 16. By this time my origional boyfriend I was torn away from was 25 and I was 19-20. He helped me to win the divorce and secure the pay off that my ex-husband offered to avoid jail time. Together we decided to use it to buy a house and land.
After getting into a home, I owned by myself, I wanted to go to school. My then boyfriend supported me and watched the now 3 children I had from my ex. (Did I mention that it was legalized rape. Who in their right mind wants two kids in two years) I went to college on scholarship, because I scored so high on the GED. I got an associates in art. Later I went to another college, a top tier, but the pressures of motherhood and supporting my family with my then new husband were too much so I dropped out. Our vehicle was crap and our income was not enough to fix it and pay the bills. The school was 37 miles from our home so it was just too much at that time with gas and fixing it. I had a 3.5 at the time…GPA that is.
If CPS would have allowed my daughter to go up for adoption to my chosen parents ALL of this could have been avoided. Instead they told my mother “because she had a right to know” and then used her to try and stop the adoption.
If CPS had decent homes for teens I would have stayed in foster care, but I had been in foster care previously for 2 years 11-12 and it was hellish. Somewhere between being someone’s pet on the good end and being someone’s indentured servant on the other scale was how foster care felt. Occasionally it felt like an animal shelter in group homes. Also I never went to school in foster care. I figured I could at least educate myself in the library.
If CPS was not capable of taking children without a court order, I would have been able to tell the CPS workers that were investigating what was going on. Then I could have gone before a judge and asked for help. Due to the ability to take kids on the slightest whim, I didn’t dare ask for help when my mother used my daughter as a threat. They are known for taking children form parents in the women’s shelter. In fact, I went to the women’s center at 18 and they advised me, unless you are going to die, do not go to the shelter because you will lose your children. There was an intense scrutiny on mother’s there with the blame for their situation on the mother most of the time.
As it was CPS threatened me for taking the medication my doctor prescribed for me. They accused me of using my asthma inhaler to get high because I used it at a higher rate than most asthmatics. Luckily I had an excellent pulmonologist that told them to shove it. Often CPS makes diagnoses of people with NO medical background and even in the face of evidence from medical professionals to the contrary, they will not back down until you pay for a lawyer.
When was the last time you went without electricity, running water, food, and had babies screaming for food...now you know why I prep. These are the things a mother's nightmares are made of.October 18, 2014 at 11:02 pm #27368
Wow Aukxsona. You are a survivor who emerged into a good place using your wits, brains, and perseverance. Good for you. I have too often heard horror stories about CPS running amok with their power, perhaps because they are wielding it over people who are more or less powerless.October 19, 2014 at 6:37 am #27384
I used to run a low-barrier homeless shelter. While I’ve never been homeless, I know a great deal about what my guys did to survive. I’m not going to go over anything already listed, but here’s a couple additional things.
Concealment is key. If people see you trying to sleep in public you’re going to have trouble. Parking ramp stairwells were really popular, particularly the very bottom where you could go around behind the stairs and be well hidden in that little nook. Those who had cars would park in casino parking ramps and sleep. They were always open and never charged for parking. Also, behind shopping centers and big box stores you could find makeshift camps.
In this area these stores often butt up against large wooded areas and provide a lot of dumpsters for scavenging outdated food and other items such as cardboard, pallets, plastic sheeting, etc. The camps were known about by the guys as word passed on the street, but largely unknown to anyone else, even the employees at the store. If you’re trying to find a camp, look for garbage. Lots of empty bottles of mouthwash are a dead giveaway, as are lots of whole animal skeletons.
Always keep something between you and the ground for warmth. Just one layer of cardboard will make a big difference.
Grab every pair of socks someone offers you. They can warm your feet, your hands, put one inside another to filter water, be rolled up and stuffed in your shirt or jacket for warmth and cushion, be used to carry things, and become a makeshift weapon with a rock inside it.
Food. In the camps, the guys would take whatever had been hit by the side of the road. Deer, dog, etc. I even found a goose skeleton at one of the camps. Don’t know exactly how they got that one. One thing I noticed though is that while most of the longer term homeless guys had a knife of some kind, no one had one good enough to actually butcher an animal. That’s why when we looked for camps we looked for whole skeletons. The guys wouldn’t waste time cleaning and butchering it. They just cut the meat from the bones and cooked it, whereas animals would have ripped the bones apart.
Never enter a camp at night if you haven’t been there before and aren’t known to the residents. If you want to join a camp, go in the daylight, make a lot of noise when walking up, and bring something to share to make friends right away.
Items most wanted for trading were tobacco, soap and razors. Not just any soap, but Irish Spring soap. That stuff was like gold on the street. Pure luxury. Go figure.
Surviving the system… Well, the system is f’ed up. I’ve worked in non-profit for 15 years, in several different areas. Most areas work together with other agencies. Homeless services is the ONLY one I ever encountered in which agencies directly compete with each other instead of working together to fix the damn problem.
I can tell you that in the US, the federal government is devoting more funds to preventing homelessness than solving it. That means if you’re struggling to pay your rent and keep the lights on, you’re more likely to receive help than if you’re already homeless. Don’t wait until you’re being evicted to seek help.
Those of us who have worked in this more than 6 months can tell when your story is fake. If you give a fake story, you’ll get a half-hearted attempt at connecting you with services that really won’t do you any good anyway. When you’re honest about your situation and sincere, we’ll fight for you, even though half the time the help we’d like to give you probably isn’t available due to budget cuts and ignorant suits who’ve never been within 10 feet of a homeless person making the rules.
If you need a homeless shelter, try to find a low-barrier shelter. These are usually staffed by people who have personal experiences with homelessness, addiction, mental illness, prison, etc. Also, they’re more likely to treat you like an adult and get you meaningful help.
auribus teneo lupumOctober 19, 2014 at 8:20 am #27388
Still waters I was never good at concealing myself which is why I had to leave so often and why so many adults would stop and ask me questions after midnight.
As a child though 13-16 no one ever thought I was homeless. When I ran around with other kids, they thought we were a “gang” hoodlums or some nonsense. Truth was most of us were just homeless.
I went avoided the homeless camps…most of the older men were there…not a lot of kids. They could be dangerous. You would hear about people fighting or breaking some rule that I had never heard of. Each camp has it’s own rules and trying to fit into one can be hard. I was really tiny and scared of adults, 4’11 and 90 pounds tiny. Terrified of adults actually.
What is a low barrier shelter anyway. The only shelter I knew about was the one that alcoholics went to in order to get sober and the women’s shelter. There were no children’s shelter…there was just foster care.
When was the last time you went without electricity, running water, food, and had babies screaming for food...now you know why I prep. These are the things a mother's nightmares are made of.October 19, 2014 at 4:29 pm #27404
Aukxsona and KOS, thank you very much for sharing your experience here.
Nothing can learn you few things like being without home, cold and hungry. It simply changes your perspective about lot of things.
I lost many of my pre conceived beliefs about right and wrong during that experience. It left me very bitter.
Yea KOS, I know exactly what are you talking about, it really leaves some bitterness. But on the other hand it makes real survivor from you.
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