Friday, August 21, 2020

100 Tips for the Soon to Be Homeless

With many eviction moratoriums ending next week, it's anyone's guess how things will shake out.  Without significant government intervention, however, I foresee a lot of people becoming homeless in the near future.  Hopefully things don't end up that dire but as preppers, it is always a 'plan for the worst, hope for the best' thing.  If you could find yourself in this situation, here are 100 tips for the soon-to-be homeless...

  1. Know what the eviction process is for your county (Google the name of your county and eviction process for info on your specific area).  Even with the moratorium ending, in the vast majority of cases your landlord can't just tell you to get out, there is a process for evicting someone; make them follow this process.
  2. Get legal help if possible.  Again, Google your county and eviction prevention assistance.  Many tenant organizations are gearing up for the possible mass eviction crisis and are putting together programs for people who are in the process of eviction.
  3. Consider alternatives to eviction.  An eviction on your record can make it difficult if not impossible to rent another place so things like "cash for keys" might be an option.
  4. If you have exhausted all options for staying in your home, try securing temporary housing with friends or family.  And for the love of all that's holy be an exceptionally good guest.  Many people open their homes to homeless relatives only to find them messy, they won't help around the house, they come and go at all hours, they eat all of their host's food, and they make no effort to move on to their own housing.  Don't do those things.
  5. Consider alternative housing options to keep a roof over your head.  Being a caretaker, a WWOOFer, or these ideas are all ways to exchange work for housing.
  6. Try to find programs in your community that can help you secure temporary housing.  Simply call 211 or Google homeless resources for your community and reach out for assistance.
  7. Sign up for any assistance you qualify for which may include but is not limited to Medicaid, TANF, SNAP, WIC, unemployment, PUA, etc.  Again, calling 211 or going online can give you contact information for these programs.
  8. Sign your kids up for any services or programs that they qualify for.  Register them for school (even with online school, districts are providing lots of social service help for families), homeless kid's daycare programs, HeadStart, etc.
  9. See if there are assistance programs that fit your demographic: homeless veteran, homeless college student, homeless child, homeless parent with children, battered woman, etc.  There are many programs that specifically work with vulnerable populations to find them housing.
  10. Get a mailing address before you move out of your home.  Private mailbox services will give you a steady, secure address to receive correspondence at and many of these places will receive packages and even forward your mail if you move out of the area.
  11. Get cell/internet service before you move out.  If Mint works in your area, pre-paying for an annual plan will give you a steady number and internet access for an entire year.
  12. For free or cheap cell phones and service, check out the various government programs that provide this.
  13. To go even cheaper for a cell phone/messaging plan, consider setting up a Skype account.
  14. Even if you don't have cell service, carrying a cell phone that doesn't have service will still allow you to call 911 in an emergency.  You can also use this phone with free wifi service to access email, social media, and entertainment services.
  15. Ensure that you have all of your important documents in your possession or in a secure location.  These include a valid driver's license or state ID card, passport, Social Security card, etc (see list here).  Be sure to scan and back up these document to the cloud or a thumb drive so you always have access to them.
  16. If any of your important documents will be expiring, try to get them renewed before you move out.  This includes your driver's license, passport, credit cards, etc.
  17. Also set up banking service if you don't have an account.  You can use any of these services, a local credit union, PayPal, Venmo, etc.  This is a good way to receive Social Security/welfare/unemployment benefits as well as a way for friends or family to send you money if needed.
  18. Set up any bills you have so that you can pay them online (car payment, storage locker payment, cell service payment, etc).
  19. If you aren't in arrears, be sure to get back any deposits you are entitled to (housing security deposit, utilities deposit, etc).
  20. Consider what to do with all of your stuff as far in advance of moving out as possible.  Selling it (garage sale, FB Marketplace, etc), giving it away, etc.  Some people will put their stuff in a storage unit but this can be a big monthly expense and if you can't make the payment you may lose your stuff.  For the most freedom and least expense, consider keeping only your most important stuff.
  21. If you will be living in your car, watch every one of this guy's YouTube videos and commit the information to memory.  His channel is by far the most informative I've seen for living in a car/van/camper/etc.
  22. Hoard as much cash as you can before you leave.  Cash is king and you will need money to make the transition from home to homeless.
  23. Get needed gear together whether you will be living in your vehicle or in a tent.  Cold weather gear, camping gear, a bag or backpack for your stuff, etc.  Many of these items can be found for cheap or free at thrift stores or by asking friends or relatives for the things you need.
  24. If you have a vehicle, do what you can to make it ready for living in.  Set up a sleeping area, get an oil change, get tires if needed, get the windows tinted, etc.
  25. Also if you will be living in your vehicle, stay on the right side of the law by having a valid license, required insurance, no illegal after-market parts, etc.
  26. Know where you can legally camp for free.  This includes public land and many other places.  Be aware that camping in urban and suburban areas may be illegal so know the local laws.
  27. Prep for sleeping.  Do you need a tent?  Sleeping bag?  Sleeping pad?  An area set up in your van?
  28. Prep for eating.  Do you have basic dishes, pans, and utensils?  A way to cook like a backpacker or camp stove and fuel?  A way to store food and/or keep food cool?
  29. Prepare to stay hydrated.  Always carry a water bottle with you and fill it up in public places.  Keep larger bottles of water in your vehicle.
  30. Prepare to always have food.  Know where the local food pantries and meal programs are and always carry food/snacks with you even if you buy this stuff at the dollar store.
  31. Prepare for hygiene.  Do you have personal hygiene supplies?  A place to take showers?  Supplies for a sponge bath like Wet Wipes and a towel?
  32. Prepare to stay connected.  Do you have a cell phone with internet?  A tablet or laptop?  Do you know where you can access free internet?
  33. Prepare for your power needs.  A battery bank is a good idea and can be charged just about anywhere.  If you have a vehicle you might consider a basic solar power system to provide needed electricity.
  34. Prepare for your bathroom needs.  This includes using public bathrooms (there's even apps for that) as well having a bucket system in your car to use in the event of an emergency.
  35. Get a library card and make use of your library system.  Libraries often serve the homeless with everything from entertainment (free books and movies), computer and internet access, a place to stay warm or cool, etc.
  36. Do what you can to get any sort of income coming in.  This can be working a regular job, making money online, or one-time gigs.
  37. If you will be living in one community and don't have a vehicle, consider getting a monthly local bus pass.  This is good for transit as well as a place to go to get warm or cool off.  Many transit services have free or discounted passes for those in need.
  38. Find a "tribe" to live with.  This could be other people/families living in their vehicles, joining vehicle caravans, or banding together with other homeless living on the streets.  There's safety in numbers.
  39. Avoid the legal system if at all possible.  Whether it's a ticket for loitering or using a deadly weapon to protect yourself, plan ahead to avoid situations that could have a bad outcome and land you in legal trouble.
  40. Don't commit crimes.  Buying/selling drugs, shop lifting, B & E, theft or these cases it isn't if but when you will be the local jail.
  41. Prepare to blend in to your environment.  You don't want to be a flashy homeless person in a sea of homeless people, you also don't want to look (and smell) like a homeless person if you are going to a job interview.  Aim for being as nondescript as possible and make sure your vehicle/backpack/gear is the same.
  42. Consider volunteering.  If you have all the time in the world, volunteering may snag you a free meal, free services, or maybe even a free place to stay when people see that you are responsible, helpful, and a hard worker.
  43. Avoid some types of homeless people (the mentally ill, the violent, drug addicts, users) and make friends with other types of homeless people (travelers, vagabonds, the homeless by choice, etc).  All homeless can teach you good survival skills but there is something to say for avoiding people who will cause you problems.
  44. Consider where you want to be homeless.  There's something to be said for moving with the weather, living near friends or relatives even if you can not live with them may or may not be a good idea, and personally I would avoid cities that are overwhelmed with the homeless already (I'm looking at you LA, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle).
  45. Be ultra safety conscious in where you choose to sleep.  Obviously living in a vehicle is safer than sleeping on the streets, living alone in the woods is safer than being in an urban "skid row" area, and staying in a homeless shelter may (or may not?) be safer than sleeping in an alley.
  46. Consider weapons.  This will vary greatly depending on where you are.  In some places it is perfectly legal to carry a firearm concealed without a permit in other places this is a quick trip to jail, mace is generally acceptable in most places, and carrying a knife can be legal or illegal depending on where you are and what kind of knife you carry.
  47. Avoiding violence is your best bet.  Needless to say, there is a lot of violence on the streets, even more so for the homeless demographic.  Avoiding violence is always the best option and hand-to-hand combat should be your last option.
  48. Consider security,  Maybe a money belt to protect your cash and important documents, a locker to store your gear in, and tying your bag to yourself when you sleep.  
  49. Avoid anything that makes you vulnerable on the streets.  Alcohol, drugs, even legal marijuana will lower your guard and make you a vulnerable target for robbery, theft, and violence.
  50. Consider getting a dog.  This is a personal choice, of course, but dogs can be both a companion as well as a source of protection (or at least an early warning signal) when sleeping on the streets.
  51. Be ready to leave your camp spot at a moment's notice.  Whether you are sleeping in a tent or in your vehicle, always have your stuff ready to pick up and go in the event of an emergency.
  52. Pay attention to your health.  Staying healthy is of the utmost importance on the streets.  As is avoiding heat stroke and hypothermia.  Be sure to address medical/dental problems early rather than later, carry your own basic first aid supplies, and hit up a free clinic if necessary.
  53. Most communities have homeless services, ranging from shelters to meal programs to transitional housing/work programs.  YMMV  Some people absolutely refuse to sleep in shelters (often with good reason) while other people don't want anything to do with the government so refuse to apply for any type of service.
  54. Have a good pair of shoes and a few changes of socks.  You may end up walking a lot and there is a world of difference between cheap, ill-fitting shoes and a good pair of walking shoes.  You can buy these on sale and sometimes even find a good pair at a thrift store.  Dry socks are also important for keeping your feet in good condition.
  55. Dress in layers.  This is the best way to stay cool/keep warm.
  56. Prepare for rain.  In a car, this means having good windshield wipers and a full tank of windshield wiper fluid.  On foot, this mean having all of your gear in plastic bags to keep your gear dry and using rain gear/an umbrella/a poncho to keep yourself dry.
  57. Study up on backpacking and camping skills (example here) as these skills are often transferable to living homeless.
  58. Study up on being homeless.  With the internet, there is an endless amount of material on this topic (example here).
  59. Do something while you are homeless.  This guy was homeless and decided to write a book about the topic, this guy is homeless and has a very successful YouTube channel on the topic, and this formerly homeless lady used her experience to become a homeless advocate.
  60. Homelessness may be all in the attitude, case in point, people who are homeless by choice include this guy, this guy, and this guy.
  61. Speaking of attitude, having a positive, upbeat attitude, as well as good social skills, will make you a person other people want to be around and want to help.
  62. Always be on the lookout for things you can use: food you can forage, change on the ground, possible sleeping places, a good fishing spot, plastic bags, etc.
  63. Also carry useful items with you: a silcock key, fishing line and hooks, basic tools in your car, etc.
  64. Up your situational awareness skills.  Learn how to read your environment, how to read people, and learn how to think on your feet.
  65. Look at options that may help you avoid homelessness like joining the military, joining job corps, getting student loans and going to college, etc.
  66. Use social media to your advantage.  You can use social media for everything from keeping in contact with people, to sharing your story (sometimes with surprising outcomes), to building community, etc.
  67. Be on the lookout (via social media, online local newspapers, etc) for pop up programs that can help you: free vaccination clinics, the annual homeless count where they hand out clothing and supplies to the homeless, free community events, cooling/warming shelter locations, etc.
  68. Use your free time (and free wifi) to learn new job skills (examples here and here).
  69. Consider starting your own business while you are homeless.  This can range from busking if you have a talent and a good location to any of these ideas.
  70. Get answers to your questions about being homeless from people you meet who have been living homeless for a while as well as from forums on the topic (examples here and here).
  71. Hit up the dollar store for all kinds of cheap but useful homeless supplies: tarp, paracord, food, flashlight, batteries, matches, sewing kit, first aid supplies, etc.
  72. Carry some cardboard and a big marker for sign making (hungry need money, need a job, need a ride to X, etc).
  73. Be sure to tell people what you need.  Ask for gift cards, ask for socks, if your backpack is almost trashed, ask those who want to help for a new backpack.  Many people want to help the homeless but don't really know what they can use. Be specific and reap the rewards.
  74. Be careful about loaning money or things to other people (you will probably never see it returned) and also try not to owe people favors.
  75. Don't do drama.  Don't talk about others, gossip about others, snitch on others (depending on the situation of course), tell other people what to do, etc.  Keep to yourself as much as possible.
  76. Consider getting a gym membership.  If you can afford it, this is a popular option, especially for traveling homeless as they can exercise, maybe go for a swim, and take a shower at gyms around the country (like 24 Hour Fitness, etc).  YMMV during a pandemic of course.
  77. YMMV with churches as well.  Some churches are really helpful, some host food pantries or meal programs, and some have full-fledged homeless outreach programs.  OTOH, beware of cults and cult-like activities at some churches, you may need to check your religious opinions at the door, and not all church program workers are as saintly as they appear.
  78. Always have plenty of plastic bags on hand.  From ziplocs to huge trash bags, these are useful for keeping your stuff dry, organizing your stuff, and to use as trash bags or for collecting foraged produce.
  79. Basic self-care activities should include taking a daily multi vitamin and brushing and flossing your teeth.  You want to ensure your basic health and these are simple activities to do so.
  80. If you eat at a fast food place, be sure to save packets of condiments for future meals.  Salt, pepper, mayo, ketchup, Tabasco...all will help make your rough-cooked meals more palatable.
  81. Speaking of food, once again backpacking food tips work equally well for the homeless who don't have the luxury of a refrigerator or food storage options.
  82. Seek out assistance for problems that are keeping you homeless like mental health problems or addiction issues.
  83. Make a plan to get out of homelessness.  This could include learning job skills, getting a job, getting into alternative housing, etc.  Lots of people have done this, there is always hope.
  84. Consider moving to a state that offers more homeless resources.  Some states offer better homeless resources than others.
  85. Live as minimally as possible.  Unfortunately it isn't if your stuff (backpack, even your vehicle!) will get stolen, but when.  Not everyone has their stuff stolen but it is a pretty common occurrence in the homeless community so the less you have, the less you have to lose.
  86. Use clever ways to hide your valuables while you are homeless (examples here and here).
  87. Join local homeless advocacy groups.  These groups work to remove obstacles to getting people into housing, abolish laws that punish the homeless, and work to increase homeless services.  If you are front and center in these organizations, you are more likely to benefit from their programs.
  88. Beware dangerous activities when you are homeless.  Train hopping is risky, as is hitchhiking.  Squating can be dangerous as is going off alone with strangers.
  89. And while I pointed out the danger of squatting and train hopping, know that there are a lot of people (AKA 'misfit travelers' AKA homeless folks) who do just that either by choice or circumstance.
  90. Logically look at your homeless options.  Some people rave about being homeless in Hawaii, the reality if often much different.  Would living in a "lawless" city of homeless be ideal?  Is living in the tunnels under Las Vegas really a good idea?
  91. Be aware that violence is very common in the homeless community.  Being attacked by a mentally ill person, stabbed by someone out of their mind on drugs, being tricked into prostitution, and random violence just because a homeless person looks like an easy target are all too common.  Be aware of this and take precautions to avoid these situations.
  92. Did you know that if you have been homeless and traveling, there are programs that can provide you a free bus ticket home?  Examples here and here.
  93. For people who have a little money (on Social Security, have a tiny pension) but can not afford a home in the US, living overseas in a very cheap country might be an option. 
  94. You've heard of leave no trace camping?  Homeless people who leave no trace (set up camp after dark, be packed up and leaving at daybreak, not leaving trash behind, etc) will be more welcome in a community than those who throw up a tent on the sidewalk and use people's front lawns as their bathroom.
  95. The same is true for people living in their car.  Switching locations each night, blacking out your windows so it doesn't look like people are living in a car, not leaving a mess around your car, and even disguising your car as a work vehicle will make your unorthodox living arrangements more stealth and less likely to draw the ire of the locals.
  96. A couple more car tips: avoid parking tickets and moving violations.  Also don't leave stuff like drugs or stolen goods in your vehicle which could make your vehicle subject to civil forfeiture.
  97. Check your local state parks for cheap camping options.  In New Mexico, for example, a local senior can camp for an entire year in their state parks for a grand total of $100!
  98. Some other options for homeless travelers, getting a free place to stay through CouchSurfing, Servas, or Warm Showers.
  99. Another option for traveling and settling in the cheapest places possible is becoming a digital nomad.  There are a bajillion YouTube videos on this topic as well.
  100. More info on homelessness here.
Finally a disclaimer:  First, with the covid situation, these tips may or may not work.  Libraries are a great option for the homeless, on the other hand libraries across the country were shut down for months on end due to the pandemic.  Also, while I have been homeless for a couple years by choice, I've never been homeless due to circumstance (meaning I had plenty of money and options while traveling around the world and was never desperately broke and living on the streets...there is a world of difference between those two types of homelessness). 


  1. I don't recall how I came across your blog, but I love a list and you've got lists and within the lists are some good links.
    BTW, what's a fed-type as described at the top of the page?