Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Controlling Desperation

There is nothing so bad that it will not pass. If there is one thing the world teaches it is that all things change. If you cannot think of what to do, if you believe that all hope has gone, if you are tired of trying, then pause. Breathe deeply. Do you have any money at all? If you do, spend it on a good meal, even if you are spending every dime. Get a good meal, and sit in a warm place eating it, with friendly people serving it. Eat and enjoy, and think about good things. Think about your favorite color, your best friend when you were in grade school, how flannel feels when you rub it between your fingers. Think about those gold coin chocolates that always made you feel rich even though the chocolate was waxy and tasted like tin. When you were a kid, you had a knack for feeling rich when you had next to nothing.

There is nothing so painful as desperation. Nothing so counterproductive. Now that you are feeling good again, nothing has changed, except you. You are different. Now you can think. Where will you sleep tonight? What will you do tomorrow? Don't focus on what you can't do or haven't got. You have a lot of resources, if only you will recognize them. Try to identify your most pressing problems individually, and find a straight line to a solution. You need a warm place out of the rain? How about a hotel lobby, or a hospital waiting room, or a laundromat, or a bus station, or a fast food restaurant? You need to clean up? That's easy. You need some food? You can fill your belly on less than a dollar's worth of rice. I'm not going to teach you any techniques in this section. That isn't my point. My point is that to begin surviving, you need to change your head. Abandon anger, desperation, depression, melancholy. Embrace confidence, strength, abilities, resources. Be positive, by all means.

Years ago, before I decided to be homeless and make it work, I was staying with relatives and my welcome had suddenly worn out. I was so angry my head started to pound. The anger was a mask for my desperation. I had, perhaps, $300, barely enough to stay in a seedy motel for a week. I've got to find a real room, I thought, but $300 won't move me in. I went down to the liquor store, steaming, bought a newspaper, and started scanning the classified ads. There was nothing, nothing, nothing, and my mood became darker, almost violent, though with no outlet, no target. This was, after all, my problem, my fault.

At just this rather difficult moment a man in his fifties approached me, hand out, and rage flooded over me. The man saw it, and withdrew his hand, stung. He began to turn. I called out, "Wait." I pulled out my money, peeled off a twenty, and handed it to him, and he, maybe even more frightened now, thanked me and left. For me a spell was broken, and I began to laugh quietly at myself, at my rage, at the terrible seriousness I was approaching life with.

The worst thing about my situation was my attitude, and I paid twenty dollars to change it. It was a bargain at twice the price.

50 Comments:

At 2:25 PM, Blogger squarepeg said...

Great stuff! This is a fascinating way to focus attention on the bounty we take for granted every day. I will be reading more. Best of success with your project!

 
At 5:50 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Welcome, Squarepeg, and thank you for your kind comment!

 
At 2:57 AM, Blogger Dave said...

I like your blog a lot. It's good to see someone who actually has something to say about life which opens peoples minds up to new ways of seeing the world.
Keep it up.

 
At 8:19 AM, Blogger Elwin said...

Very interesting blog. Have you considered putting a pay-pal link for people who would like to donate to your publishing efforts?

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger Tammy said...

Excellent blog. Thank you for this.

 
At 2:19 PM, Blogger Frank said...

I work in San Francisco and encounter countless homless people daily. I mainly try to avoid them as much as possible. You've broadened my horizons, Michael--thanks.

One practical question - how did you earn money while homeless? I'm curious because you mentioned that you cannot beg for money. Were you able to maintain a job?

 
At 2:39 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Well, if you have a cell phone and a mailbox, and you are well groomed, then homelessness is not a barrier to employment. This is a guide to living well, to being homeless invisibly.

For the visible homeless there are also many kinds of employment that have lower standards of hygiene. Many homeless people clean fish on fishing boats, or put flyers on windshields, or engage in recycling, or in any of a number of other fringe employment activities.

 
At 6:23 PM, Blogger Rose said...

I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog even though I have read just one comment! I'm glad you have a news feed and I want to add your blog to my own blog's list of links.

Until then I will continue to read your blog. It is great!

 
At 1:12 AM, Blogger anonymous blogger said...

This site is very interesting and informative. Also neat reading about one's experience. I'm sure people who read it find it helpful and fascinating.

 
At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Caeli said...

This site has brought a sort of life-changing introspection in me. I am in high school, and have been contemplating living a counter-culture lifestyle. I now see that according to what I believe in, I need to experience this sort of lifestyle. I have so many questions. Will you continue writing this blog? Did your friends know your were homeless at the time, and what did they think? How did you get food, did you cook in your car, or eat fresh food right out of the supermarket, or did you go to restaurants? Please continue with this blog. It is an inspriation to everyone.

 
At 8:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow this is truly what technology should be used for The Awarness of homelessness should be increased otherwise everything will collapse on itself A nations only as strong as its base

 
At 8:10 AM, Blogger jkthorn3 said...

As a homeless Vet I have to sometimes just stop and sit down take a breath and calm down. Just review what I am doing that is not working then, then rearrange and try it again.

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read the entirety of this, but I think your attitude is a pretty good one. I was homeless from 2000-2004, my methods differed, I refused to use a car (for personal reasons) but I would use public transportation. There is a lot to be said about this and a lot to be understood if you want to do it. It's freeing, but it does require work and thought, but both of those things are free...

A good way to get a shave is to buy a cheap travel sized can of barbasol, or if you have more than a backpack to store things in a larger can, and buy a cup of tea at a local coffee shop. Have them leave the bag to the side. You have tea for later too...I read you little ditty on using a lubricant...I didn't like the sound of it personally, but whatever works.

 
At 3:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I applaud the efforts and intent of this blog. I have been but am currently not homeless, so I speak from experience. I became very cynical of law enforcement and most of society in general when I was homeless because of the judgmental attitudes of most people towards the down and out. I have many more stories and experiences I would like share on your blog in time. Though, I have tried to forget the bad and remember but a few kind, generous and helpful (some anonymous) people that helped me overcome these difficult periods in my life, I just wanted to share my appreciation and commiserations for your project and hope to add and provide some useful information later.

 
At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if the author of this blog still visits it can he please some advice for surviving and keeping warm im really struggling i live in the uk and its seriously cold and wet, i have no money and havent eaten in 2 days.any advice would be great

 
At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i work 2 jobs to keep a roof over my head barely.i am so sick of the everyday worries and bills. this is no way for me to live life.if you can call it living at all. you have inspired me to atleast give this a serious thought. thank you

 
At 9:10 PM, Blogger Red said...

That is amazing. Still though, what do you do when you have no money( it was all spent on controlling desperation)

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger Enrico said...

This guide is great stuff. Please keep it up. It's great enjoyment to read your ideas. Though I'm in Italy I understand what is that makes life worth eberywhere. Thanks. Ciao

 
At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was homeless for three months in Washington, DC. I slept near the national mall and washed up near the Capitol. I worked for 15 years straight before last year. I don't think most folks understand how easy it is to end up homeless. Thanks for this blog.
intertextualreiki@gmail.com

 
At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am living a nightmare...I lost my home last august...lived on my
savings..now on very little ssi.I have spent the last six weeks calling shelter after shelter...get this, because I am not an addict or alcoholic..dont get beaten...and im on ssi and cant work..there is no shelter that will take me...what a shame that I have to stay on the street...until I am a victim...so maybe Walking out into traffic will cause me enough injury.to finally get some help.!!!!

 
At 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was pretty sure most homeless dont have access to wifi hotspots.

 
At 9:02 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

You were pretty wrong. They're called wifi hotspots because if you have a device near them, you can use them.

 
At 8:10 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Wow,I am gratefull for you ability to write and gratefull to you for sharing with so many of us who realllly depend on true inspiration to draw from.THANK YOU.
Homeless in Colorado

 
At 12:54 PM, Anonymous mark said...

Again, wow, I enjoyed A Grand chapter in my own life yesterday evening by reading Mobil Homemakers web site in full.Sir, your attatchment to your beliefs and your endevars to assist those who truely are in need of enlightenment, hope, etc. on and on I could go.Thank You For Your Time,and your honest replys to all of us.
The Grand Chapter I mentoined earlier began in 1972, hitch-hiking
to Tuscon and living on 4th st..Then to Tri Citys Wa..to Casper Wyo.. Denver....I am old now, last year was the worst ever.Its cold in colo. As it is any where for us in winter season. I am A medical marijuana paitent due to handycaps and am so gratefull to my state for allowing me this privilage and do not take atvantage of it. Using this medicen with conciencious application allows me to function with out the aid of pain killers and or alcahol which can be a great down fall for any homeless person.
I keep this part of myself to myself on the streets.There so many undetectable vultures with sad stories,promises of fast food,or," yea,i'll share my camp with you if you share your stuff with me????Your stuffs gone, and your standin in the rain sayin'yup,yup,dumb ole me....
more later Homeless in Colorado

 
At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I am posting this comment a little late, but I really like your blog! It is written very professionally and portrays the world in a new way! Great Work!

 
At 7:07 AM, Blogger chris said...

Just found your blog, can't wait to dig in. I just took a full time job working with the homeless population in our town. A dream come true.
Thanks!

 
At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Nate said...

Wow, this is really helpful stuff. Even though people are always telling me how stupid it is, and how miserable and awful it will be, I honestly plan on being homeless. I'm 15 now and I plan on being homeless when I'm 20 or so... My biggest motivation to be homeless is the free time thing you mentioned in the 'Advantages to being homeless'. I could really get used to that I think. I've looked up a lot on being homeless and your blog has definitely been the most informative. Thanks!

 
At 8:17 PM, Blogger Ms K said...

Wonderful info....even for traveling cheap when you are a female.
I traveled in a van cross country...just to prove that I could do it. Thought I would stay in a motel sometimes, then decided I wouldn't. Lots of times I just pulled up next to RVs that I could see had older couples in them. No problems the whole trip.

 
At 8:09 PM, Blogger Kitty said...

This blog (and the comments, and your replies to the comments) are such a comfort to me, and I'm certain, to many other people. I posted a comment a couple months ago. Every couple weeks or so I check back to see what new ideas and experiences other people have shared (and for your replies, if applicable). Thank you again so much, for keeping this blog alive. It is truly a big help to many people. Kitty (in California)

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Kitty, I'm sure you give me too much credit.

 
At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

My advice to all the homeless out there is to apply for all the food stamps you can and don't be ashamed to use them. I have had them for about 2 years.

 
At 2:00 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Paul, your advice is reasonable, but I am sure you will agree it is entirely insufficient. If food stamps was all it takes to make homelessness sustainable, it wouldn't be much of a puzzle.

 
At 11:45 PM, Blogger jacob nuesca said...

i go to UCSB and i interact with a lot of the homeless there. i have learned a lot from them.

i just want to say that you have a gift with writing and i feel the love in your words. i feel that you are doing a great thing with this blog.

much thanks and appreciation. i hope all is well in your life!

 
At 3:47 AM, Blogger byzantym said...

I lost my job about three months ago and did it in the worst possible way: I got fired--with cause. Yeah, I screwed up and the punishment may be worse than committing a felony without the nice, warm, jail:

Fired,
48 years old,
High School Diploma.

Three strikes to the bottom of the application stack.

Now, I wasn't all dumb while I worked and lived below my means and had quite a nest egg when I got canned. I used about half of it to pay off my car loan and been living off the other half. My car is still good (2007 Ford Focus) and I could sell it for enough to last maybe another year, room mate willing. But then what? I've pretty-much applied everywhere here and looks like I'd have to relocate anyways.

I'm down to $2,000 and a car (like how you start the game of Life). I'm at the point where I'm deciding whether or not to sell-out and just hunker down 'till it's all gone, or take that two grand and "hit the road" while I have a decent wad to start over somewhere else--preferrably warm (I won't survive a Pennsylvania winter on the street).

So, is two grand and good wheels good enough to make it perhaps cross-country and how long do you think I'd last on that if I were "smart" about where to park and clean-up and eat?

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Two grand and a four year old car is much more than I ever had when I found myself out and about. I think you could easily make yourself sustainable. You'll need to establish a new income stream whereever you go, but you have a nice cushion. Get a car cover and choose your target geography.

 
At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm 19 years old, I've been homeless once, I managed for about 3 months. It was brutal. I showered once or twice a week. I washed my clothes in a bucket. I've exhausted my work opportunities in this town, just when I got back on my feet - I lost my job, now, I'm preparing to pack up and move on to a bigger city - in hopes to find a job and a place to stay.

I have social anxiety, being homeless makes it 10x worse, I remember when I was homeless, I had anger issues. I guess I was trying to protect myself, but, at the same time - getting looked at was humiliating.

 
At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was homeless for 3 months at 18 years old. I just lost my job, I'm 19, and I'm going to be homeless again.

I'm moving to the city, in hopes and out of desperation to find another job. What I dislike about the city, is the people and the socioeconomic background. It will be quite obvious that I'm homeless after a while, and I HATE the looks I get from people.

 
At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just moved to Florida from Philadelphia to be closer to my son. I left a 4 bedroom home to now live in a rented room and have been deppressed beyond belief but after reading just the intro to your blog i now realize how blessed i am to have a bed and roof over my head. Thank you

 
At 9:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say, your point about desperation and depression just put my head in a better place. Thank you for that and the other helpful tip's and replies it has generated.

 
At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm hardly homeless but have been on and off since divorce.I have a bldg I'm paying on with two apts and what's left of a bar.I need all new wiring and can't afford it.at least noone has bothered me here.I freeze when I leave my three blankets.but the lack of light or heat isn't the end.just want to say as a fundy Christian.Iiim thankful for your honest and well written blog.thank you

 
At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One source of income could be plasma donation. You must have an address and phone number, gov id, recent mail Send yourself a postcard). Need to set up appointment times, they do a medical checkup, no drugs, or blood disease, try to look clean. My city in MO pays $40 1st 2 times, then $45. Can give up to 2 times a week. MUST east a good protein meal & drink 8 oz of water before giving. Look up plasma donation in your city at the library online, write down info, then call them. Try to use OATS bus if you don't have a car.

 
At 4:36 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I hate the idea of plasma donation. You need your strength.

 
At 2:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like there might be a future after all.

Thank you all.

19 yo, UK.

 
At 9:50 PM, Blogger barry said...

Controlling desperation when faced with homelessness is of primary importance. After all, even though I have been homeless countless times-and getting ready to do it again (I've managed to put it off much longer than normal), I still kinda "fear" being homeless. (Of course, it just may be that 13 year-old bench warrant for a probation violation on a property crime in CA that I just can't seem to shake).
Being physically prepared goes a long way towards controlling desperation. I would rent the self-storage. Then a gym membership for showers and relaxing. Gotta be clean for that job! And of course a cell-phone. In an urban environment, acquiring a self-storage, proper mailing address, shower/gym membership, and a reliable means of communication such as a cell phone for employment, I would argue, is necessary to survival.

 
At 1:00 AM, Blogger Xtine said...

Hi there! A friend directed me to your blog and I am hooked. In this ultra-capitalist culture of the USA, homelessness is the stick that they threaten everybody with to force them to work long hours for little pay, sap and drain their energy and use up their time until their are older. Homelessness is surely not the worst thing that could happen to anybody, but it shouldn't every happen to anyone in a country this well off. I ran from an abusive home as a teenager and lived outside or with friends for a couple of months, only we were "punk rock" so we could "get away with it", it was "expected", etc. if I had to do it now, it would be more traumatic. It is so hard to save money even though I make an average income, I have been thinking of tipping the scales by purchasing an acre or two for a low price and then putting an RV on that land and living in it for a couple of years till my bank account builds up good and solid. Trying to get the courage. Wondering if I have to pay taxes on an RV. Thank you for your inspiring, wonderful blog! I see you as more of a philllosopher like Thoreau and I'm sorry you had to go through such loneliness and pain about your decision to be homeless. Glad you are feeling better now.

 
At 3:35 PM, Blogger Teddy Geddings said...

I just want to say becoming homeless is scary stuff when it's new to you. It's downright terrifying sometimes, so much unknown. But in what's considered the lowest depths of our social hierarchy, you will find people similar to you and humanity that you won't find in the scared motherfuckers fighting the rat race and their television programming. Be very aware of what city you're in and what resources are available. Your most valuable resource on the street is friends, in my opinion. Strength in love and unity. I hope you get to have a moment looking up at the stars like I do sleeping at tennis courts, with friends snoring nearby. Don't be afraid. Just be smart and aware. You are not alone!

 
At 12:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog is amazing. I so relate to all of this. Thank you! -rose

 
At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right and I needed to hear that. Controlling desperation is my biggest hurdle. I never thought I'd be in this position at 54. You'll never know how much that wisdom means to me. I will do my best to remember your sound advice. Truth is, I'm really scared.
Thank you for sharing. I hope 2014 is your best year ever.
Be well,
J.

 
At 3:11 AM, Anonymous Newly Houseless said...

Thank you for this post. I read the post earlier this week about taking showers and I went and got the gym memmembership. I started to feel depressed after having what I thought was a good day. I made some money and my best friend loaned me some money. A relative put some gas in my car so that was great. He also bought me some food.

I work online mostly and I drive for Uber but the gas cost too much. I missed a writing deadline and I started feeling depressed and my relative said I couldn't stay at his place because his girl said no. None of my other relatives know. I'm contemplating a nomadic lifestyle as I can work as long as I have access to the Internet. I have some loose ends but I think I can have those tied up if I can work steady online for a month but every bill is calling my name right now.

I have 2 kids and I desire more than anything to make sure they're okay because they don't live with me.

So I'm new at this...mostly confident due to my spiritual beliefs but sometimes my humanness kicks in. I don't have a routine yet but this blog helps. I'm more venting than anything else. I needed an outlet. :-)

My bank account is screwed so I'm having to make a choice between getting a prepaid debit card for direct deposit or washing my clothes. Having to make these types of choices wasn't even on my radar last week.

Things are great while I'm following my intuition.

Ok, I'm off to see what this day has to offer me. Headed to the gym!!!!

 
At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Luke said...

In a world where daily I find myself with nothing but more and more questions about how and where my life will go, your writings have inspired me to subscribe to confidence instead of melancholy. In America it's so much easier to fall into the latter when all those competing around you yearn for it. You've inspired me, sir, my life suddenly feels less filled with anxiety knowing that I'm not alone in questioning my path

 

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