Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Employment

Everyone knows you can't work when you are homeless. Homeless people couldn't hold down a job if you gave them one. You'd have to supervise them all the time. They have no skills. They're probably illiterate. They have no moral values. If they did, they wouldn't be homeless.

Nonsense. What does it take to convince you to set aside what everyone knows? Homeless people come from all parts of society. They become homeless by choice or by circumstance. They have all levels and all kinds of skills, and homelessness has nothing to do with moral values.

Being homeless does not mean you are disabled. It doesn't mean you can't hold down a job. Holding down a job may require that you camouflage your homelessness, though, depending on what kind of work you do. If you are a white collar worker or a service industry worker, you must keep your secret hidden. Here is a brief prescription for maintaining the illusion of a home.

Read and follow the advice in the section on hygiene. The foremost giveaway of homelessness is bad odor.

Have work shirts laundered and pressed at a dry cleaner. Best is to hang them on a hook in the backseat of your car, but you can also have the laundry fold them and place them in boxes. They will have extra creases if you get them boxed. Take them in just three at a time, and get them out in groups of three. This will help you to keep them crisp. The dry cleaner will become your closet. Don't let anything stay at the cleaners for more than 30 days. Keep your cleaning tickets in your glove compartment, where you can find them.

Fold slacks flat and place them where they will not get rumpled. I usually kept them in my car's backseat. You don't need as many of them. Two or three pairs of pants will take you through a work week. People don't notice how often you change your pants. They notice your shirt.

Socks and underwear can be stored in a pillowcase, and even used as a pillow. Undershirts, casual shirts, and casual pants should be folded in half lengthwise, rolled, and also stored in a pillowcase. This is the most efficient possible use of your space.

Get a cheap pager, and use it as your home phone. Tell prospective employers that a page is the best way to reach you because otherwise members of your family may fail to give you messages. When you can afford it, generally after you've found some employment, move up to a cell phone.

Get a mailbox at a UPS store or similar establishment, and use that as your home address. Don't get a post office box. PO Boxes are dead giveaways, but a commercial mailbox has a street address. The address will read 1234 Anystreet, PMB123. PMB stands for private mailbox. When you give your address substitute a pound sign (#), or Apt. Never write PMB. This will not affect delivery of mail.

Okay, now you look like the rest of the housed world. Keep clean, wear a smile, and market the skills you have. You can add finishing touches to your look by keeping a nice haircut, and getting a $6 manicure at your nearest nail salon. Yes, men, too, can and should get manicures. Clean nails and hands convey the impression of wealth.

60 Comments:

At 3:58 PM, Blogger squarepeg said...

This really is amazing material ... like a trip to an exotic world where you must leave your stereotypes at the portal. Thank you! (and thanks for your link to me!)

 
At 5:52 PM, Blogger The Lioness said...

I knew you were serious sbt this blog. But somehow this post makes it even more palpable.

 
At 9:00 PM, Blogger Frank said...

Once again, you've taught me something new. Until now, my perception of homelessness has been one of poverty and panhandling. I asked the question about money after your last entry with the assumption that I would always be able to tell by looking if a person was homeless. They all have long, unkempt hair and a week's stubble, right? Well, I guess not.

For a long time, I was eager to apply the "homeless" stereotype to anyone who lived on the streets or in a car. I'm a little ashamed of my ignorance. Thanks again, Michael.

 
At 11:33 PM, Blogger abraxas said...

I'd be interested in reading more about "fringe" employment or alternative ways to make money as mentioned in a previous comment.

 
At 1:48 AM, Blogger Adrian said...

What a fantastic blog - consider me a regular reader

 
At 8:38 AM, Blogger brucetct said...

just found ur blog has very interesting topic and find it very useful especially if you are in USA. ever have a thought of give some guide who is staying outside USA? maybe have specific places for a particular country? just my 2 cents comment.

 
At 11:05 AM, Blogger Goofy Girl said...

Homeless people also work under the table too or at jobs where they might not need to wear dress clothing. A lot of the homeless aren't homeless all the time- they get a place for a little bit and work. Somehow things fall apart or they begin abusing substances again and they go back to the street.

I volunteer with an outreach van and see this sort of thing.

 
At 2:17 PM, Blogger John Harvest said...

In Japan where homelessness is widespread a good share of the homeless are working people. Especially apparent at Tokyo-eki, the main railway station. Six in the morning in the bathroom you'll have six people lined up at the sinks, three of them in worn clothes and three in suits and your guess is just as good as mine as to which of the suits is homeless.
Moving into an apartment is simply too expensive even if you do have a job.

 
At 7:34 AM, Blogger PowerON! said...

I work at small manufacturing company, my boss don't mind that I order stuff online and have it delivery to my work, it's more safe than delivery at home. I switch my bill into paperless where I go online to make payment.

 
At 5:18 PM, Blogger Him said...

Hair and Nail Care
If you have a Technical College that teaches Cosmetology or a Cosmetology school in your area you can get hair cuts and manicures very cheap. I have received a good hair cut (including getting it washed) and a manicure for less than $10.

 
At 2:12 AM, Blogger Ryan said...

CASINOS WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH FREE FOOD, SHELTER, AND CASH.

TO ACHIEVE THIS FOLLOW THE FOLLOWING STEPS:

1)OBTAIN A FEW COMP CARDS, THESE ARE CARDS THAT ARE INSERTED INTO SLOT MACHINES THAT RATE CASINO PLAY

2)SIMPLY STICK YOUR CARDS INTO MACHINES THAT ARE BEING PLAYED BY PATRONS (MOST OF THE TIME THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW YOU ARE STICKING IT INOT THEIR MACHINE); OR STOCK YOUR CARDS IN MACHINES LIKELY TO BE PLAYED (AT THE FRONT OF THE CASINO); OR ASK PATRONS WHO ARE PLAYING IF YOU CAN STIOCK YOUR CARD IN THEIR MACHINE (MOST PEOPLE WILL NOT MIND BECUASE THEY ARENT LOSING ANYTHING).

3)ATTEMPT TO DO THIS IN HIGHER DEONMIMATION SLOTS BECUASE THEY GIVE YOU MORE POINTS (E.G. DOLLAR MACHINES INSTEAD OF .25 MACHINES)

4)SIMPLY ASK A CASINO HOST, OR GO TO THE SAME PLACE WHERE YOU GOT THE COMP CARD, OR GO TO AN ELECTRONIC KIOSK(IF AVAILABLE) AND PRINT OUT A FOOD COMP, CASH COMP, AND ASK IF YOU QUALIFY FOR A COMPLIMENTARY STAY. STAYS ARE EASY TO OBTAIN M-TH IF YOU SHOW A 1,000 LOSS OR A FEW HOURS OF PLAY. BY PUTTING MULTIPLE CARDS IN MACHINES YOU WILL RACK UP POINTS QUICKLY AND IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE LOOSING A SMALL FORTUNE AT THEIR CASINO. THEY WILL WANT TO KEEP YOU AROUND WITH FREE GOURMET MEALS, FREE STAYS, SHOWS, AND EVEN GIVE YOU CASH BACK AND COUPONS TO ENCOURAGE A RETURN TRIP.

5)ALSO KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE FLOOR AND IN COIN TRAYS YOU CAN FIND DISCRDED AND ABANDONED CASH.

6)ALSO LOOK AT THE METER MARKED "CREDITS" ON THE SLOT MACHINE. MANY PEOPLE ABANDON THESE CREDITS WHICH CAN BE CASHED OUT. EITHER THE PERSON FORGETS, IS TOO STUPID TO REALIZE THEY WON 20 CREDITS (SLOT MACHINES HAVE MANY DIFF. PAY LINES) AND SOMETIMES PEOPLE ARE DRUNK OR ON DRUGS AND JUST LEAVE BECUASE THEY ARE DISORIENTED).

THE KEY TO SUCCESS IS SHOWING PLAY BY USING MULTIPLE COMP CARDS SO HAVE MANY OF THEM PRINTED AT A TIME. IF YOU LOOSE TRACK OF THEM JUST HAVE MORE PRINTED AND TELL THE CASINO EMPLOYEE THAT YOU FORGOT THEM IN A SLOT MACHINE. IF THEY ASK WHY YOU NEED 3 OR 4 CARDS TELL THEM YOU PAY MULTIPLE MACHINES AT ONCE, THEY'LL LOVE YOU. AFTER A SOLID 8 HOUR SHIFT SEE A "SLOT HOST" AND ASK IF YOUR PLAY QUALIFIED YOU FOR A FREE STAY AND WHAT TYPE OF MEAL. TELL THEM YOU NEED FOOD FOR 3 PEOPLE AND THEY WILL GIVE YOU A 100 COMP. YOU CAN EVEN TURN AROUND AND SELL THIS FOOD COMP TO CASINO PATRONS ENTERING THE RESTRAUNT FOR HALF OFF. YOU GET 50 CASH AND THEY GET A HALF PRICE MEAL, YOU BOTH WIN.

ALSO REMEMBER TO DO THIS COMP CARD HUSTLING AT NIGHT (PREFERABLY) BECUASE THATS WHEN THE CASINO IS BUSY AND YOU WILL HAVE MORE CHANCES TO STICK YOUR CARD IN MACHINES OR ASK OTHERS IF YOU MAY PUT YOUR CARD IN. AT NIGHT TIME YOU WILL ALSO BE LESS DETECTIBLE. THEN AT 3AM YOU CAN GET YOUR FREE ROOM AND SLEEP UNTIL THE NEXT SHIFT IN COMFORT WITH FREE ROOM SERVICE, WHILE ACCUMULATING A CASH BACK REWARD.

LET ME KNOW IF YOU NEED A FOLLOW UP AND WHAT YOU THINK OF MY FIRST BLOG ON HERE EVER.

KEEP HUSTLING THE BILLION DOLLAR CASINOS - THEY CAN PROVIDE A GREAT LIFE FOR YOU WHILE MAKING THEM THINK YOU ARE A SUCKER WHO IS LOOSING ALL YOUR MONEY AT THEIR CASINO.

 
At 8:57 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

You're talking about scamming at a level that goes beyond the fringe, Stainless Steel Rat approach that I am describing. Where my effort has been to live in a low cost, low profile fashion, your casino hack is really, in a sense, a theft. The casinos are promoting slot play, and you are using the promotion without engaging in the play. It is not fair, and at some level it offends me.

Of course it is hard to feel sorry for casinos. They are designed to take from the weak.

Because it is a kind of theft, casinos are on the lookout for this kind of hustle. My feeling is that casinos are barely better than knuckle-breaking bag men for organized crime, if they are better at all, and they tend to have some very dangerous people in their employ. I will not be attempting this casino scam, and cannot recommend it to my readers, but to each their own.

Nevertheless, thank you for your contribution. In the future, consider the CAPS LOCK key an optional feature. :)

 
At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always worry about becoming homeless. Why? Well I was a volunteer for 15 years in my alturistiv youth. I got burned out and went to graduate school. I am now teaching English in South Korea. I am able to save a bit and pay into a small pension. I have little Social Security..they tell me if I worl till I am 65 it will be about $500.00 a month. I would make more off of SSI. I am 52 now and will work until they wont let me anymore. This is possible. So I get major anxiety attacks about being unempployed and living off of 500.00 a ,month (if it is there when I am older????).

How do "old people" survive when they are homeless? I t would be hard to get a job and they probably have impending health needs.

 
At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been living in my car for several weeks now and am considering renting a private, commercial mailbox. The rental agreement I read says that the street address one submits will be verified, but I have no address locally other than my POBox and don't want to involve others in this. I was going to use my old apartment's adress but of course if they verify it the whole thing will blow up in my face. Any thoughts on this? Does the submitted address actually get verified?

 
At 12:23 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

The address one uses is generally not verified. More important is your concern over getting caught. What is the consequence if it "blows up in your face"? You don't get the mailbox. That's it. In that event, you go to another commercial mailbox company and try again. Don't worry about lying, get comfortable doing it, and when caught, simply move on. Most people won't put you much on the spot even if they catch you, because it embarrasses them as well as you.

 
At 7:47 AM, Blogger Six said...

Hi. I'm in New York City. I thought that your advice about using a UPS Store mailbox over a Post Office box made a lot of sense, however, when I did a price check, the nearest UPS Store to me charges $240 for a mailbox for a year (3 months free) whereas the Post Office charges about $48.00 for a year.

If you're in this type of situation, cost is probably going to be an issue, so even though your advice about this particular situation is probably right on the money (no pun intended) it's not very practical price-wise, unfortunately.

Please don't misunderstand - I'm not a troll and I'm not trying to give you a hard time here. I actually like this blog very much. I read every post here last night and most of the comments as well. I just wanted to let you know what I found out and see what you have to say about it.

 
At 9:59 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Your point is well taken but off the mark. The real purpose for getting a mailbox is to have a "real" address. That is, you need an address that can receive mail that appears to be a place that you live. The box is more important as camouflage than it is as a delivery point, so comparisons to PO boxes are irrelevant. A POB will not perform the same camouflage function.

 
At 7:20 PM, Blogger Six said...

I didn't miss your point at all. I fully understand your theory of how the appearance of having a "real" address is an important factor when it comes to seeking employment. I thought I made that clear in my comment.

However, we are talking about someone who is homeless, therefore, how much something costs is very relevant, IMHO.

Anyway, I guess in the long run, the benefit of having a UPS Store address would far outweigh the cost. Good luck with your blog.

 
At 12:27 PM, Blogger Cndn Chick said...

For alternative avenues of employment, what about checking out the local university hiring centre? The one close to me offers short term employment possibilites, and I believe that many of them may even be cash jobs.

 
At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are using a mail service which will forward ALL mail, periodicity controllable via internet, to us here in Europe. The mail service address is a normal address, not a PO Box. You could, of course, have a mail service forward mail to a P.O. box, as one step further. They also allow you to control what is sent or not sent, via the internet, which controls post cost. Im not sure of the cost analysis of this, but for anyone recently out of a home and address, this may be of benefit to you in some functions. We have had it for one year, and it is fairly reliable and the function of trashing junk mail via the web, is powerful. The one TRUE advantage of this service is that it will receive mail from all over the world and redirect it to where ever you wish, and is changeable via the internet. remote control mail, how fun. We also have all of our banking functions online, so there are many emerging services through the internet. Yes, they cost, but most are anonymous, remote controlled and give you the ability to control things from a distance.

 
At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many homeless are depressed or otherwise mentally ill. Why is there an assumption about owning a car, when it's clear that thousands of homeless sleep literally on the street? To own a car would be a luxury to many of them.

Many homeless people are/feel isolated, need community, let alone money. Are there any tips that apply to them as well? Getting a manicure may not be in the immediate vicinity of action of the thousands of homeless who live in filthy, depressed and despairing conditions. Too bad that what is otherwise a good blog, is actually too high-end for the most in need.
This blog gives the impression that homelessness is cool and alright. But that's very subjective, and isn't at all, at all, to thousands of homeless people, including some who are single mothers.

In a way I find it tragic when people come here and say things like "Wow!, Awe!! Cool!", when homelessness is often just as bad as they thought. Talking about manicures and cell-phones may be misleading in that respect.
Of course this is a personal blog, but some people may get the impression that "wow, homelessness is actually pretty cool". Well, it's not, some people die in the streets, ill, alone and isolated. In other words, many homeless literally go through what is many people's worst nightmare in terms of losing all basic security.
No offense, just a viewpoint.

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

To understand why this post assumes you own a car, please read The Importance of the Car Cover.

Your point that many homeless people are incapable of using this guide is well taken. I am not writing to them or about them. I am writing to people who are at least minimally competent, depressed and desperate or not. I am writing about my experiences, and how I survived them. Homelessness was not always pleasant for me, but neither was it always dismal, desperate, and without joy. If that offends you, read something else. I would hate for someone else's truth to intrude on a complete and otherwise content world view. I know how unhappy people can become when exposed to the idea that a homeless person may not be desperate, miserable, cold, unstable, depressed, mentally ill, and filthy.

 
At 11:51 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I should add that I feel tremendous sympathy for the incompetent, desperate, and mentally ill homeless. I wish that I knew how to help them. Unfortunately, I don't know how to effectively help them, and it is not the task that I've taken on. I'm tackling a problem faced by thousands of reasonably healthy students and working people every year, a problem faced by the poor and the middle class, a problem for families and single people. I'm tackling one of many American social problems. Certainly the indigent, incompetent homeless suffer far more than they ought to in America, but so do competent people, and the competent ones are the ones I know how to advise.

Perhaps others can write about how to solve some of the problems of the destitute mentally ill. Maybe you can.

 
At 1:23 AM, Anonymous formerly homeless in a2 said...

I live near University of Michigan, and when the students are in school, there always seems to be some survey or something that pays cash for your participation...

 
At 7:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the point of your blog completely. It is about freedom. I have been homeless twice. I am female. I have no children. My second period of "homelessness" was caused by a desire to be low profile.

Here are some ideas:

(This is considering you are not choosing homelessness to be lazy. These tips mostly include some work.)

1.) Intentional Communities (Communes) - Give them notice you are coming to visit to experience their community. They will provide shelter, food, (somethimes clothes) and bathing. In exchange you will do some work - but mostly stuff YOU choose to do. I chose to farm (mostly), clean, bake cookies for everyone at midnight (people come out of the freakin' woodwork, take them in huge quanities, and they're usually gone by the morning...SO GOTTA MAKE MORE COOKIES!). There was a # of hrs. you were asked to work per week. You could work when you chose to...and in slow motion (ha!). The land can be beautiful and quite vast. Ask for a map of trails or find one hanging on the wall. (It's possible, you could disappear deep into the woods, create a shelter, and with the right survival know-how stay undetected for a long time. The community would think you had left if you pulled it off.) Take a walk at night during a full moon. You were given some money each month (but only had to spend it if you had something special you desired). Beware: The people might not talk to you because they see so many visitors (so what?), Don't have sex with them (lots of STDs at these places), You may not be able to use your car when you are there (it's inequality, some places say, but you have the right to move on whenever you wish!), last but not least: They may have compost toilets. Poop in the toilet; Pee outside (or into a large glass jar in your room) Empty it when no one's looking. Or when everyone's looking (who cares, Everyone pees!) No contracts! Make up a name, it's fun. All communes are different. Just follow the rules, and you can stay there for quite a while.

2.) Also includes farming. Willing workers on organic farms. (WOOFING). No need to officially sign up. Get the list of farms that need "apprentices" online. It's a long list. Contact the farm yourself by email or phone. Must provide your own transportation to these farms (car, bus). They will give you room, board, and a small wage. Beware: Find a place that has good shelter (ask specifically about your living quarters: barn, trailer, in the home?). If they take advantage of you by working you too hard (based on your opinion) just leave. If they are mean to you, leave. If they don't feed you sufficiently, Move on!) Once again, No Contracts!

3.) Medical studies. You get paid pretty well, and some provide money to cover a hotel, food, and travel expenses. Beware: you are a mouse, they may give you drugs (if you're not into chemicals in your body).

4.) Get access to 24 hour storage unit. You can stay there in your car all night. (you're moving stuff into or out of your unit, right?...you have a right to be there anytime you want to. There's usually people there, but they leave you alone. Some bands practice in larger units. But, ya might have to pee behind the dumpster or something.)

5.) Brand new home developments. Empty homes, usually unlocked if not almost done or sold, Porta-potties (when ya gotta go, ya gotta go.) You may have to wake early, but if it's raining the workers don't usually show up.

6.)Not the best option, but go to a hospital. Maybe just stay in the waiting room, use the bathroom. If you want an extended stay, say you are suicidal (this garuntees an admission), have lost all hope, vaguely describe physical symptoms. During the admission process when they ask you all those questions, just react slowly and act confused. Once you get to the floor, do some puzzles, color, read, act a fool, play with the heads of the other people there (i'm kidding), bother the nurses (usually ends up by them giving you more traquilizers), don't participate in all the scheduled stuff (except for eating) because this indicates you are not doing well and results in a longer stay. Well, maybe go to Art therapy. If you refuse their treatment (meds), they will kick you out. Important Tip: go to library, study a psychiatric disease. One book to look at is the DSM-IV. (bipolar disorder is a fairly safe one - people on the BP floor are fairly normal, not too violent, or dissociative identity disorder or multiple personality or schizoaffective disorder) and its symptoms.(know your story, but don't show in any way that you know the name of your illness in the emergency room. Don't worry, they'll figure it out for you.) Unpaid medical bills are usually written off on taxes by the hospital, if not paid. It won't effect your credit score (bonus!), if you use your real name. Beware: You're locked in. They will do a strip search, but not a cavity search. They take any stuff you bring in with you except for clothes with no drawstrings. They will watch you shave. They will take your wallet (Leave everything except cash and some clothes in the car, Leave id in car, if using a different name). They will put everything in a safe deposit box, and they will return it to you when you are discharged. I promise.

IN GENERAL:
If anyone ever bothers you anywhere, ACT INSANE! Bug out your eyes, Shake, Chew your shoulder, Say you don't know who you are, that you are disoriented, confused. Act like you're about to THROW UP (people tend to move away from you). And, yes, honk your horn. It all depends on the situation.

*Most of these are considering you have a car and some money.

Here's a book that might help written by a privacy expert, "How to be Invisable" by J.J. Luna

Sorry such a long comment....

 
At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the fellow living in South Korea and others who have a small income from Soc. Sec. etc.: You can live a great life on the coast of Mexico when you retire on $500/mo. There are safe places where you can camp out for free or rent a palapa for $15 a day including food (rice and beans) or if you can afford a little camper, you can drive around and visit Mexico. Or you can try beautiful Ecuador, where you can rent an apt. for $150 a mo. and they have good and cheap medical services. Should we start a blog about these kinds of alternatives?

 
At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Casinos
While it's admirable that this blog operates within the confines of the law, I just wanted to chime in my two cents on "scamming" Casinos, which is a little like "threatening the health" of the smoker at the table next to you. Casinos ARE the scammers, so as far as I'm concerned, there should be no moral ambiguity as to trying to "get away with" something like what that poster described. But, to each his peach. Just bear in mind, no matter how morally justifiable you figure yourself to be, that won't necessarily stop Vinnie the Goon from kicking you out and/or breaking your thumbs if he takes a mind to.

That being said, the casino in my area is open 24/7. They offer free, self-service soft drinks, and I've heard that the waitresses will bring you free mixed drinks as long as you're gambling at one of the tables (I don't know how true this is, or if so, whether there's a limit). It can be a fun way to spend an evening, sipping a free soda and sauntering nonchalantly past the slots, looking for coins (or, more commonly, cash vouchers) left in the trays of the machines.

I did this on a couple of occasions during my "caveman" phase, and snagged about three dollars' worth of loose change in the space of an hour, cashing them in at hassle-free machines (rather than having to endure the icy stare of the cashier). I also got a couple of free Cokes and I watched a few minutes of poker tournaments and table games. There's also usually a band or two playing in open areas.

It was gratifying to actually come out of the casino with more money, and not a bad way to occupy an hour or two. If your local casino has shows, maybe you could figure a way to get in there. From some of the Vegas shows I've seen on the Travel channel, they sometimes hand out free admissions when they're trying to promote a new act.

Anyway, it's just a thought. As to employment itself, might I suggest joining the ranks of illegal immigrants who work undocumented every day? Show up at your hardware outlet's parking lot at 6AM, maybe the contractor who pulls up in a pickup needing five guys will prefer the one who speaks English. I dunno.

An additional option is the orange- (and other wares) selling trade, again partially inspired by these hordes. With a cheap cooler, a 99-cent bag of ice and marked-up bottles of water, you can clean up at an outdoor event on a hot summer day (air shows, fairs, flea markets, etc). Pre-packaged snack foods, candy, whatever...people buy on impulse at these things.

You could even be one of these creeps who sells roses at bars and clubs. I doubt that those people have much of a problem cutting the owners in for a slice, and, again, it's not like they're going to want you to fill out a W-2.

Alan Bumm

 
At 6:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That homeless guy would be better manicured than I am.

 
At 2:27 PM, Blogger Elekter said...

I already tried writing and got no answer, maybe my questions seemed pointless to you, or maybe I'm just impatient... Anyway, I still want to thank you for all the helpful info I found here, a lot of it. One week remaining before it gets useful. Like you say, having no car will make things more hard, but I guess if other homeless people do it, even in winter, I can do it too. I'm still figuring out how to pack as light as possible, and unfortunately, I have to cut a lot on clothes and layers.
Also, getting employment right now isn't really in my possibilities, for many reasons not even related to homelessness, so unless you have some good advice related to that, I'll probably rely on my harmonica to pay the meals...
If you can help further more with some of my concerns, that'd be very appreciated, otherwise, thanks again !
galactia.libre@hotmail.co.uk

 
At 3:38 AM, Blogger Eiko said...

This is very useful if I ever become homeless (which I highly doubt) but it is still useful to know just in case

 
At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Mokothar said...

I REALLY want to second the notion of selling drinks/snacks out of an ice chest. This is one of the few times people will actually be happy to see you, if anybody gives you trouble, you can pack up and leave in a matter of seconds.
Even cops will likely leave you alone when greeted with a cold drink after a ride in the hot cruiser.

In Paris, I've seen people selling small umbrellas at the subway exits on rainy days, a true goldmine. Adapt to your location I guess.

 
At 7:14 PM, Blogger TFNE said...

This stuff is amazing. Excellent material!

I used to work for an R&D company in the Boston area well known for its technological innovations and the eclectic mix of people working for them.

Many of them had residences that were beyond normal commuting distance. Their solution was to get an "RV" and live in the company parking lot during the week, going back to their residence during the weekend. Others "worked late" and stayed in their office after hours.
The company had a gym with showers so hygiene was never an issue.

After I left said company, I also found this arrangement elsewhere.

In the "high-tech" career field there are plenty of "homeless" people. They call it a "nomadic lifestyle", and it is not considered abnormal, especially among consultants who travel from job to job across the country.

Just my two cents worth.

 
At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Annie said...

Check out "fulltiming" or "fulltimeres" - this is a lifestyle of living in an RV and not having a home. I became involuntarily homeless in 2002 and ended up buying an RV from a guy for $500. That introduced me to the RV 'lifestyle', and after changing to a better RV, I love it. I've been 'voluntarily homeless' in the sense of living in an RV pretty much ever since. And yeah, that included a stint working in High tech for decent money - heck, I've founded a school in India during that time.

Re anonymous and the ugly comment that nobody should write positive things here about any sort of alternative housing - they're classic examples of the mentality you run into. Many fulltimers are what are called 'highliners' - people who sold their homes as retirees and bought an RV. Usually they have a very, very nice RV. Yet these people get the same mentality. Once I was parked near a highliner, Xtians came by and knocked on the door, offering me free socks. I had a job at the time, I didn't need charity, and said so. They went next door and did the same thing to these obviously wealthy people.
fulltimers favorite conversations are about their family's insisting they sleep on the sofa instead of their own bed when they visit.

 
At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Annie said...

another couple short comments -
re checking into the mental ward -
Be very careful - if they find out you are homeless they can keep you essentially forever. Each time you come up for release they'll trot out that you were homeless/living in your car. I've helped people get outta hospital, and that's a trick they use. I'd discourage the whole mental hospital thing, there are other, better alternatives. Nonetheless, as a person with an alternate lifestyle you're at risk to get taken if you want or not, so the rest of the advice is good.

I've been in the high tech field a lot in silicon valley, and while people are pretty open to alternatives in a lot of ways, I've never seen living in an RV as part of the subculture the way the other poster describes. But yeah, calling yourself a 'nomad' and making it sound cool will acutally make it a lot more acceptable in the high tech industry.

 
At 11:05 AM, Anonymous lauren said...

has anyone posted this website yet? http://workamper.com/ it seems to be highly recommended. you can get paid to work AND get a place to stay for free!

 
At 4:28 PM, Anonymous MzM said...

Mobile Homemaker, it's me again, MzM, I posted originally on the Introduction Page. I'm the one that has been living the lifestyle for over twenty years. First time blogging, so hope I'm doing it right.

It seems you have more then one audience. Those just starting out with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and because of your blog, now have some basic supplies or money and then there are others a little further down the road, including being mobile.

So, if it's the homeless nomadic lifestyle for several months, that's one direction. If one decides, like me, that I'm not going back to the way it was, that is another.

I have the UPS mail addy and cell phone. Check Wal Mart the Trac Phones are $9.99 and the Net 10 phones $29.99 but comes with 300 minutes. No contract, cxl at any time. I'm on a plan for $15.00 month for 150 min, if need more can add at $5 for 50 min in between.

I use Net Spend Visa or MC debit card (Ace Check Cashing and other outlets like Safeway, Fred Meyer etc are reloading centers.) Set up account by buying a $3.95 card. An aside, if a family member also has a Net Spend card, you can transfer money for free between accounts, that means no Western Union fees. Many employers have gone to direct deposit and a debit card is a necessity.

If I'm in a metropolitan area, using all of Mobile Homemaker's tips on how to present yourself for a job, I hit a temp agency. I show up every morning when they open their doors, presentable, with bright smiley face. There is always someone calling in sick and I've always been dispatched.

Temp agencies gives me the opportunity to see what's out there and the employer an opportunity to see what type of worker I am. Many of the large company's do this because they don't have to worry about firing you if it is not working out - you are not their employee - but the temp agency's and they only need to say don't send them back.

The time I worked for over a year, I choose the company because I could work three 12 hour shifts on the weekend, paid for 40 hours and no management on site. Sweet!

Used the money I earned to upgrade and improve my living conditions. During the week days, I used my state park day pass to enjoy all amenities including RV dumps, showers, laundry facilities and water fills. Also, the fun stuff, bike riding, nature hikes, bird watching, swimming and just chilling.

At night, drove to small shopping mall a mile up hill and parked on the back side to sleep. In morning, went to gas station, brought coffee and newspaper and was at park entrance when opened. Ka-Ching!

I've also bartered and worked for cash and parking space, when I worked on a ranch. Even got a horse to ride.

Became a paid white water river guide on weekends and camped during the week at one of the federal parks "free" campgrounds, which are not listed but you have to inquire about with the Superintendent of the District. They are primitive- but the view - like being on a private reserve. Also, BLM land is free or small fee camping.

Have always thought outside the box and have had some incredible work experiences, when needed, that does not interfere with my nomadic lifestyle. It puts money in my pocket, but if you grow some of your food, stock up and hunker down, and stay in place for several weeks it cuts down on expenses.

 
At 10:05 PM, Blogger evilimp said...

Hi I am going to be homeless in the next few days. I don't have a car but am willing to work for a place to stay and some food. I am currently in New York City. Do you have any suggestions?

 
At 6:20 AM, Anonymous James said...

About Ryan's comments earlier, referring to the casino scam and the multiple comp cards getting him free rooms and meals? Please, PLEASE do not do this. At ANY time of day or night. Yes, IF you get away with this, all of what he said you receive comes to you. But the price of getting caught is not worth it.
Casinos look for this kind of behavior, and doing stuff like will this only get you arrested. They have many ways of catching you do what he mentioned, and they go out of their way to make their paying casino players comfortable-at the much too high expense of those that need to do this.
Plus they have private security that always feels like they can get away with more hassling and strong arm tactics that the actual police. It's because they know that they can.

Bri, you are totally right-it is called theft, in the casino's eyes, and although the casinos can afford to lose money, they will not tolerate their guests feeling like they are being cheated or stolen from...or even bothered by those that feel compelled to do this.
I tried this, so I know from experience. I was homeless last year in Arizona-a guy had left credits in a machine and actually left the casino! It was a busy night (like Ryan mentioned to do this during), and so I took the credits from the machine and went to the cashier to cash them out.
Why not, right? He didn't seem to know about his money being there, and he did leave too. The amount was $100 and change. When I tried to cash the sheet that the machine gave out, the security people immediately took me into the office and the police were called.
The entire while there, I was completly polite and cooperative. The police were nice to me-but the security would have given me the death penalty if they could have.
Luckily they (the police-the security people were very nasty to me), took pity on me and just made me leave, but I was given a court date and spent time in jail for "theft of a device". The player that left got his money back (they knew who he was fron the sky cameras) and he was even offered the chance to sue me for even more than I "supposedly stole". He didn't and I had nothing to give him anyway.

So it's not worth it, folks. You might as well walk into a bank, say your homeless and need money and then show off a gun, for the trouble it brings. Nothing is worse than being homeless more than causing yourself more trouble in the name of desperation.
Liek I said they look for this kind of thing and will make your life as bad as you can imagine. Please trust me-I know it's tough out there-I was homeless too and I always know it could happen again. I know desperation and what it makes people do. I never would have tried this, otherwise. I regret that I did.

 
At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as i read all of your ideas and options i've noticed that many of which are for stationary homelessness, but what if one were to want to travel through the country or even other countries what would your options be, i've found that owning a car is useful, but gas is expensive, hitchhiking is risky, but i've met people who have done it, i have my own theories on traveling in box cars of trains or finding a way of getting onto or in the back of a semitruck and traveling with the cargo, but my ideas on going from one country to another are sketchy, so if you know about any ways of immigration i would be glad to hear it

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I only write what I know. I have never been truly nomadic. I'm sure some of my methods, for instance on hygiene, could be adapted to traveling. Other methods not so much. Good luck. It's just not my field of expertise.

 
At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have to disagree about a PMB working as camoflage. These days it takes nothing more than a few keystrokes and an internet connection to find out if an address is a home or business.

Lots of people have PO boxes and also have homes.

 
At 9:35 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

True. But the important thing is to have an address. PMB's work fine. Never use the PMB before the unit number. You don't need to advertise.

 
At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, great great blog. I am going to become homeless this summer and it's been extremely helpful. But about using PMBs as your home address on a job application: Wouldn't the employer find out that it's a private mailbox and not an actual residence when they do a background check? From what I understand being caught lying on a job application is really not good.

 
At 10:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding getting a PMB and having to provide a real home address and it being verified by the post office: Look up in phone book someone who has same name as you, or at least same last name and use their address. That will most likely hold up for any Address Verification

 
At 9:31 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Wow, neat social hack. I like it.

 
At 4:11 PM, Blogger DoMTar said...

I find that having a pre-paid cell phone is only about $20 per month if you only use it when necessary.

 
At 11:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello,

Saw this and thought I would throw in my 2 cents...

If you need a cheap (free) and legal place to get mail, go to the nearest US Post Office. You will need a real post office (not one in a store for example) and simply find the window marked "General Delivery". In smaller PO's it may be the same counter for sending mail. You can receive mail and they will hold if for 30 days.

Nobody really uses pagers anymore. A pre-paid cell phone (Tracfone) can be had for $20 and refilled with $10 of airtime.

I knew a guy that made over $100 a day (average) while flying a sign (hungry, please help!) while at a busy intersection. I wasn't convinced, so he invited me to give it a try. I was wearing an old Army jacket and I made about $20 in an hour...

If that isn't your cup of tea (it's not mine) day labor gigs can be had at places like Labor Ready. You need to be there very early (about 5AM) and you may/may not get a job. If you do it will pay minimum wage and you will get docked for taxes, if you need a ride, etc. But you will get a check at the end of the day or you can get paid by a ATM like machine inside the office.

Donate blood plasma. If you're able to (healthy, no blood diseases)you can easily make $50 a week for going into your local center twice a week.

Fast-food jobs are easy to get and come with free food while working. One needs to be clean and able to wait a few weeks before getting that first check.

Job Corps (Federal DOL program all across the USA) offers free room & board, GED and HS classes, and vocational training to low-income folks aged 16-24. Excellent choice for homeless youth.

California Conservation Corps recruits young folks (up to 25, I think) to work in remote labor camps in California. Free room, board, computer classes, GED/HS Dip fo those that need one and a steady 40 hours a week work (CA minimum wage). You can be from outta state, so anybody can grab a bus to California and join.

If you have any prep time/money (for example, you will lose your housing in a month, job in a few weeks, etc) don't buy a car. Sell a car if you have one. Buy a work van if at all possible. Ford Econoline (no side windows) for example. The cargo area is perfect for storing some things and a sleeping bag or even a mattress makes a comfy bed. It's mobile. And you can use it for work.

 
At 10:33 PM, Anonymous walkinbob said...

as a person with a van that is modified to be a camper as well as work vehicle, I find it appealing for a homeless life if that situation visits me.

However, I will comment a cheap old work van could have expensive repairs, and the mpg is horrible.

Also have a Scion xb, 2006 model that gets +40 mpg and the front seats fold back to sleep in.

Toyota made with less repairs and great gas mileage. Not only eliminates many problems and also banishes uncertainty, it might actually be cheaper in the long run.

Thanks for this great blog, a real service to not only help people in need but to ease the concerns of folks who might find themselves in the situation of homelessness. Gives a great measure of hope.

Walking Bob in El Paso

 
At 3:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dec. 13, 2010
I am about to be homeless in just a few months due to circumstances beyond my control. I have seen it coming and have spent long hours researching in preparation of this. This is a great site for information and I thank you for taking the time to "put it out there" for all that need it. If I may, there are a couple other sites that compliment the information here. One site, previously mentioned is workamper.com. They list literally hundreds of jobs available to people in RV's, vans, etc. They are usually seasonal jobs lasting anywhere from a couple months to a year or even longer term if you choose. Another good site is vandwellers.org. They list a ton of good info on living out of your car or van, how to convert the space you have to do so, how to stay warm, stealth, and many many other things related to living in all sorts of vehicles. Keep up the site here. It really is a good one. Thanks again.

 
At 7:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I visited this site about a year ago when I thought my wife and I might become homeless. However, since that time we have pulled it out of the fire and are doing fine now.

However, being on the brink of financial ruin has lead us into a new world of downsizing, organizing, and frugality. The first thing that we did was prioritize and consolidate all our belongings so that it could fit into a 5'x10' storage locker (price $30 a month). This was no easy task since we had been accumulating junk for about 25 years. However, I discovered a great pawn shop that bought just about everything I would bring in from the smallest tool to large items like tool sheds and boats. We were able to hold on for months and months in our home just from these sales. The more expensive stuff we sold on Craigslist. Meanwhile I outfitted our SUV for survival living in case worst came to worst. Fortunately, I had put about $800 into maintenance the previous summer so it was in good shape...perfect for sleeping, tinted windows for privacy, and it gets good gas mileage. We then started living as if we were already homeless. Oatmeal with a couple of almonds/banana for breakfast, small salad for lunch, and a little protein/vege for dinner. We cut out everything else: alcohol, medications, and all luxury items. All non-essential bills were also cut off and everything else we could think of. I'm sure you have gotten the point by now.

Lastly, I am no novice to this way of living and thinking. I once traveled across the US with a buddy by selling mobiles made out of coat hangers and am also an avid backpacker. I never feel as free as living high up in the mountains. I think the other thing that would make me suitable to this sort of living is that I was an old competitive swimmer and would always stay close to some body of water. This is the key for me anyway. I can swim, bathe, and fish for free. I am a good fisherman and yearly state licenses usually only cost around $25. Therefore, in this aquatic environment I can stay healthy, happy and clean. And, then for entertainment I use a small inflatable trail boat for fishing and exploring. Crawdads are also easy to catch too and excellent eating.

Fortunately, we have not had to put these ideas into practical use yet, but, I find it almost exhilarating to prepare, prepare, prepare. These are desperate times and homelessness for millions of Americans is only one paycheck away. But, as my wife said, "Lets just make it into another one of our adventures if things take a turn for the worst."

Merry Xmas

 
At 5:29 PM, Blogger shgibby61981 said...

I don't feel that bad becoming homeless now as if it would have happened a few years ago with the way the economy keeps getting worse and worse. At least many others are experiencing the same thing aw myself. I guess some people have it worse. I new I was going to become homeless about a year ago, it just came about in a different manner than I was expecting. Luckily (maybe) I have some jail time looming over my head from unpaid traffic tickets. I guess if it gets bad in Seattle (Which it does during the rainy winters) I'll be able to turn myself in and get a break.

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I have no idea how to respond. I feel that you have somehow missed the point of the blog.

 
At 12:39 AM, Anonymous Chris said...

Sitting here this morning reading this, has well, rekindled my drive to take another hiatus shall we say. I spent a year down in San Diego homeless, bouncing between Embassy Suites and other of the waterfront hotels posing as a guest, frequenting the pools / fitness centers. As long as you can keep your appearance neat and a certain swagger about you (you know the not a worry in the world presence) there is virtually not a door in the world you cant open with confidence.

I am going to go ahead and get back out there, and just see where the world will bring me this time. I have a car now, so I am thinking that a truly nomadic experience is what is going to take place here over the next year at the least.

I have a habit of spontaneity and know that I will have a bit of explaining to do next week after I drop off the edge of my peers social world, I just cant remember when I have felt so good about myself since succeeding in well to put it bluntly - conning - my way around while still remaining largely within the limits of the law, aside from some occasional trespassing.

Thanks a lot for the read. Maybe ill have some new experiences to share with some of your readers sometime in the future.

 
At 9:29 PM, Anonymous RainWithHope said...

Since I discovered this blog I decided to live free in my car inorder to save some money and to pay for my debt which occured as result of the divorce and the bad marriage. I am a woman and this blog gave me alot of information how to survive living in my car with dignity.
I still have my part time job and I keep my work outfits clean and pressed all the time. I take my showers at the gym and still looking for better job to help me pay my future rent which I can not pay at the moment. I also got a UPS address. I usually choose places to park close to any 24 hour grocery store which until this moment after one month and half living in my car nobody brotherd me either from the people or the police.
The only obsticle I am facing it now it is very cold in Seattle now and it will become colder in november and Decemeber. I wear double thick layers. When I woke up every morning I feel my feet very cold even when I wear thick wool sockes.
The places that help me to get access to the internet are the library, QFC,safeway, Starbucks and macdonald'which I appreciate that alot.
I wish that I came to USA before 60 years ago when the men used to appreciate the good women and protect them. I am not faminiest and I still believe in old values and I still believe in love and family which my ex husband did not care about and the cheating and the children out of the wedlock is his usual practice.
I still have my faith and hope that my current tough time will become a good story to tell in the future and a good lesson to have so I can make better choices in the future.

 
At 5:58 PM, Anonymous Morpheus said...

I'm 27 and I've been homeless in San Diego now for one month and so far its been OK, which is a lot better than what most people think of homelessness. I lost my job back in Chicago, then my home, so I used my savings to buy a 2005 Astro Van for 4500. Its in fantastic condition: not a speck of rust or dirt on it so it blends into the middle class neighborhood perfectly. To increase the stealth factor, I taped black paper sheets/blinds to the already tinted windows ($5 from walmart) and allows no light to enter or leave the van. This makes it impossible for police or pesky people to see in with a flashlight. I also put up a black drape separating the bridge from the cabin so people can't see in from the front with headlights. I would recommend this form of stealth over the aforementioned car cover scheme. I think that would be a dead giveaway and much more of a hassle to get in and out. Plus you can't see out which makes it difficult to see if anyone is out walking their dog while you need to exit the vehicle in the morning. Although being stealthy is important, if you have even a decent looking vehicle you'll be OK in San Diego. There are SOOOO many people OBVIOUSLY living in RV's here that if cops aren't bothering them, you'll be fine.

I gutted the back of the van and have an air mattress elevated by a plywood frame. Under the frame I store my tools, toiletries, clothing, food etc. During the day it functions as a couch. I have a bike rack on the back for carrying my bikes (I also have a mobile bike repair/restoration business I run to keep my occupied.) I usually carry several gallons of water and canned goods for emergency but otherwise I'll go to a local grocery store and buy my food FOR THAT DAY so no fridge or cooler is necessary.

I have a membership at 24 hour fitness and do all my showering, shaving and changing clothes there not to mention I stay in great shape doing barbell/kettlebell training. Its only 30/month and WELL WELL worth it.

I still need to get a UPS address cause eventually I'm going to have to find work so thanks for the advice on that.

If you saw me you wouldn't believe that I was homeless, but such is the way in these hard economic times. I'll eventually find a permanent home but until that time I'm going to enjoy the freedom and make the best of it. Good luck Everyone.

 
At 9:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found this blog and I have to say I am happy I did. I am due to be homeless at the end of this month. I was planning on heading to Florida (I currently live in North Carolina) and finding somewhere to pitch a tent, but now that has all changed. You have a lot of very good info here and I am grateful. Thank you for taking the time to inform others. Keep up the good work.

New Nomad

 
At 6:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know where everyone lives but in the US, especially in places outside the cities its pretty easy to find abandoned vehicles. The car cover is important enough that even if it doesn't run you should use it. It just means you'll need another form of transportation

 
At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been homeless off and on for three years.

The first year, I couchsurfed at my aunt's house while I worked in an office.

The second year, I offered my services as a live in assistant at a B&B. The owner traveled frequently, and so I took care of the day-to-day (checked guests in and out, made breakfast, cleaned rooms, walked dogs) and got my own room.

Now, late in the third year, things are tougher for me. I work as a television and movie extra or as a brand ambassador and promotional work when I can. Often, as an extra, I have access to craft services and a secure place to sleep if the shoot goes overnight.

I also find myself on the art gallery opening reception, academic lecture, free business networking event circuit quite often. I meet people, sign up for newsletters with more events, and make several passes at the food between networking conversations.

I don't enjoy the instability of my situation, but I'm trying to hang in there until a solid opportunity comes through for me. I continue to dress up for interviews. I try to maintain good relations and so continue to receive access to complimentary passes and other opportunities from people in my network, but I am also very discrete about my circumstances.

People cannot seem to disguise their pity and contempt for those who are homeless. I've seen the anger and revulsion aimed at those who are less able than me to disguise their homeless status. Because of this, I'll admit to acquaintences that I'm low-income and therefore cannot attend certain events, but never that I am homeless.

In the meantime, I'm saving my three-day LA Fitness trial pass and other freebies that I've collected and saved for emergencies.

 
At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been going on interviews. I clean/patch myself up and give it my all.

The employer doesn't need to know that I rode the subway all night.

Or that I brushed my teeth and washed my face in the McDonald's across the street.

Or that I went over my scuffed shoes with black magic marker and petroleum jelly.

Or that I'm hiding the wrinkles in my shirt with a colorful scarf.

Or that I hid my large bag in an empty office on the way upstairs to his office.

Or that I have a lunch appointment at the soup kitchen once we're done talking.

All he needs to know is that I can start immediately and I'm willing to travel.

 
At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got the job! Lord Jesus, I'm working again. Jumped through all kinds of hoops and cartwheeled on demand and got the job. Still homeless until the first paycheck, but the place where I work has a locker room and shower (hand wash laundry when no one's around), so I'm able to keep up appearances in the meantime and have a small space under my desk to hideaway things I need to store.

 

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