Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Staying Warm

Staying warm is one of the single most important problems facing a human being. If it were not for the need to stay warm, I believe few people would fear homelessness. There are only a limited number of strategies available to keep the cold at bay.

You can dress warmly. Wear lots of layers. Wear thermal underwear during winter. Wear more than one pair of socks at a time. If you are in a place that gets down to 30 or 40 degrees fahrenheit, wear earmuffs and wear warm gloves. The thermals are available in department stores. Try Target or Walmart first, Sears, JC Penney, and others after, to get them at the lowest available prices. Gloves and fleece earmuffs will be there too. For other layers at a discount price, try wearing multiple undershirts or check with Goodwill and Salvation Army for cheap, warm clothing. If even that is out of budget, an old hobo trick is to stuff your clothes with crumpled newspaper. It does help.

I always had three blankets in my car during winter, and one was always a Mexican, loosely woven blanket. The loose weave leaves air spaces that make for good insulation. The other two can be any inexpensive cotton, fleece, or poly blend you like. I avoid wool, because although it is an exceptional insulator, itchiness is simply unacceptable. You may disagree, particularly in freezing climates.

An astronaut's mylar blanket is always handy, too. They only cost a couple of dollars and can usually be found in army surplus stores and sporting goods stores in the camping section. Wrapped around you, they retain 95% of your body heat by reflecting it back at you. You can save less heat, but be more comfortable, if you simply place the mylar between a couple of other blankets. One of the problems with mylar is it can get slick with condensation from your body's sweat, and that is unpleasant and can cause a chill. If they're thin blankets, I recommend you fold the mylar sandwich all together, to make it easier to get ready for bed the following evening. The slickest way is to fold the blankets in half once and roll it like a sleeping bag.

Stores supplying camping gear will also have hand warmers. These chemical pouches run a couple of dollars a piece, but it is handy to have a few for particularly cold moments. You can optimize their value by using them under a mylar blanket.

Another great source of heat is a hot water bottle (usually available in drugstores). Buy a propane stove, again available in camping supplies for under thirty dollars. You are going to want one to cook with anyway. Propane bottles are about two dollars each and last quite a while. Boil some water and fill the water bottle before you find your final parking spot for the evening, so that neighborhood busybodies are not tipped off to your presence. Wrap the bottle in a towel to avoid leaks, or at least place a towel under it. Leaks will happen without warning. Boiling water is hotter than the rubber bottle is designed to take, but for the bottle to work most of the night, it has to be boiling. The leak will happen as it cools, and it will be slow. I never got burned by a leak, but caution is in order while filling the bottle. Scalding is a hazard. I usually went through two bottles per winter.

When all else fails, you can make sure the exhaust pipe of your car is not under the car cover, and run the engine and heater for a while. It is a giveaway that you are there, of course, but there are few people about on a cold night. I took the chance quite a lot some winters.

That is about the whole list, unless you want to get a steel barrel and start a fire in it. Best to do that on the outskirts of town.

85 Comments:

At 12:51 AM, Blogger James said...

this is the best blog I have come across, and i am a regular reader, i can appreicate the freedoms that homlessness can provide, but i also can see the apparent hardships of the lifestlye. I respect anyone for going outside the norm to find their own happiness and that is all that matters. Please continue the wonderful work here and the best of luck until we meet again!

 
At 12:51 AM, Blogger James said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:06 AM, Blogger The Lioness said...

My God. You ARE a public service indeed. (And you're welcome but that's the beauty of blogs, I only met S. and N. abt a month ago. You'll see how fast and deep it goes!)

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger deadinside said...

Is it wrong that all your blogs seem to be luring me to a life of homelessness? I read these things and I think: You could have a nice life with no bills! It is so enticing. I have lots of bills, but I make enough to cover them AND save for retirement, but it means I have to work 50-70 hours a week, half a day on weekends. And I am worried all the time about whether I will work again after my last job, and I owe on my mortgage and my mother's mortgage. I lost half my savings in the market plunge, and it took me twenty years to save that much. So, I HAD to work again. I was still working, and I like my work, but the option of not working was no longer a choice for me. The worry about bills and debts is constant and chronic, and keeps me up at night, and makes me depressed during the day. I have a nice car, a nice house, a great job, and still, I have all the same feelings you do. This is a terrible way to live. And isn’t it strange that it doesn’t matter whether you’re homeless or not? Having things and a job does not make life easier AT ALL. I once even had a gorgeous 2 story home near the ocean that was designed and built all for me. It was “Zen Modern”. The whole idea was to have nature indoors and out, and have a sense of peace. It was wonderful and impressive, everyone used to say, “You should get this into Architectural Digest.” After a year of living there, I decided to sell it. The number of people it took to keep the place up was ridiculous. The constant work it needed was mind-boggling. I realized I was responsible for a small workforce that I needed to direct almost every day as to what needed to be done to keep the Zen Palace MAINTAINED. It was too much. So I sold it. Everyone else was so disappointed. They loved the house. And, yes, it was lovely, but the whole ZEN thing was a horrible lie. It was the most labor intensive house I had ever owned. This is the thing people don’t realize: How things look from the outside is never what you think. People thought living in my zen home would be peaceful and fulfilling. I thought being homeless would be the most horrible thing that could ever happen to me. And it is that VERY FEAR that has driven my entire life and career. I never thought, “I need to be rich so I don’t have to live in a modest ranch home in Oregon. “ I thought, “I need to be rich so I won’t ever be homeless.” And reading your posts has been like someone throwing ice water on my face. WAKE UP! You are frittering your LIFE away on FEAR!

 
At 6:35 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Cheryl,

That's about the best compliment I've ever received. It is my hope to free my readers from debilitating fear, not necessarily to encourage homelessness, but to strip the threat of homelessness of its power to make our present lives a working nightmare.

 
At 7:10 PM, Blogger day_star said...

for a long time now i have been looking for a smart way to live a life that is free from the chains of society. in other words a life without limitations. i figured foregoing conventional shelter was a start. i imagine my ideal life as waking up with the sun, doing meditation in the park, and taking the day as it comes. these days, my life is broken into the days i work and the days i do not work. so after reading such sound advice it all seems very possible. i want to pick your brain... what about safety? as a woman, i think my safety is more at risk. especially if there was someone trying to steal my car or worse even. so do you have any tips or suggestions? and you said something about having student loans. what did you do about paying those off? student loans are the only other bills i have besides my car ins. and i can't imagine making those payments on a very modest income.

anyone who has ever been homeless has a sort of romantic-kerouac-esque way of describing how they live. i never saw the homeless as lazy or degenerate. people do what they must to survive, and others do what they must to be free. your advice will be such an asset to me if/when i take on this lifestyle. thanks so much for your insight.

 
At 1:10 PM, Blogger Glen Earthling said...

If your going to be boiling water for a hot water bottle anyway may I suggest that you think about purchasing[1] some reusable hot gel handwarmers and a large insulating/thermos style flask ( big enough to hold a pair of hot gels )

If you keep the gelpacks next to you body for sometime before making up the water bottle, then drop them in the insulating flask and cover with hot water and seal. I've found 1 litre of boling water just enough to charge a single pad in this fashion so maybe a 2 litre flask would be better.

[1] You may be able to convine a local camping shop to lend/give you some trial ones on the basis that you would review them here ;)

 
At 1:20 AM, Anonymous Idiac said...

Hot water bottles only cost a few dollars, and are of great use, but some times even having a few dollars spare is something rare. Here's a cheap alternative. Got a platic screw top soft drink / juice bottle? Fill it with hot (not bioling) water, chuck it into a sock and use that. They normally keep water tight. The sock helps kep the ehat in and stops you from being burnt.

Also, if you have a car get a hold of a syphon pipe (aly lenth of tbe will do but they sell purpose made ones cheaply). After you park, syphon some hot water from the radiator into your hot water bottle. No wasting money running te engine for a while just to run the heater. Even if you do need to rn the engine a bit to heat the radiator remember that the radiator water will heat up faster than the car's heater will. Often it is the radiator water that ets the car heater anyway.

A great little heat source are tose little hand warmers you can buy on camping stores and Ebay. Also, Coleman make a great gas bottle powered catalytic heater. You need to ensure you have some ventillation, and make sure nothing touches the surface of it, but they are ideal for tents, vans and cars.

 
At 1:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to long ago, me and my g/f had been just walking the streets at night simply because, we had nowhere to go. I had been kicked out of her house and i had gone to see her but my house was far away. During this time we had to endure cold weather and rain and snow. We used to do things like find a half full newspaper bin and just hang out there for the night. Its a big blow to your dignity but when you cant feel your toes, you dont care. We used to just jump in and dig under the paper and snuggle together to keep warm and i guess me having a black leather trench coat helped too :). I would have to say if you can find a affordable trench coat that fits, by all meens by it. Theyre big so when you cant find a good blanket you can use it. And its also keeps most of your body dry. We also would go to half built housing developments and just hang out of the rain inside of a half built house. It is illegal i assume but its a dry place to stay. We never got caught but we did have a couple close calls. Some days we would just sit inside of our local food shop and just sit in a booth for hours staying warm and just talking. Another place we used to go was a big patch of woods. It had already made paths and a bunch of burnable trash where we would regularly make fires and just sit and watch the fire, smoke cigarettes and just stay warm. But our last ditch effort for warmness that wasnt very warm but was a good place to get out of the wind and rain was the park tunnel slide. It seems dumb and childish but it worked. Parks was our most common resting place for the night. But out of the bunch i would have to choose the bin over all. It was wind proof, unlimated paper for insilation, and was quite confortable. But i warn you, these things are used for reasons and people may show up to accually dump paper. On one occasion this accually happened. We were just laying there smoking cigarettes and somone showed up to dump paper. Luckily they used the big square holes in the side and had no idea we were in there. I am very intrigued by your blog and i think it would be kind of a good experience to live the homeless life for awile. I know alot of people try to avoid it but im lazy, have no money, and am under the wing of my parents right now. I just think it would be something i would like to try in the future. By- Sandlercd_22@hotmail.com

 
At 6:27 AM, Blogger Canoeguy said...

Wow. Stumbled on this site through "www.i-am-bored.com" and have been reading for an hour now...lots of useful info, homeless or not.
As a wilderness traveller, the hot water bottle is the single most useful trick to staying warm, besides maybe a good hat. Definatly put soda or Nalgene type bottles in a sock or other wrap. Once, I didn't and have a burn scar to prove it (still can't believe I didn't wake up!). Often, restaurants will give you more hot water for tea. Buy an order of tea, get free refills of hot water for your bottle. The Nalgene 1L bottles are great! And have multiple uses, a definate advantage with limited resources. I have put 2 packages of ramen noodles in one, added boiling water, tossed it in my sleeping bag to warm my feet while I wrote letters. A bit later, hot soup! Regarding butter, fat and cheese--it's true--eat a bit before going off to sleep and your caloric access is on a "time release"--totally works.A final word: when leading wilderness trips, I always tell my participants that it is easier to stay warm than to get warm. True here as well. Thanks for a great site--I'll be back!

 
At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some soda bottles come in metal nowadays, with a screw on top. They're usually bought anywhere for less than $2.00 in a grocery store and Wal-Mart.

Those may work better than plastic containers.

 
At 4:03 AM, Anonymous PlumFairy1 said...

I've been reading this all night, it's full of very good information, and is doing a wonderful job at changing misconceptions.

I do have a couple of thoughts which may help someone out.

A ~ I agree about wool being itchy, but it's darned warm. We have a home, but are off the grid, and sometimes have generator issues. Though even when we don't, one small space heater is the most we run in the whole house. And in the winter it can be in the teens and 20's fairly often, even though this is California. (Northern.) So what I do, is sandwich wool blankets between softer ones. I usually use 3 at a time in the colder months, also.

2 ~ As for getting them, they aren't easy to get these days, and money is definitely an issue. and the surplus stores here don't have military wool blankets anymore.

So, I went to eBay. If you have access to a computer, and have a place to have something sent, then you can probably order from eBay.

Search, on their site, 'wool blankets'. They are easiest to find, and cheapest, in the summer, but are usually available. I got several this summer because we really need some for this coming winter.

One seller had never-used U.S. military blankets for $4 apiece, and another had a few surplus ones which were Swiss Army. I got 2 of those for $6 apiece, and they turn out to be really big!

One doesn't have to get the military blankets, but they were cheaper than the "designer" ones, and they are well made.

I hope this helps someone to keep warm. I've been cold, and it's no fun at all. Nor is it healthy.

Thanks for the great site.

 
At 1:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, great resource... Has anyone thought about using a cigarette lighter adapter with an electric blanket? You would use some juice from the battery, but probably not that much.

 
At 7:13 AM, Anonymous Sarah said...

This is one of the best articles I have came across. I am trying to do a report on how the homeless can stay warm. I found this useful in my project!

 
At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Jim Burri said...

Well im not homeless but i know something about staying in cold cars and vans, I was a security guard and some remote posts required that i stay in my car when not on patrol,
Here is what i did,Get a large Metal coffee can with the plastic seal lid
and get a roll of toilet paper,take out the card board center tube,place toilet paper inside coffee can ,get some rubbing Alcohol and soak the toilet paper with it,Then you can light it and it will heat a car at very low temperature,Its recommended for Travel in blizzard situations,crack a window for air, These are considered a safe way to stay warm in a car or a van ,if in a van hang a blanket to separate the front as this loses a great amount of heat.also you can use this as a stove by placing coat hanger wires or similar heavy wire across the top to set cans or small pans.When through using it use foil to smother it and when cool place plastic lid on it to save the alcohol till next time.
Jim B.

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

The news had a report on staying warm if stranded in your car that said burning a candle will raise the temperature 10 degrees.

 
At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tuck a couple of foil wrapped(ONE layer of so engine heat not insulated away from potato)potatos on the top of the hot engine block. Wrap in a sock or two and they will stay hotter longer than water bottles. If you will be driving for a bit right before you turn in.

 
At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

be very careful about carbon monoxide. Nearly all sources of flame relative heat sources produce this and you cannot smell it while it is killing you. If you experience a feeling of disorientation and a feeling of not enough air as you breathe you are likely already suffering the first effects of CM exposure. CM penetrates your cells 300 times faster than oxygen! VERY DEADLY...please be careful.

 
At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there, I have discovered a handy little tip to stay warm - if squatting; glad-wrap the windows of sleeping area, i do it right over the glass and I try and leave a bit of a gap so the room stays insulated against the condensation on the glass in the morning.

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

I'm sure wool is warm but
what about a twin-size down alternative blanket? They're machine washable and warm for their weight. Or an unzipped sleeping bag that's designed for cold weather. I know they costs more than your typical wool or polyester blanket but they might be significantly warmer.

 
At 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question...
I heard that you should always keep a candle in your car during the winter in cold climates. By just cracking the window a little bit, the candle can create enough warmth to keep you alive in extreme temperatures. I have always lived in a warm climate (FL) would a jar candle be a good choice? I know they sell them at Dollar Tree.

 
At 9:05 AM, Anonymous danny said...

this is a very encouraging blog. i am entering this lifestyle at the end of my apartment lease. i actually look forward to starting this new and very different lifestyle.

 
At 1:24 PM, Anonymous carfrog said...

I am concerned over the comment posted by Idiac suggesting the use of a siphon to remove hot water from the radiator after parking. Readers should be advised that hot radiators are generally under tremendous pressure and can release scolding steam and water if they are opened before cooling enough to depressurize. Then again, I'm sure the burn unit of the local hospital is a nice warm sleeping place. ;)
I have been living out of my car throughout the entire summer. This site has been an excellent resource for me and I'd like to thank its creator.
It has begun to get very chilly at night here. I have considered using candles to stay warm, but am concerned about carbon monoxide production in addition to reduced oxygen levels within the car. I could crack open the windows for ventilation, but I suspect that I may lose more heat to the wind than I would gain from burning candles. Any commentary on this would be appreciated.
For now I'm going to try using a hot water bottle as the Mobile Homemaker suggests, though I am a bit skeptical about its ability to keep me warm in my car. Boiling water is not an easy task for me, so perhaps I'll bring it into a convenience store and ask the clerk to let me use their microwave.
The worst thing about the interior of the car getting cold is that my head gets cold poking out of my blankets. If I cover my face with blankets I immediately feel like I'm suffocating.
Lastly, living out of my car has gotten me through the summer and it has been a very positive life changing experience, but I am tired of being unable to bring a girl home. They always reject me immediately when they find out I'm homeless and my self-esteem is certainly affected. They don't seem to care at all that it's a hardcore macho way to live, and that most men couldn't walk a day in my shoes. :) Because of the cold and loneliness I am hopeful that I will be able to earn enough money to move into an apartment and find a girlfriend before winter hits hard. I will certainly have a newfound appreciation for such things now that I have lived without them for so long.

 
At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Rory Drake said...

I'm seeing a lot of people leaving comments here questioning the life that's been created for them in the workforce. Well, we have millions of people out there unhappy with their 8 to 5s and defining leisure as the Sunday before they have to go back and repeat the process over and over again.

Well, I was one of those millions, then fed up with selling my life by the hour for a 'boss,' I picked up a rope-pull bag and hitchhiked to Santa Cruz. I spent my life there doing whatever I wished, slept under the bridge behind Longs Drugs, dipped my toes in the ocean every morning, traded cigarettes for figs and oranges I picked for half-sipped down coffee, and spent my nights with my neighbors, sipping Jack Daniels and telling stories about the places we've been.

I'd write these down, events, free food kitchens, squats, safe bushes to sleep in, all over the countryside, and trusting what I learned I picked up my bag, and moved on to these places.

Now the adventure continues, and I've never been happier.

Currently searching for gypsies. I've heard many tales from the individual, but never met a group.

 
At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've used sweat shirts/pants instead of "long johns"...they seem to keep me warmer....the guy that first told me about it told me that it's because the sweat shirts/pants were designed to make you sweat...

 
At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forget the sweat pants. They are cotton and do not wick moisture away from your skin, which is what you need in cold weather. I'm from Minnesota. Get polypropylene pants and long sleeve shirt (long johns). I can work outside at ten degrees below zero and I'm comfortable in my long johns, ski pants, an additional heavier polypropylene pullover with wind proof parka. Same for socks and a good pair of insulated boots. If you sweat in cold weather you are in trouble.

 
At 4:09 AM, Blogger Gregory said...

I just recently chose to be homeless and I am slowly beginning to embrace it as a lifestyle. Your blog will be a daily read. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

 
At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you really want good advice on surviving the cold, look for any outdoor activity in Alaska discussions on the web. It is possible to camp in subzero weather, but it is not comfortable and is not really worth the effort, in my opinion.

Regardless, the point I'm trying to make is that if you are cold in the lower 48, then you probably could find knowledge to help yourself to stay warmer, since the info is out there... You just have to look for it.

As for the money for the items you'll need to stay warm, that is up to you, and another problem entirely. (A problem that seems to never end.)

 
At 8:56 PM, Anonymous Wolfie said...

I am from Fairbanks, Alaska. You will certainly die if you attempt to live this lifestyle here in winter. There are rescue missions for those seeking shelter.

 
At 12:43 PM, Blogger mylestone said...

Hi all,First the cops stopped being your friend when you turned 14yrs old!!They are to be avoided AT ALL COST!! I need more help staying warm as I reside in MA and at 20 degrees Even with a 20 degree bag I froze,to the extent I closed the bag top with my head inside not caring if I suffocated as my warm breath helped me survive the night!!I own a van with tinted windows and found out any heater generates steam(a dead giveaway to cops!)I even thought of a generator(Too much noise)or a large battery bank(400ah deep-cycle)but they drain very quickly generating any type of heat and need ac power to recharge and TIME!So a good sleeping bag is a MUST! I plan on getting a 0 degree bag and surround it with a space blanket shiny side facing bag as not to allow cops to see!Any help would be greatly appreciated as Winter is a killer!!Also a chemical toilet($80) with antifreeze as liquid is a must at 4am and if the cops catch you(people see you) your dead!First lockup(COPS) ticket cost,Then they will tow it at your expense,next storage daily and finally big $$$$ to get it back if you can afford it!!A good blending in parking spot is a major priority!!!!Leave before the sun comes up and park late to avoid attention! Any suggestions please send to Mylestone@comcast.net I need more help at 56 then I did at 30 yrs old!Stay well my society forgotten friends!!

 
At 8:51 AM, Anonymous Kelly said...

IF you have access to a microwave (convenience stores?), buy a pair of large socks and a bag of rice. Fill the sock with rice (use toilet paper roll or similar). Tie off. Heat in microwave. This will, for a year, stay hot/warm for hours and is great at the foot of a sleeping blanket. When it stops holding heat, toss and use other sock! Good luck...

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Good trick, Kelly. Thanks.

 
At 9:10 AM, Anonymous mylestone said...

This site is an island in the ocean of thoughtless, wealthy and corrupt public servants!And has saved this individual from certain death!It also has restored my dignity in a sea of ignorance,precedence and power driven public servants who care solely for themselves and the sooner we are eliminated the better!I am a honest ,caring person is a sea of what can I get or blame for my problems!Thanks

 
At 6:36 AM, Blogger RomeRun said...

The key to have a good sleep in a very cold night, I'm talking about -10F below here, is to have a small dome of air over your head.

My toughest sleeping bag is a -40F from the Northface and it's still not comfortable to sleep. I usually wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning, my body was sweating but my head was frozen. When the cold air penetrates to your lung and your nose is damn cold, it's impossible to get a tight sleep.

I tried to cover my head with another sleeping bag, it still did not work very well, because it made me feel suffocating, and I had to open it for several times letting the cold air in, disturbing my sleeping..

Last month I bought a bivy, it's got 2 pole to create a decent amount of head room leaving a centimetre of ventilation. Now the air over my head is the warm air from my body. It does not matter now how -XXF cold it this, it's at least 70F in my bivy generated my the body heat... And the bivy helps trapping warm as another layer of sleeping bag. By the way, it's the advanced bivy from outdoor research, got it for $100 from ebay, very handy.

 
At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read many comments on here about wool blankets. One nice thing about wool is that even if it gets wet, it still retains its insulation value and most of your body heat. If a cotton blanket gets wet, you better take it off your body or else you're gonna freeze to death!

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

Im a senior citizen, I quite often sleep out in my van, my best investment was two low temperature survival sleeping bags, Ive had them about 8 years, and use them in my van, with other blankets and a very thick warm hat, and on my bed. I have bought a roll of DIY insulating material, the layered foam/foil lightweight kind, I think it will make a good rugs and blankets cut into appropriate sizes and sealed with tape at the edges. I think about the cheapest possible ways to live.I looked for the smallest cheapest home I could find (I moved abroad in order to do that) & I live in one room heated by one 1500 kw radiator, usually set at 1000kw. as another poster suggested, the window is covered by a large sheet of transparent plastic, stuck with tape, and I have thick blanket hung over the door, so no heat is lost.
My 'home' bed is 'futon' mattress at floor level, and I sit on a rug on the floor heated with an electric blanket. My dog is an excellent hot water bottle, and companion.

 
At 6:49 PM, Anonymous Timothy said...

I think a propane catalytic heater would be warm enough as would the alcohol stove made with toilet paper and a can as long as you crack a window for ventilation. Condensation could be an issue. My friend had to spend a cold winters night in a broken down car with a foil blanket and a 3 wick survival candle. Well he suffered and survived. You'll want more than survival warmth.

 
At 7:10 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I've published the above comment only so I can warn against it. Propane heaters, alcohol stoves, and candles should not be used in confined spaces (like a car, even with the window cracked). They all emit carbon monoxide and consume oxygen, which can be a recipe for death.

 
At 7:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great item to have is a military " wobble" or poncho liner,very light,very warm,and it compresses to almost nothing.

 
At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are 12 volt RV heating pads for beds,low current draw and they keep you warm.

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

The following is only intended to be a distillation of advice. Sorry if it comes across as preachy...
No one wanting to stay warm should ever wear cotton. Sometimes a cotton blend is okay, but it's best to stay away from cotton. Wet cotton is COLD. (In fact, wearing wet cotton cloting is a great way to cool off in hot weather.)
Wear nylon or other synthetic socks. Wear polypropylene underpants or ladies' pantyhose (even if you're a guy -- who's gonna check?). Wear polypropylene undershirt or a synthetic-fiber shirt next to your skin. Wear wool slacks and shirt over the synthetic -- it won't itch if it's not against the skin. Wear wool or synthetic pile or down-filled jacket or coat.
(WARNING - DO NOT WEAR SYNTHETICS if you will be working around fire or high heat -- like welding. Think "napalm" or "shrink wrap" and you'll understand why.)
If at all possible, DRESS WELL. There's nothing more true than that people judge you by your appearance. Salvation Army stores sell slacks and dress shirts, tweed jackets and ties. WEAR THEM. Tweed is very warm, and you'll look like a gentleman on a sporting outing. Women have it even easier as "dressing well" for a woman is much more liberally interpreted. Dressing well will let you into places that a "bum" would never be allowed to go. You may need to get into such places.
To carry this off, you must not stink. Keep your clothes as clean as you can -- especially those worn next to your skin. Always use an underarm antiperspirant, unless you simply can't. If you can't, pick up a tube of "triple antibiotic" ointment and use that in your armpits after you bathe. Don't use either antiperspirant or antibiotic ALL the time, just when you need to smell good.
You can get antibiotic at Family Dollar stores. You can also get an excellent antifungal "Miconazole 7" which is intended for vaginal yeast infections and is good for that, but also is better than any other product for athletes foot and jock itch.

 
At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a survivalist and always look for new ideas. Here is one that I hope passes on, Research survival heaters and alcohol stoves. They are easy and real cheap to make and I know the homless could use these things to help them survive. I have buil some of thes and they are easy and cheap so please, if you want to help, throw in a few bags of bisket mix or something and put it in a simple small kit for them. It will help them dearly.

 
At 2:06 PM, Blogger roamer said...

Just here to find out how I can help out a couple locals survive the night...and it's great info. another thing not mentioned here is that rocks can be heated up in whatever fire you might make, they hold heat well, and can be wrapped in a towel and tuck into your bed with you, just don't get too close to it if it's real hot, it can also just be stored in a metal pot/coffee tin and left open and the heat will radiate from it...this works well if rocks are molten (CAUTION: do not use certain rocks that may have retained water eg. river rocks, they have a tendancy to explode/crack.) Another inner layer that many a man who hunts in the interior swears by (and get teased), but it works!!! Panty hose! It does keep you warm, I've seen photos of them wearing thier underwear and pantyhose only ontop, getting changed, but they are just casual as ever, not cold at all in the Northern Interior winters!

 
At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Adam said...

While I've never lived homeless, I have chosen to live out of my car for up to a week at a time, usually on roadtrips.

I have 2 great tips for staying warm and comfortable in a car. For comfort, get a van, station wagon, or hatchback where the floor is flat or the seats fold flat. I have a hatchback (Toyota Matrix) and it's easy to sleep and stretch out in. When I'm planning to sleep in the back, I have a bean bag bed that I spread out in the back. It's AT LEAST as comfortable as my real bed -- maybe more. You can go to http://cordaroys.com to see what kind of bed/beanbag I'm talking about. They're a little expensive, although I bought mine used for $50.

To stay warm: Buy an electric blanket and a cigarette lighter electric converter for your car. I just bought an electric blanket at Walmart for $30 and I found one of those converters at TJ Maxx for $10. I didn't shop around a whole lot, so you may be able to find a better deal somewhere else. Even if you only leave the blanket on for 20-30 minutes, the heat will stay with you and it's pretty energy efficient, so it shouldn't drain the battery. (Although you should know your car battery before you try this.)

 
At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a guy on some T.V show who was some kind of expert on outdoor survival. To stay warm at night he made a shell of thin branches and piled leaves 3-4 feet thick over the branches.It was just large enough to crawl into. I remember he emphasized over and over, dead air space dead air space. According to him dead air space is THE most important factor to stay warm. Its been a long time since I saw the show and cant remember the details.

 
At 10:55 AM, Anonymous mylestone said...

Hello I have researched bivy bags and the cheapest is $150 does anyone know of a bivy that I can seal and still have a airspace arouund the head that will allow the ambiant air around your head to warm up to 70 degrees with support poles! I found warm breathing air increases your chance of survival a hundred fold! Breathing 0 degree air is certain death! I know!Also I don't want a bivy bag that is like a small tent as the air around your head never heats up! Please send me a e-mail(Mylestone@comcast.net )with a bivy that opens around your head for warm breathing as warm air is life sleeping at 0 degrees even in a van!! I know! Thanks Mylestone

 
At 10:30 PM, Blogger DownInTheDumps said...

for the last 2 hrs.i've been reading everyone's comments and writing down things i feel i'll need to know because in 1 week, for the first time in this 54 yr old woman's life, is going to be homeless, out in the NE Ohio cold, with her 2 cats. there's so much to get ready plus try and "get rid" of the entire contents of my household! i wish it were spring but it's not and i'm facing very fearful facts of life. i've always had a great job, lots of $$, a new car, so on and so forth..and my family loves me when i'm UP..well i'm DOWN now and not one family member has offered to give me some temporary help so i could get back on my feet. so, i'm struggling with the fact that nobody cares about me or what happens to me..i must be honest, i think about climbing into my nice warm bed with my 2 cats and never waking up. i have the means to do that much. as for trying to grasp where to start and how to "build my new home" so to speak, i havent a clue, until ive read some of your blogs. I do have 1 problem, i have no money, no food, just a nice car but no gas. i've called everywhere. i've applied to well over 100 jobs within the last 3,5 wks and i got only one call and it wasnt for an interview. like Mylestone, i'm not 30 anymore and the older one gets the more fearful one gets. i just dont know which way to turn. to remain in this hell on earth or leave this earth knowing very well one doesn't get to go to heaven. i've already sd goodbye to whomever i needed to and i hear a sob story on the other end..and thats not what i called for. i do have a few things which im going to go pawn..grrr..it took me a while to buy my fender guitar but its going to have to go and i know i'll prob get (if im lucky)$100 bucks..i have some antigues to which im going to go get rid of..god i could go on and on but why be a bothersome to peeps who write on here to try and help. thank you for all the readings..and i wish nothing but the best for all!

 
At 7:30 AM, Anonymous mylestone said...

Cold enough?2 below zero today! I am grateful I have a home temporarily but the temps today brought back a sea of memories of freezing in a sleeping bag trying to breath -3.5 degree air!! It cuts like a knife with every breath!! I still need a good full size bivy bag(I need a non mummy bag as I sleep on my side and a mummy bag is a straight jacket! Please send me info where I might find a rectangular 20 below bag with a bivy area to allow me to breath warmer than -3 degree air! This cold has reminded me of not caring if I suffocated to death by putting my head inside the bag as my warm breath saved me from freezing to death! Its amazing what cold will do!! So If Anyone knows a full size bag with a bivy attachment around the head so when it gets 3 below I have even 40 degree air to breath! I want to prepare for going back into my van while I am blessed with a roof and warm air to breath!Its funny how you forget the cops hunting you like an animal and the struggle just to keep from freezing.I am 56 now and ill equipped to deal with cops,staying warm and food. Cops don't think of that ,just that a homeless person died on their shift and how it will look for them in the paper! We remember pain and the struggle! So please don't give up the Good Lord hasn't forgotten us!And I HAVE been saved literally from freezing!!!!!!!!!!
Good Luck everyone!
Myles

 
At 6:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Foam is a great insulator. Stuff it in your coat and in your panty hose. My feet get cold and foam works great. It does not need to be thick. Those blue foam pads you find in sporting goods at Walmart cost only about $6.

 
At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

youre sittin here talkin about how you should buy this and buy that. i am recently homeless and i am spending a night outside where the low is 23 degrees F. how the hell am i supposed to afford all this expensive crap? you need to talk about ways to do this stuff that cost under $5. we dont have lots of money, and it takes over $5 dollars to feed yourself each day, which is hard to acheive when you dont have a steady income

 
At 9:28 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I think your anger is at your situation, not at me. You're going to have to find ways to make money unless you want to try to live exclusively by charity and scavenging. I do talk about how to do that in other articles, and I do hope you get some information that you can use by reading my blog. If not, then it isn't for you and you should seek a writer that speaks more to your way of thinking.

I also haven't lived in climates that often fall below freezing. You need to seek a writer with that expertise. It isn't me.

Peace out.

 
At 6:59 PM, Anonymous Kevin S said...

I've been homeless before, but with luck, I had a vehicle each time, and was able to camp in it, or couchsurf following graciously extended invitations. In one case, I asked my employers for permission to sleep in the copy room of their small, unoccupied office. At this time I'm seriously considering moving to a "local living school" nearby here in Maine, where one can learn survival skills. This is a great strategy for anyone who is homeless, and wishes to make the best of it, shifting it into "outdoor living." There many sustainable communities such as this one all over, and, since you're online, it won't cost you anything to find them. Just Google. "co-op farms, sustainable communities, etc..." there's one near you. And you will never look at life the same way when you apprentice at one. Zero rent times. And some pay you. You may be living in tents, however, but with purpose. Good luck for greater times! Tomorrow is a better day, waiting for you.

 
At 6:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought a battery powered CO detector for those winter days that I have to start the car for warmth for less thean $20 at Meier.

I'd rather have a loud beeping noise wake me up than have my kids learn that dad died while trying to stay warm and get back on his feet.

 
At 6:44 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

An excellent suggestion. I think I will edit the entry to reflect this life saving tip.

 
At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would find a heavily wooded area and build a shelter. This can be literally built out of dirt. you can pile mounds, roles of moist dirt up into a complete behive shape which is strong. Be creative! this earth has everything you need to be comfortable. Everything! There are other countrys that build what they call sod homes. Also a tepee with a fire pit in the middle. The smoke goes out the top hole. Any tarp will work for the outer cover. Trench shelter, which is a v shape in between to sharp hills, ravine you may say. Take fallen logs and lay them crossway over the top and lay tarp then sod, dirt layer over that for your roof. No tarp then fill spaces with smaller branches and fill with dirt. inside lay thicker barnches down body wise and then across. Under these you need to put rocks that you have heated in a fire. Many of them. They will keep you warm for quite some time. There are lots of wys to stay warm, and there are many many different types of shelters to build. For water you need to be near a stream or creek. You can get clean water by boiling the water or if you can get a water proof bag fill it with charcoal, then gravel, then sand, then gravel. Make small hole in bottom and put a container to catch the water underneath. The water is poured in the top. allways best to boil the water. You can use an old soda can tab for a fishing hook. Cut of a small part of the loop. Sharpen it more on a peice of rock, use any string you can find a sappling and rig it up to snap back when bitten. You can set up many of these to catch fish. Id be in the country where there are farm fields and thousands of acres. You can live in a national forest as long as you move ever so often. Your no different than nature now. The coyotes take chickens and eggs, small sheep or goats or cows to eat. So do alot of other wild animals. If you follow the hawks and crows, ravens they allways follow the animal that kills game for them to eat. They are always where the food is. I have one and have researched them. You have to do what you need to do to survive. Just like in nature. In the country no one thinks anything of a fire next to the river. Im from the country. I have bought 10 acres and plan to build a dome out of reinforced concrete tucked into a sandstone bluff. In the hot summer you want to build sod adobe/dirt domes because they keep you very cool. Try to find a barrel to use for a rain barrel to store water runnoff when it rains. There is lots of ways. Heat rocks up in a fire and lay them out on ground and then put a layer of dirt over them. Lay on top of this and the heat will radiate through to your body. It takes alot of work being homeless and surviving and surviving in comfort. Its alot of work and its not easy work.Ive just mentioned a coulple of things above. there are hundreds more ways.

 
At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh lets not forget road kill in the winter. Deer, rabbits turtle, squrrils, It stays good for quite some time in the winter cold. I saw a guy who lived off road kill. Nothing wrong with it.

 
At 5:20 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

Fine, I guess, but that kind of survivalist, back to nature, style is decidedly not for me. If that is the way you live, you probably don't need this blog. You need a blog on primitivist lifestyle concerns.

 
At 10:56 AM, Blogger Cindy said...

One trick to creating a pocket of air around your face is to sleep with your head elevated (such as by using a wedge-shaped pillow or by sleeping in a reclined driver's seat), along with using a lighter weight blanket for over your head. This will cause the fabric to drape in an angle that creates an air pocket rather than sitting directly on your face. Another trick is to wear a baseball hat with a stiff visor or sun-visor. You may need to reinforce the visor or even to wear two caps that fit closely together.

 
At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm wearing a piece of mylar sheet that I cut to be just big enough to cover my torso (front and back) and then cut a hole in the middle of just large enough to put my head through -- poncho style. Helps a lot! Nice to reinforce the opening with tape because mylar rips easily. I wear it over two pairs of synthetic long underwear and beneath a sweater.

 
At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of a store bought bivy, use a cardboard box laid on it's side so you have a little more than shoulder space width and about the same height and deep enough to accommodate you to about upper chest.
Place the appropriate part of your bedding / sleeping bag into the box. Add a pillow or two and drape an appropriate size rug or small blanket and a plastic drop-cloth over the box. You can vent the area by placing a couple of appropriate lengths of pvc through fitted holes punched through the cardboard box where it best suits you. Place the vents as low as possible to minimize escaping warm air. If you don't want the vent then don't use the plastic.

 
At 11:20 AM, Blogger teleman14 said...

I learned years ago when cold weather camping,a terry cloth bath or beach towel pulled over the head,outside of the sleeping bag goes a long way towards helping the "cold head " problem. Also,pulling your head inside the sleeping bag will warm you for a while,but, it increases the humidity inside the bag and can result in a chilly and uncomfortable night.

 
At 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you know you are going to become homeless and can plan ahead and invest a bit of money, there are many camping related items (on Amazon) that you can use to make life living in your auto a whole lot easier.

Everything from trickle chargers for your car battery, to Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Mattress pads (compressible), The Rocket Stove (created for 3rd world countries which uses very small pieces of wood to cook a meal), shampoo bars (instead of bottles of liquid), laundry bar soaps, compressible pillows, hand-held water filtration devices, solar lanterns with radio able to charge cell phones, solar powered battery chargers for other items like flashlights, military compression bags so your sleeping bag (or blankets or clothes) don't take as much space, and there are other convenience or practical items as well.

If you have a big enough vehicle like a SUV, van or truck with covered bed, you could also add a small galvanized steel bucket, a DIY hand washing machine, a wringer, hand crank blender, hand crank food processor, military style folding cot (or keep open and store things underneath), also a small porta potty. You could even install a small solar panel on the roof to power a small camper frig for a small amount of cold foods.

Thinking as a survivalist or camper helps. What things do I now use every day to cook, heat, sleep, store/prepare food, for lighting, etc. and do they come in hand crank or solar, or in a smaller size that would save me money (or space) by not spending money everyday on prepared foods, laundry mats, new batteries, propane and the like?

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger ron said...

VA. NEEDS more resources for the homeless, especially, men,and teens. This state is all about women and children first. As i made my way around the block, more teens getting kicked out. more men losing jobs,this also lose of home,family,so on, when i a grown man has lost all he has worked for but the state of VA cares less?? wheres the constituation? wheres the rights? where are the real americans,and helping hands? where? commonwealth of VA needs to help any one who ask,for it..this is terrible. VA? help your people no matter what happened.all people all walks are starting to loose everthing, open something to make new shelters for men.

 
At 6:17 PM, Anonymous taxman said...

In -30c winters, there are many challenges such as:
-discomfort and possible hypothermia;
-keeping water, food, and hygiene liquid from freezing;
-keeping condensation from windows to be shealth;
-keeping condensation from electronics;
-bathing or washing hands in car;
-body moisture will wet the sleeping bag
-wet sleeping bag can't dry in cold, and eventually become hard ice;
-wet sleeping bag can't insulate well.
Possible solutions:
-driving to warmer region if you can start over;
-running propane heater, but fuel cost adds up, risky, may become land waste, and create more condensation in car.
-renting a heated condo underground parking. The lowest rent is about $50/month in Toronto in 2012. It solves many of the winter challenges. Thefts and cops won't bother you in a secured private property. Isn't it a great solution?

 
At 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great discussion. These ideas will make a nice, random act of kindness to anyone trying to make do on the streets during winter. Pay it forward any chance you can. :)

 
At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Jason said...

A twin air mattress on the floor of my van with a good sleeping bag and a few blankets is comfortable down to the mid thirties. The air mattress keeps your body heat from transferring to the metal vehicle chassis.

 
At 11:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Down is the best. You can cover your head/face with a down quilt or jacket and ou won't feel suffocated. You can buy down at a sewing shop and stuff it into a pillowcase. then duct tape the opening. Dogs work great, too. Keeping 3 or 4 dogs in your car or van will keep you warm. They're good security, too.

 
At 9:46 PM, Blogger DeLindsay said...

@Mylestone "Breathing 0 degree air is certain death." This is an absolute false statement, if it were true every one living in or near the Arctic Circle would die just walking out their front door. I lived in an unheated van RV (Class B) that I essentially built myself (the RV part not the vehicle) and slept in it for almost 3 years, through 2 winters in Colorado Springs to -13F with -46F windchill and was just fine, cold but fine. It will not harm your lungs or air passageways by just breathing in cold air. Here's how I lived with that type of cold:

I had my Tempurpedic Deluxe model (4 years old at the time) in the van and it was hard as a rock for the first 20-40 minutes of laying on it when the temp got below +17F. As I laid on it my body temp warmed it and then the viscoelastic foam re-radiated the heat back to me. I wore a Wool base layer (Smartwool) with standard slacks and a cotton turtleneck from JcPenny. I had Wool sock liners with Wigwam 40 below socks over those, no gloves because my hands stayed inside the 0 degree Teton sleeping bag. For my head I had a Smartwool Balaclava and a Military Wool Watch Cap. The only thing uncovered was my nose as I pulled the hat over my eyes when I slept and had the Balaclava cover up to my nostrils. My nose NEVER got cold and the moisture went out into the van (you DO NOT cover your head with a sleeping bag, condensations builds up inside it, then bad things happen). If I felt a chill I had a big crappy, but thick, blanket I through over top of the sleeping bag. I should mention I wasn't inside the sleeping bag, but rather used it as a giant comforter.

The real problem with this cold of an environment is having to pee 2 hours after you laid down and it's 0F inside your vehicle. The cold makes your body urinate more than normal, which makes no biological sense. Of course getting up into that 0F space when you are nice and toasty in your bed sucks too, but it's a price to pay for the freedom from the high prices of today's American lifestyle.

I should also mention that I was gainfully employed that entire time and also used 24hr Fitness as my shower. In fact I have nearly always been employed while living that way. It's a lifestyle for some of us that is far more preferred than "traditional" Americans live. ALL human being were nomadic for something like 96% of our existence (if you follow that Homo-sapiens have been around for roughly 75K years). It's only been the last 3-5K years that humans have developed greed and forced others to exist FOR the lifestyle of the few.

I would also recommend against using anything that has a flame. It can kill you without you even realizing it. Several have mentioned a cigarette lighter type of heater or heated blanket. They are sadly uninformed as to the current draw of these devices and the purpose of the starting battery in your car/truck/van. An electric blanket could easily kill (and I mean seriously damage) your vehicles starting battery in as little as 1 hour of use. I am from a family of Electricians and an Electrical Engineer as a father, been there tried that. Electrical heat requires VAST amounts of current.

The simple truth of it is, the best ways of staying warm in cold climates are: Insulate your vehicle as much as you have the money/space for, dress in the appropriate layers, have the appropriately rated sleeping bag for your climate, and the water bottle trick, or some variant of it.

 
At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI. Thanks to all the posters! About trying to stay warm in windy frigid conditions: I insulate my small car's windows with newspaper and hold it in place with half of a pizza box. That is for the front windows. I have a foam and foil windshield cover that I turn foil Inward. A sleeping bag, tarp, feather pillow and a bag of laundry at my back to fill the void near the door is getting me through -15 degree F nights with 20 mph winds. I have a tarp that I can use for a bivy when it gets too bad. One must take care to not get overheated though, and allow some natural evaporation.

The "nature call issue is big for me, also." I stop drinking 3 hrs before bed and pee before going to bed. I wear a neck scarf and a light headscarf, woolen socks, gloves, and a goretex jacket over my shirt and sweater. The jacket has a hood that provides head protection, and the lightweight headscarf provides a good air pre-warming pocket to mitigate icy throat syndrome (which can be followed by bronchitis/pneumonia).

One thing I find I have to do in frigid temps is write my morning agenda (in ridiculous detail) on paper at night while I am in a warm location (Starbucks?) as the brain stops functioning about the same time fingers get stiff…definitely by 0400.

My car is small so I do not have much room, but at the same time, I can find better hiding places a bit more away from the blasting winds, sometimes under cover of higher tree limbs to protect my windshield from heavy ice buildup.

Addressing fire in a car. I admit sometimes I put my pillar candle in a terra-cotta saucer in a small pail and make a foil reflector around it to direct heat away from the dash panel. It heats nicely -- much better than those so-called Kandle Heeters that waster more heat than they give off-- and gives me another 10-15 degrees above whatever thermal mass I have acquired by parking facing the sun all day.

It is not easy, but it is doable. The hygiene factor is huge. Over the past decade, mostly sleeping in car or woods, I have completed grad school, post grad, worked (my money goes to my children who have more material needs than I), and never had any trouble with LEOs (I often work WITH them and THEY don't know I have mostly been outward bound). No mental health issues, no substances other than hot coffee. I do have a hiding place where I have a brick wood stove (rocket style) for heating water when it is not too wicked cold. A well positioned tarp provides water catchment into serially-placed buckets in rainy weather. Free distilled water!

Do I like it? While I love nature, not this lifestyle that ages one prematurely, but the alternatives are not viable options for me since my marriage broke up.

I am planning for a change hopefully later this year. But we will need to see. In the meantime, I will remain positive, loving, law-abiding and clean :). Namaste.

 
At 7:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Styrofoam!!!!!! I been beatniking it now for almost three years.... I live in the streets of orange county california ..... And in telling you styrofoam is a huge life saver.... Great padding and excellent for keeping you warm. Try it......

 
At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

all i have on me is two cigerettes two lighters a blanket and a bag of damp clothes currently holding out in a shed in p.a wishing i was home and warm i dont have a dollar to my name and it is pouring outside as i text this i try hard not to shake uncontrollably for i am freezing i dont know what to do and freezing to death is a very unsavory thought
i must admit it is odd that with all this going on i decided to get on my phone b
ut found this site and was needing help bad please reply back
~freezing in philly

 
At 11:40 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

@freezing in philly

Good luck to you, my friend. You have all my best ideas in this blog. Keep reading, and keep working at improving your overall level of comfort each day. You can do it.

 
At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks actually up this early because i cant sleep its that cold, i am seventeen and im considering hitch hiking back to my hometown where i know i will have a warm bed i came to philly this morning with my bag on my back ready to finish high school and now i am cold and tired thank you for your tips keep it coming because i feel as though i will be forced into this lifestyle and need guidance
~freezing in philly

 
At 8:58 PM, Anonymous Anna Banana said...

In Colorado, my dad was able to find a mom & pop storage facility and rent a unit large enough to park his truck in. He would run the engine up until bedtime with the unit door open a bit to let the carbon monoxide out. Then he'd close everything up tight, and use all the tips mentioned here - A HAT, layered wool, space blanket, long johns, layered sleeping bags, mummy bag that covered the head. It was cold, but safe and dark, and he could sleep undisturbed. He had a 5-gallon sani-bucket that he'd use as needed, so he just had to get out of the truck, not leave his unit.

I was really amazed on how well my father mastered the art of road living. He bought a lot of rotisserie chickens - they're cheapest at sam's club if you can get 'em - $5.

To piggyback on Mobile Homemaker's emphasis of a good night's sleep - it's invaluable. He moved from colorado to Texas, and although he found another storage room, it was insufferably hot for him to sleep inside. He did the Walmart lots, the Motel 6 parking lots, and parking at a campsite (max 2 week stay). But his sleep was constantly interrupted by heat or light or noise, and that took a significant toll on his health, attitude, and mental cognition.

A few years later he was able to rent a place in a mobile home park. The good rest really made a huge difference in his health and his mental awareness. He's always had that amazing kind of brilliance that comes out in "street smarts," and he was eventually able to apply that to getting a job doing something he utterly loves. For now, he has a roof over his head again. But his ingenuity, belief in himself, and incredible generosity during that time in his life have been one of my most powerful life-lessons.

Thank you tremendously for your contributions, here, particularly for your emphasis of dignity.

 
At 6:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm homeless and I have no car. I haven't faced the winter homeless yet, how do I stay warm without having a car as a shelter?

 
At 11:03 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

You need a writer who has experience with sleeping rough. That isn't me. Check out backpacker websites and hobo and tramp bloggers. There's a whole culture on the rails that I know very little about. You might look for advice for squatters. You might check out the freegan movement. I won't give advice about things I haven't learned.

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger adulthomestudy said...

Dear God. First of all I'm a female 54, have a BA degree was a teacher and I don't do drugs. I am responsible and try my best to be kind. I lost everything due to a tick bite in 1997. It is now 2013 and due to all things in between I am homeless, living in my car which I might add I am beyond lucky to have. Just read the guys response who had a Zen house, how he's wasting his life working???? I would give my eye teeth to have a decent job instead of bowing to the minimum wage Gawd. It is beyond awful and every morning I wake up and every day and every night I live in complete fear. If one bad thing happens, if I get sick, or hurt myself, if my car breaks down, I'm done. And what is this about being homeless and not working??? I work all the time I just don't make any money. I am soooo stressed out. I just want a safe place to lay my head and someone to tell me everything is going to be okay. I never want this to happen to anyone, ever ever ever! I also tutor on a site called Adult Home Education. I am a good teacher and care about a lot of things. But right now I'm not able to help hardly anyone!!!! I raised my children alone and was dirt broke most of the time, always trying to find work. I had NO BACKUP and family doesn't want to help for the long term it takes to get back on your feet and the cost involved. I have to concentrate daily on just making it thtough, enough money to eat, gas pay the car insurance and the Y so I can take a shower and my car has everything I own in it and hiding that is difficult. Clothing is a huge issue to hide homelessness. You can't show up to work looking professional without decent clothes. They need to be pressed and there is NO MONEY extra for dry cleaning. So you have to find a cheap iron and find places with electricty so you can iron your clothes and go on that interview just HOPING against all HOPE that SOMEONE out there will hire you for more than minimum wage at a job that you are capable of doing. This is not a dream world folks and don't ever long to be in it. It is terrifying, humiliating, and devestating. Do not make it out to be such a grand thing and there are still bills even being homeless to survive in this world and try to get ahead. Dear God in Heaven help us all that have to go through it. This gentleman that started this blog is wonderful and so helpful because I'm about to go through a Chicago winter in my car which I pray to God will keep working for me. I am not undermining what he is saying but for the love of God do not make it seem like it is the way to go. Although compared to any abusive situation within family it is definetly the choice. I would rather die in my car than be made to feel terrible and worthless on a daily basis - and folks this is NOT drug or alcohol related at all - this is sickness - lyme disease creates long term severe athritis and so much more. The savings I had - all gone. My home - gone. So far thank God and the Universe I am still making a go and trying everything I can to survive because as he says in his blog - I HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
At 8:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand wiping down car windows with distilled white vinegar keeps the frost/fog away.

My grandmother piss poor, a single mother, living in Canada in the 1920s always told me to heat a brick in the oven, wrap in a towel, and it will retain heat until morning. Granted no one homeless has an oven, but you could heat it up on that toilet paper/alcohol stove or in a charcoal grill if one is available.

 
At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Mylestome said...

Hi I'm located in Ma and the temperature in my van drops below zero and need to know how to create a warm air space around my head to cancel breathing below zero air! It cools you off fast, I have tried sipping my 10 degreee bag but I feel like I'm suffocating! Is there a way to preheat the ambient air so my core temp doesn't drop too!My cap doesn't warm the inhaled air and that's what causes me to freeze every night! Please help!
Mylestone

 
At 11:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG. I AM HORRIFIED. I AM ONE STEP AWAY FROM BEING HOMELESS. I WISH I COULD TALK TO YOU. I LIVE IN NJ

 
At 5:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is possible, at least for a short time, with a reliable car, a little luck, and cash. I arrived in Fairbanks on a frozen November day with every thing I owned stuffed in my car, including my dog, and no where to go. I was so lucky to have gone to Allmart and noticed electrical outlets at many parking spaces. After a gas eating frozen night that bottemed out at -50 I went in Allmart bought a $16 electric heater and extension cord and wound up living in that lot for almost 4 weeks. It was the most exciting miserable boring freezing challenging frustraiting disturbing rewarding spiritual experiences of my life. I did have prior near arctic homless conditioning about 5 years ago while becoming homless in Wyoming in January. The temp stayed between -20 and -48 the entire month. It was actually harder in Wyoming because there was no Allmart or outlets. I actually just became homless again 4 days ago and am back in my car with all I own and my dog. Hit -12 last night and -4 the night befor but it's supposed to hit +52! I'll be catching up on warmth and sleep if it does. I keep ending up homless because I'm disabled and have a small income so I have to rent cheaper places that become uninhabitable for me either from conditions or landlord harasment. It is amazing what you can endure and achieve if you don't panic. I may freeze and die 1 day from doing this but I can't think of a more beautiful place I'de want to die anyway. I can't do the resue mission stuff, it conflicts with my disability. Stay safe and warm all!

 
At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

for water bottles... one word. Nalgene.
Backpacked/Camped for over a month and still using them four years later. Went through several others in the time it took to find a good one.
Not too expensive and WELL WORTH the extra few dollars and can handle boiled water without melting.

 
At 5:05 PM, Blogger Shonn Frank said...

Let me comment to deadinside:

YES! I am 41, and my entire life there has been an undercurrent of fear revolving around my bank account....always having to have a tiny cushion because God forbid I should ever be HOMELESS! What would I do?
But some years ago, I started down a spiritual path, slowly unraveling and now, alas, I have been thus for 5 months now. And while I'm hardly a veteran, the biggest thing is that the fear is gone. It is the old cliche of diving right in the deep end.

One you experience it all the illusions fall away. You realize that you are capable of that and much more! You also realize that you are not alone.

I wouldn't recommend homeless as a permanent situation, in less you so desire, but it is certainly a life-changing, strengthening experience....in many ways.

 
At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I purchased an electric heater from Walmart to plug it in on frigid evenings at the storage facility I rent from ~ the manager allows me to use the heater on these evenings.
Insulated Black Out curtains cover my back window down to the floor;to divide the front seats from the back I hang 2 blackout panels on a rod which reaches across and sits on top of each of the yoga mats~ I unroll (back2front)2 Yoga mats (black) over the side windows to maintain cover and insulation. I'm perfectly toasty! I'm a 53 y.o. female, happy, healthy and MORE than pleased to have found this lifestyle! What a waste of MONEY apartments are & I just filled it with stuff to make it look great but so not necessary! I now focus on SAVING money! Blogs like this one helped me tremendously to make the transition from apartment to my SUV~ I'm now looking to purchase a Van or a Step Van!
I have a job I LOVE, a gym membership, friends to visit; I eat much healthier~ with no fridge I buy daily~ salads, fresh fruits, Probiotic Smoothies, lots of nuts! I am LOOKING GOOD! Getting out from under the burden of RENT has saved me!

 
At 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a 44 year old female and have been homeless for a week now. I do work two jobs and I was able to rent a garage with electric so I'm able to use an electric blanket and space heater to keep warm. It's been in the 20's a night so I'm thankful I have that comfort. I was able to plan well for my homeless situation. I had about three months to get ready and set up the garage. I guess for a homeless person I'm pretty comfortable. I found your blog and learned a lot from you. I want to thank you for that. I was able to get a PO Box, gym membership and be calm and ready for the move to homelessness.

 

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