Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

A Word About Violence & Revenge

There may be times when you are stolen from. You may be attacked or threatened. It may happen at the worst possible moment, when you really needed comfort, money, and kindness. You may be told to move on by police, get yelled at by a business or property owner, or be denied service. You might get a parking ticket, or have your vehicle towed. You might get cut off, pushed out of line, or otherwise mistreated. A security guard or bicycle cop may compensate for his bruised ego by being a total tyrant toward you. If you are a normal human being, with a normal level of natural steroids, you may feel just that spark of aggression.

You might be tempted to stand up for yourself.

May I suggest an alternative? Don't.

Oh, I know, it's hard, but walk away. Get out of the fight. Give the mugger your wallet. Go to a different business if they don't want your money at this one. Thank police for the ticket. Be submissive toward police, and even toward security guards and bike cops. Especially toward security guards and bike cops, because they have something to prove about how tough they are. Insecurities make people all the more dangerous.

Take the path of least violence, always. Never fight when you can run. If you see someone who has wronged you in the past, do not plot revenge. Your goal in survival is to get the things done that assist you, and avoid things that damage you. Karma is real, but it is instant. Those who fight get hurt. If you fight when you don't have to, you are a fool. If you are violent, harm will come to you.

I don't mean not to defend yourself, and your rights. I always inform police that I will not waive my fourth amendment right against unwarranted search, or my fifth amendment right not to incriminate myself, or my sixth amendment rights to know the charges against me and to have counsel to assist me in my defense. If someone is attacking me, I fight until I can flee. If someone else is being victimized, I will assist him to the best of my ability, but I do mean that you should take the path of least violence. You should understand what winning is in a conflict, and stop fighting when you win.

Let me give you an example of a successful bloodless conflict. I was packing up a storage unit one day, and I had only that day to finish. In the same facility a man was screaming at his soon-to-be-ex-wife on a cell phone, and creating an atmosphere that I found intolerable. I decided to stop this guy from yelling. I yelled at him forcefully, Hey! Shut the hell up!

Well, predictably this brought the man's wrath toward me. He started yelling at me and making aggressive gestures, and at that moment I did something he could not have expected. I submitted. I wimped out. I apologized and said I should mind my own business. I backed down.

Now, the soon-to-be-ex-wife was no longer on the phone, so he couldn't yell at her. He had no way to yell at me, or continue to bring a fight to me, because I had backed down. He grumbled and muttered and hurled a few insults at me, but he stopped yelling and I got back to work in blissful quiet. Understanding the nature of winning, the precise goals I was trying to achieve, allowed me to give my opponent the illusion that he won while I got everything I wanted.

And no one got hurt. Always seek the scenario in which no one gets hurt.


At 5:32 PM, Blogger Disenfranchised Columnists for Truth said...

I've always had prejudices about homeless people, and this blog has completely shattered all of them. I'm sure that you've faced your share of discrmination because of the stereotype of homeless people being 'undeserving', but I think this blog will help to change a lot of minds. I hope that you'll achieve everything you're trying to in writing these articles.

Fascinating reading, keep up the good work!

-Max I

At 10:10 PM, Blogger temac said...

"Similarly, Martin Luther King Jr. defined his "passive resistance" approach as courageously confronting evil with the power of love. His approach is rooted in the faith that it is better to be the recipient of violence than the inflictor of it, since the latter only multiplies the existence of violence and bitterness in the universe while the former may develop a sense of shame in the opponent and thereby bring about a transformation and change of heart."
-- The Lost Art of Compassion

"If someone else is being victimized, I will assist him to the best of my ability, but I do mean that you should take the path of least violence."
-- A Word About Violence & Revenge

My question is why? What do you think is the best ratio of correctness (or compassion) to self interest? And narrowing that question to the perspective of a member of the homeless, what responsibilities does one have if a conflict arises between altruism, justice, and survivial?

At 11:21 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

I do not wish to make moral judgments in this guide. I believe that all of the advice I am giving is practical. That is to say that the non-violent choice is the way that will most promote your survival. I do not believe in passive resistance in the Martin Luther King sense.

King's method was confrontational and courageous, and he was willing to sacrifice blood for social good. My goal is to promote the good of the individual. I do not want you to sacrifice yourself to an ideal. I want you to eschew violence because violence will bite you in the ass.

At 2:29 PM, Blogger The Lioness said...

Karma is real but it is instant. Love this. Will ruminate now.

At 10:16 AM, Blogger chrissy said...

Living outside the system is SUCH a seductive idea. Are you aware of Daniel Quinn's writing? It's not the same as what you're doing with this; he's not a how-to guy. I get the same sense of possibilities from you both.

At 6:28 AM, Anonymous louisejeantet said...

I've learned more from your website than I have from everyone else I've known. Please keep up the good work. I really really like this!!!!!!

At 6:30 AM, Blogger louise said...

I've learned a lot from your website. You have splendid information. Please keep up the good work!

At 4:39 PM, Blogger sirbarrett said...

I value this pacifist perspective very much. People must stop seeing passivity as a weakness. It is a strength and it can avoid a lot of trouble and damage! It is when the blood runs to your fist and you can't control your wits that you lose but be patient, overcome anger and you have defeated your greatest enemy. The path of least resistence is the best way to go.

At 11:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a woman, the one thing that scares me the most about being homeless is violence and rape. I am not homeless yet, but I have mental illness and it seems to be getting worse, so I read up on sites like this just in case I cannot work anymore. Also with gas prices the way they are lately 6/3/2007, I don't know if I would be able to afford vehicle living. Maybe one day I can get SSI and it would help a lot.

At 5:44 AM, Anonymous red-dingo said...


I am writing from outback Australia, homelessness is not such an issue in the vast aussie wilderness. Any way like many your blog has made me think deeply always a good thing. People in third world countries live on the streets with no shame, it is only in the first world that poverty is shameful. The point I want to make is that you are making an important cultural contribution for your people, to live without a mausoleum, that plywood box you spend your life paying for to die in, to live free with dignity and respect. Something that appears lost in the west despite the rhetoric.

To the lady who is scared, the stats point to the home as being just as dangerous.

Is it your illness that is getting worse or the world at large. Try not to see your condition as an illness so much as a difference or a handicap that can be overcome. Have you heard of cognitive therapy? try google if you have not.

At 6:28 PM, Blogger Jerome said...

I was browsing around on the Net about how to survive if I were to become homeless...your tips may come in handy. I hope you are doing well. Thanks for sharing the information.

At 11:39 AM, Anonymous Phil said...

Very nice guide and excellent wisdom here. I worked as a bouncer for many years and what you refer to in here is what is called 'Strategy 1' in freelance security work. It is simply the best way to solve any conflict - allowing the other party the illusion of winning a confrontation while getting the results you need in avoiding or solving a crisis situation.

Agree with them, allow them to boost their ego. It's all they need at the time - but do not back away in fear. Backing away can often trigger a predatory response from your interloper.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger TurtleDove said...

It's really amazing how Buddhist this all is. Zen and the Art of Homelessness ........

At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an awesome blog/guide. I have seen many homeless people working with the local parks maintenance crew, but now i have a completely different sense and view towards them. Also this is very fascinating, keep up the good work.

At 2:12 PM, Blogger hotrodgirlly said...

Very shortly, unless I can correct my current situation, I will join the fast growing community of the mobile homeless. I have been reading and preparing, heck, I even called the local police department and asked them wheat they recommended and the standard course of operation should I be "discovered". I am so glad to have found your blog and hoping that I may not have to put any of your advice into practice.

Thank you..

At 6:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


This too is most excellent advice. I like to say it's all about enough. Not too much, nor too little...just enough.

Giving people a way out is far more successful than beating them up, or getting yourself beaten.

your humble servant,
ancient clown

At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mobile Homemaker, I think your advice on not seeking revenge and alternatives to it is some of the wisest advice anyone can hear; an attitude that came slowly to me and is now cemented. It is really the smartest way to handle potentially volatile situations---and it works. You run into unpleasant and unhappy people all the time, so why take on their bad vibes? I am by nature a withdrawing type, never needed to prove anything, I thought. People have told me I look like I can take care of myself (they also say I bear a strong resemblance to the late actor J.T. Walsh) but I am just very good at hiding insecurities (who isn't). While this is a necessity especialy when living on the fringes of city limits it often requires the subtleties you advocate. Walk away! Or better yet, Avoid! I once witnessed a knife fight as a kid and I got away so quick I nearly knocked people down. What were they waiting for, the blood to flow? Avoid violence and violent people by all means if possible. That goes for insults and slights. They are usually said in idleness, anyway. Ignore it. DON'T PLAY THE GAME. I don't know how I would handle a genuienly life-threatening situation so I can only seek to avoid them. Most confrontations that I have encountered have been the "walk away" variety. This does not mean that I am left in a serene state. Not by a long shot. It leaves me saddened usually by the desperation. So much out there already! I am writing this as one approaching sixty years of life and for whom these are fairly recent revelations.

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Karen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Linda Schmall Rhetoric said...

Where is the best place to live if you intend to be homeless?

At 6:56 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

The place you best know.

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


"I value this pacifist perspective very much. People must stop seeing passivity as a weakness. It is a strength and it can avoid a lot of trouble and damage!"

I agree. But passivity is only a strength anonymously. Relationships between people require respect. Otherwise people will despise you for weakness and deception.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

There's a difference between passive and peaceful. Passive is weak. Peace is strong.

At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Julie said...

I am a homeless female and am terrified of being attacked or raped. I just assume it will probably happen sooner, or later, only way I can deal with that fear.

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Melanie said...

Its 2011 and I expect I may be homeless and living in my car in the not too distant future. I am a woman. I dont have any addictions or mental illness and am in excellent physical shape. For some reason I'm not really worried about being attacked. I've traveled internationally (solo) pretty extensively, and I never had fears of it then either. I dont think I would EVER take the attitude that its going to happen anyway, someday! Wow.

Anyway, I hope I never need this information, but I am preparing for the worst, hoping for the best.

At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a formula I follow.


Event + Reaction = Outcome

Most of the time you can have a great day if you want to. It's a personal choice.

You may have an unavoidable negative event. It happens to everyone. But most of the time you can have the choice in how you react to it.

How you react to everything that comes your way on a daily basis can effect your confidence and calmness of spirit; and leaving a great impression on those you meet could someday lead to positive developments.

At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Talverri said...

Sun Tzu-- The best wars are those never fought.

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am here reading and learning for a buddy of mine,whom I met when I myself was homeless for about a year.
I'm in far better straits than he is now, but I really appreciate the comments and insight to this approach to "street savy living".
I plan on passing this sight on to him so that it may assist him in his daily survival.
I have prior army training,so I am always better off than most.
Thank you again for this insight!

At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once taught an anger management and conflict course to state prison inmates called "think before you leap", (or some other crazy title - I forget) anyway the premise is that we usually have indications that we can sense prior to the incident and if we learn to be aware of them it will save us from a bad outcome. Most of the time if you feel like something is wrong you are probably correct. When in a confrontation don't escalate the problem and keep emotion out of your responses. Usually the problem isn't with you but the other person is directing their anger towards you. Don't react to it and just either let them rant at you or as Mobile Homemaker says apologize even if it's not your fault. You don't have to apologize for yourself just for the circumstance someone is going through. Most people just need to let off steam. If you react it's likely to get much worse and then you are their target of anger.

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

I wish you could write a post about homelessness and rape. In that case, simply walking away isn't going to do much to stop the situation.

If you simply view this as something that you have no reason to fear and therefore have no advice about (because you're an able-bodied male) you should keep in mind that minors, small-framed people and the disabled are all equally at a disadvantage, REGARDLESS OF GENDER, if someone should attack them for that purpose.

Have you known any homeless people who have successfully avoided a sexual attack and how did they do it?

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

It's a fair criticim. Sexual violence is a significant problem for runaways and the homeless. I haven't talked about it because I do not want to reveal my own experiences in this matter. Some secrets stay secret.

While I believe all victims should seek help and legal justice, the process is long. In terms of survival, my advice stands. Violence breeds pain and more violence. Your first duty is to yourself. Your second duty is to other victims. Remember your priorities. Remember that when you are wronged, it is not a reflection on your value.

At 7:03 PM, Blogger Barb-Central Texas said...

For most of my life, I've had a house or apartment to live in, so I can't claim to be an authority on homeless safety. But there were a couple of months when I was in my 30's when my only possessions were my car and what I could fit into it. I'm a woman, and having a dog made me feel much, much safer than I'd have felt completely on my own. But I can imagine having a dog would make things a lot more complicated if one were living in a car for more than a short while. You wouldn't be able to go to work and leave the dog in the car in hot weather, because it would get too hot inside the car.

At 7:12 PM, Blogger Barb-Central Texas said...

P.S. I've enjoyed this website immensely. Much of your advice is excellent for life in general, with or without a house.

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Something that being a homeless female in a major city has taught me is a keen ability to read a situation/environment/person and to rely up my first instinct to avoid anything or anyone that doesn't look or feel right.

I have slept outside in the rough and woken out of a half dream because a voice said "go now." I got up, walked away, looked back and saw the owner of the business doing a walkaround where I had been.

I've circled blocks out of my way, passed by easy opportunities, and turned down offers of help because something didn't feel right.

Erring on the side of caution has kept me safe and alive. Knowing "how to be" in public, how to act, how to walk and where and when is important.

Paying attention to surroundings on all sides, doing walk by's of situations, making trial visits to places to see how things feel also help.


Post a Comment